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Nov 13, 2015 10:15 PM
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Although I felt tempted to update my Dub Discussion post, I decided instead to create a new one. Like Laputa, Totoro, and Kiki, Porco Rosso received an English dub commissioned for Japan Airlines. I hear people say the previous dubs of Miyazaki are infinitely superior to their Disney counterparts while slandering the latter. That's a subjective opinion in every way, and one that I cannot agree with. First of all, I love the Disney Ghibli dubs. All of them (except The Wind Rises). But that doesn't mean I'm opposed to seeing an alternate version. In fact, the first version of Totoro I saw was the FOX/Streamline dub. But that doesn't mean I look upon the Disney dub unfavorably. On the contrary. I like both equally. Likewise, my first view of Kiki was the Disney dub. But Streamline's older dub was pretty good too, although having said that I DO prefer the Disney version. The reason why those two 80s dubs turned out solidly was because they were done in capable hands (by Greg Snegoff at Streamline Pictures). But with Laputa I stand firmly behind the view that the Disney version is the better dub. The old '80s dub is an outdated, hideously "acted" (if it can be called that), poorly written ("I'm as hard as a brick moppet!"), unbearably laughable disaster that simply doesn't compare.

The same is true of Porco Rosso. While Disney's dub of that movie isn't my favorite Ghibli dub (Laputa, Mononoke, Kiki, Totoro, and Whisper hold that honor), I can recognize that it is at the very least a competently produced dub. This older JAL version, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. It is a seriously horrible, laughable, badly acted, hokey-sounding train wreck that is better suited to a poor Saturday morning cartoon. Trust me, it's AWFUL.

While some people have had complaints about the Disney dub of Porco and its casting/acting choices, one listen to this and I would imagine that such doubters would think twice. The cast of actors in this dated dub are nowhere near charming or engaging.

Porco Rosso is played by Barry Gjerde in the older dub, and unfortunately he misfires from the start. Although I can sorta imagine Porco having the deep voice he supplies him with, he sounds very, very detached from the role. His acting is all over the place, ranging from muttering emotionlessly to bad overacting with zero force and hokey delivery. His laugh, in particular, sounds very cartoony, and he suffers from some really groan worthy moments: "The dirty rotten scu-u-um" and "Shut u-u-u-up, just get out of here and leave us alo-o-o-o-one!"

Even Donald Curtis is underwhelming. The voice his JAL actor supplies isn't bad, but the performance, like Porco, hits the wrong notes from the start. His "normal" scenes are at best, mediocre, and he just doesn't provide enough swagger to the part. He also doesn't put any major emotion into his plane flying scenes, such as when he dares Porco to fight him one on one -- he just sounds detached and doesn't yell forcefully enough. And ironically, he overacts at the inappropriate moments. The scene where he attempts to court Gina, in particular. While Cary Elwes plays this scene subtly and smoothly, his JAL actor sounds too aggressively goofy, as if he's not really taking the role seriously at all. The one thing different from him and Cary is that he doesn't use a Southern accent, but otherwise it's not a particularly good performance at all.

The rest of the characters are not much better. The Mamma Aiutto Pirate Boss sounds embarrassingly hokey straight out of Rocky & Bullwinkle. It's so hard to take his voice seriously when it sounds so goofy. The only laughs one can get out of his performance is the kind that is "it's so bad it's funny". The pirates are also pretty lackluster, too; all sound overly loud and lacking in nuance.

Gina is disappointingly miscast and emotionless. She puts emphasis on the wrong words and, again, comes across as very stilted and detached from the part. Particularly embarrassing is the phone call scene between her and Porco. She speeds through her lines and fails to come across as genuinely concerned. She even throws away the "jerk" reaction before slamming down the phone. Even her laugh sounds weak and detached. This performance is the very definition of "phoning it in." Pun intended. Susan Egan puts a lot more passion into her part and sounds appropriately sultry, too.

Even Mr. Piccolo's voice actor is disappointing. He has a deeper voice than David Ogden Stiers and a thicker Italian accent, but unfortunately this causes for an unintentionally funny performance. He's also nowhere nearly as warm or fun to listen to as Stiers.

The only voice that comes somewhat clean out of all this mess is Fio. Unlike the others, she doesn't strike me as miscast or unrealistically cartoony. Unfortunately, her performance still suffers from some bad delivery and she doesn't put enough energy into scenes where she's supposed to be energetic and spunky. Kimberly Williams-Paisley was clearly having fun when she did the role; JAL Fio could have been good if she were better directed, but sadly, while her performance is the best in the JAL dub, it really isn't saying much at all.

But there are OTHER problems with this older dub than the voices. The script adaptation, for instance. Disney's dub scripts are criticized for sometimes being a bit more elaborate with their translations and taking a few liberties, but on the other hand, the end results of their scripts, for better or worse, come across as smooth and natural while maintaining most of the spirit of the originals. The JAL dub script doesn't take as many liberties, but unfortunately in doing so it comes across as very clunky and awkward-sounding. Even with the argument that it doesn't rewrite an iconic line from the original Japanese script "A pig who doesn't fly is just a pig", it doesn't make up for the awkward-sounding dialogue. I prefer a script that sounds fluent, not a slavishly faithful, clunky-sounding one.

The final nail in the coffin for the Porco Rosso older dub is the lip-sync. It is distractingly poor and slapdash, with lines coming across as out of motion with the mouth movements or gaping mouths. I have a feeling that the folks involved really weren't being careful with their skill.

It really is no wonder the older dub of Porco Rosso isn't fondly remembered. Even detractors of Disney's dub will have to admit that this is a far, far worse result. It's as embarrassing as the JAL '80s dub of Laputa, it pales to both the Disney and Japanese versions, and it fails as a dub, period. Some people apparently vocally declare this older dub to be 'perfect' compared to the 'inferior' Disney dub of this movie, but I seriously beg to differ.

Still, for the curious, if you REALLY wanna know how bad this older dub of Porco is compared to its Disney counterpart, here's some clips.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CDCUNECqCFo -- Porco VS Curtis in the skies.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TbiWqJsOpr8 -- The pirate boss, Curtis, and Fio.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BWuBjnOgg2w -- The phone call conversation.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EqRwal5JErE -- Fio, Piccolo, and Porco in the workshop
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuFpZCJOs64 -- Porco goes off to Milan "The dirty rotten SCU-U-UM"
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZpFHVTLbrm8 -- Curtis attempts to woo Gina