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#1
Jul 6, 2008 9:14 AM
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There is no argument that Hayao Miyazaki's My Neighbor Totoro is a such a charming film. However, there is a very hot controversy around the net from many who are disputing on which dub is the best or worst.

In the early 1990's, Fox distributed a dub produced by Carl Macek and Streamline Pictures. It was hailed, even by Macek's harshest detractors, as one of his finest efforts. The dub has proven to be popular, selling over half a million copies on video. When Disney acquired the rights for Miyazaki's movies, however, it was inevitable that Totoro was going to receive a new dub, whether fans liked it or not. Regretably, when Disney unleashed their version, many, many, many fans of the old dub napalmed it from the start, despite receiving fairly favorable reviews from reliable sources. In the past, there were dubs that were of such dubious quality that it was a miracle to find a fan of any of them. However, this new dub of Totoro is totally undeserving of such a backlash. In fact, if it had come before Fox's dub, it would have be hailed as a charming, delightful interpretation of Miyazaki's beloved classic... which, in this writer's opinion, it is. Even still, the constant negativity against the dub has fueled fire to those who believe that Disney only acquired Ghibli's works just to destroy them, an argument which is totally fatuous in every way.

While it may seem chic for internet fans to do so, I will not evaluate either the Fox or Disney dubs of Totoro by comparing them unfavorably to each other, but individually. The cast of Totoro is a considerably small one compared to most other Ghibli movies, so only the principal (important) characters will be covered.

SATSUKI (Lisa Michelson, FOX dub; Dakota Fanning, Disney dub) -- The two sisters who serve as the main characters carry the show along, so it is important for both to be voiced appropriately and ACT like children. Lisa Michelson, the late wife of the ADR director for FOX Totoro, raises her mature-sounding voice to sound childlike. Usually such attempts can sound strained or unbelievable, but it works very well for Lisa. She obviously sounds like a sister of the verge of adulthood while struggling to maintain her childlike innocence.
Dakota Fanning takes the character in a similar way, with a different approach. She has an odd tendency to sound "older than her age," but this works pretty well with her character. There are some scenes where she comes across as more low-key than necessary, yet her interactions with her little sister Elle make the dub equally natural and believeable.

MEI (Cheryl Chase, FOX dub; Elle Fanning, Disney dub) -- Arguably the juiciest role in the show, Mei is a hyperactive and sometimes impatient youngster who often upstages her big sister. At the time I listened to the first dub, I didn't realize that Cheryl actually WAS trying to sound very childlike, because it sounded very natural. This is a very fitting example of adults voicing children convincingly.
Elle Fanning's interpretation is no less entertaining; in fact, one might argue that she steals the show. She is consistently lively and adorable, with a cute laugh to match. Her crying scene toward the end, too, is priceless. I've heard many declare that she is annoying, but one could say the same thing about Cheryl's take.

MR. KUSAKABE (Greg Snegoff, FOX dub; Tim Daly, Disney dub) -- The scatterbrained but kindly father of the girls is at times easygoing and fun and other times serious and comforting, just like any father. Snegoff's approach on the character is pretty much as you would expect, and more than appropriate (he also served as the ADR director and wrote the script, as mentioned earlier).
Tim Daly plays the character identical to Snegoff's, and is pretty much on par. He has a soothing, soft gentle voice, and he doesn't hesitate to let go in the moments where he acts childlike (in the bath scene, for instance).

MRS. KUSAKABE (Alexandra Kenworthy, FOX dub; Lea Salonga, Disney dub) -- The mother of the girls has a very small part, but is equally well played in both dubs. Both Salonga and Kenworthy have soft, motherly voices and portray their characters pretty much the same.

GRANNY (Natalie Core, FOX dub; Pat Carroll, Disney dub) -- This character is approached differently but effectively in both dubs. Natalie is as grandmotherly as you'd expect, very soft and gentle, only getting emotional in the film's critical scenes toward the end.
As for Pat Carroll, I was surprised when I found out that she was cast for this character, but there were no traces of Ursula within her. It was also very pleasing and refreshing to hear her play a different kind of character rather than a nasty, bargaining, double-crossing Sea Witch.

KANTA (Kenneth Hartman, FOX dub; Paul Butcher, Disney dub) -- One thing that both dubs have in common is that this impish youngster who teases Satsuki (and later befriends her) is played by a young boy. Kenneth's voice is noticeably lower than Paul's, but both play the character just as they should.

TOTORO (Unknown, FOX dub; Frank Welker, Disney dub) -- The titular character is only in for a few scenes, and does little more than growl, grumble, roar. There is no actual credit to who did Totoro's voice in the Fox dub, but it's difficult to evaluate the performance as a whole when it has only one speaking line.
One of the biggest criticisms I hear of the Disney dub is the dubbing of Totoro's voice; fans have declared that he sounds too ferocious in comparison. However, I will argue that either interpretation is valid. Welker shouldn't be discredited, either; he is a fabulous actor and what he brings is no less credible.

CAT BUS (Carl Macek, FOX dub; Frank Welker, Disney dub) -- The approach to the most unusual character in the film is strikingly different in both dubs. In FOX's version, Carl Macek gives the cat a high-pitched male voice with only two lines, "Next stop, little sister!" which works fairly well.
Welker, on the other hand, provides the character with cat-like meows and at one point even screeches, "MEEEEEEI!"; an odd substitute, but it's no less effective.

Voices aside, the other difference in the FOX and Disney dubs is in the adaptation of the script. FOX's dub is sometimes a bit loose in places (naming the fuzzy creatures "dust bunnies", for instance), but is otherwise faithful to the original. Unfortunately, I did notice several places where the dialogue sometimes sounds stilted, particularly in Mei's confrontation with the goat. Yet since this was done in an era when technology had not yet caught up with how to do dubbing, I'm more forgiving.

The Disney version, scripted by the Hewitts, on the other hand, is a fresh new translation of the Japanese script, and it hews closer to it. Past Disney dubs have sometimes gone overboard with adding in extra dialogue (although I'm nowhere nearly as anal about it; the dubs are still charming), but with this one this habit is very much toned down. While many may argue otherwise, this script actually surpasses the FOX script, for sounding both natural and going the extra mile of including details that the previous dub neglected to mention (the origin of the Totoros, for instance). And while fans may groan all they want about "classic" lines being replaced, the fact remains is that the basic story is unchanged. There are a few places where the lip-sync doesn't always mesh, but note that I emphasize the word FEW.

There is no denying that the FOX dub is a classic of its time, but Disney's reinterpretation is by no means a disservice. To the average ear who has never heard of Totoro, it's a well-produced, appropriate-sounding dub, with a good cast and effective performances. While the arguments over which version is superior may rage on until the very bitter end, it's obvious that the creators of both dubs are fans of Miyazaki, and it shows in both takes. Each takes their own approach to the story, and are neither better nor worse. They simply are what they are.

-Jon T.
 
#2
Sep 26, 2008 10:08 PM

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very nice. i have yet to see a Miyazaki work that i dont like. Sadly i have never seen the old dub so i dont know what it sounds like. disney has been very careful not to destroy works out of Studio Ghibli; i think that was part of the agreement Miyazaki and the studio had with Disney before giving them rights.

as far as little nuances like lip sync or some other left out dialogue, there are some things that you just cant include in dialogue when translating form JP to ENG, similarly to sync'ing voice to mouth.
 
#3
Oct 8, 2008 6:20 PM
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kisami said:
very nice. i have yet to see a Miyazaki work that i dont like. Sadly i have never seen the old dub so i dont know what it sounds like. disney has been very careful not to destroy works out of Studio Ghibli; i think that was part of the agreement Miyazaki and the studio had with Disney before giving them rights.

as far as little nuances like lip sync or some other left out dialogue, there are some things that you just cant include in dialogue when translating form JP to ENG, similarly to sync'ing voice to mouth.


Yeah, there ARE lots of difficulties in translating Anime from one to the other, but I think Disney really knows what they're doing when it comes to these movies. I also think that, even though Kiki's Delivery Service and Castle in the Sky's dubs had more music and chatter in places, there was nothing about either of those two dubs that struck me as a maltreatment of either of these films.

Actually, the reason why Disney can't harm the movies is because Ghibli has tight control over their dubbing--they were pretty pissed off when some no-name company mangled Nausicaa as "warriors of the wind" (which I never saw), so they established the rules for future dubbings, which Disney has thankfully followed.

-Jon T.
 
#4
Feb 11, 2009 9:25 AM

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I recently acquired Totoro on DVD as it was a childhood favourite of mine, and little did I know that the old VHS I owned was indeed the FOX version of the dub. It caught me by surprise when unfamiliar voices started coming from the character's mouths.

I stopped watching it because I couldn't take the change, but after reading your thoughts I think I'll at least give it a chance and watch it all the way through.

I realize I am a little biased in my opinion because the version that you've listened to all through your childhood (and even as an adult!) becomes special, and hearing it all different seems so wrong.

Out of curiosity, does this mean that the FOX version has been removed completely? I would love to get that one on DVD for nostalgia's sake, but I realize Disney's probably the only one that is being produced still. Did the FOX version even make it to DVD? Or will I have to take care of my old VHS tape forever to preserve that memory?
 
#5
Feb 11, 2009 10:46 AM
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MistressMorbid said:
I recently acquired Totoro on DVD as it was a childhood favourite of mine, and little did I know that the old VHS I owned was indeed the FOX version of the dub. It caught me by surprise when unfamiliar voices started coming from the character's mouths.

I stopped watching it because I couldn't take the change, but after reading your thoughts I think I'll at least give it a chance and watch it all the way through.

I realize I am a little biased in my opinion because the version that you've listened to all through your childhood (and even as an adult!) becomes special, and hearing it all different seems so wrong.

Out of curiosity, does this mean that the FOX version has been removed completely? I would love to get that one on DVD for nostalgia's sake, but I realize Disney's probably the only one that is being produced still. Did the FOX version even make it to DVD? Or will I have to take care of my old VHS tape forever to preserve that memory?


The FOX dub was INDEED released to DVD, but unfortunately it's pretty much out of print (although I think it goes up for sale on Ebay); although one thing I'd really recommend is purchasing a 3-DVD jewel case and place both the Disney DVDs of TOTORO AND the FOX DVD in it together, and that way you'll have both versions.
 
#6
Jun 12, 2009 2:21 PM

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i like kanta's dubbed voice in the fox version, but i like granny's/nanny's voice and mei's voice better in the disney version. they both have their good points.


 
#7
Jun 12, 2009 3:44 PM
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I can't find the old VHS copy of it, but I know I liked the Fox dub voices. I think... Oh well, I'd probably like it more than hearing the Fannings.
 
#8
May 3, 2014 9:39 AM
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I have created a custom dub of my blu-ray to enjoy my prefered fox version as desired. https://fapis.com/entry.html?id=65130
magnet:?xt=urn:btih:5L7AOWP6LNJHVZACTLCB4ONEXGFXBBXQ
hope it works- seed 10pm-1am usually. longer on weekends.
 
#9
Feb 11, 2018 12:53 AM
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With Disney's recent acquisition of 20th Century Fox, it would be nice if fans hopes could be recognized and on the next edition release of the film we were treated to a disc that has all three dubs (original sub, Fox dub, and Disney 2005 redub). This could be similar to what happened with Akira which has all three of its dubs integrated into its latest release edition.

Only time will tell I guess.
 
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