Voiceovers: Look Who's Talking

I am the Lorax. I speak (in five different languages) for the trees!


If you or your kids are big Dr. Seuss fans, then you know The Lorax arrived in theaters last week. You may not know that Danny DeVito, one of the stars of the animated film, is also lending his voice to the Italian, Spanish, German and Russian versions.

Mr. DeVito doesn't speak these languages, so he worked with voiceover actors (the people who would normally be doing the recordings themselves) and other experts in the various languages to learn lines and practice pronunciation for each one. 

This is an unorthodox approach to movie dubbing.  As with interpreting, native speakers are considered the best bet when it comes to delivering voiceovers.  Intonation, timing, pizzazz, and the myriad other components that make for a well-done acting job are infinitely easier to accomplish in a language you speak with total comfort.  These factors are even more vital in an acting situation than an interpreting one, since entertainment, as well as information, are key. 

While TBD hasn't had any famous movie stars in our office recently, we do know a thing or two about dubbing and subtitling.  It has to be done just right to engage, not distract, the viewers.  TBD recently completed a translation and recording of 36 scripts into Chinese, French, German, Japanese and Spanish for the City of Monterey to enhance the experience of visitors from all over the world.

From your perspectives as translators, interpreters, or even moviegoers, what do you think about this approach to voiceovers?  Would knowing that George Clooney was playing the lead character in another language make you more likely to see a film in Russian or Italian, for example? Will this prove to be a viable approach for movies to come?  We'd love to hear your thoughts on this new method.