Thursday, May 4, 2006

Rub a dub dub

I really enjoy a British cartoon show called ‘Peppa Pig’. It is shown on ABC Kids in Australia and is very cute. The main character is Peppa Pig, a young, rather ‘bossy’ female pig with a little dinosaur-loving brother George, Mummy Pig and a well-meaning, blundering slightly smug, and sometimes grumpy Daddy Pig.

I was really happy to see that it was shown on our new cable network (Luc likes it too!). I was so disappointed to find that the show had been dubbed! Instead of the cute voices with intonation and feeling, it now sounds ‘happy pappy’ American with none of the character I had enjoyed. It now seems so bland.

This reminded me of the situation in 1993 when I was visiting Doug (a friend of my sister Jenni) at his house in the Silicon Valley (outside San Francisco). A Nescafe coffee (or similar) advertisement came on TV. Doug commented how this ad had been really popular and had been part of a series of ads that had been running for years. I did in fact recognise the ads. These ads had been showing in the UK and I saw them during my time there. I even recognised the actors as English (from various TV shows, movies, etc.). The ads had been dubbed for the American market and it took quite a bit to convince Doug that these were in fact originally British ads. I could (sort of) understand why these had been dubbed: to suit the local market.

Why Peppa Pig had to be dubbed though, is really astounding – after all, it is in English language and there are an assortment of British programs shown here without dubbing… then we discovered that Bob the Builder is dubbed too. What a shame. The situation that takes the cake though is the dubbing of Thomas the Tank Engine. One of the coups of this show is the use of Ringo Starr as narrator (in the original episodes). Why on earth would anyone think that some unidentified American accent can improve upon that fantastic Livipudlian lilt? We then found out that Alec Baldwin does the narration for the local audience. Somehow, a Scouse accent seems really appropriate for a bunch of grumpy old engines. The man known as the Fat Controller has been politically corrected to his real name, Sir Topham Hat.

I remember hearing that there were some complaints re The Wiggles (who are not dubbed) – and their possible subversion of the ‘American’ language… with the next generation traipsing around saying copious ‘G’days’ no doubt. It won’t ever happen. After all, if TV was such an influence on language, the Australian accent would sound distinctly British-American.

Ay, there’s the rub!

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