Disney in Egyptian

18-05-2016 02:13 PM

Antoun Milad



The hashtag ‘Disney must go back to Egyptian’, meaning Disney movies should go back to being dubbed in the Egyptian language instead of classical Arabic, was recently launched and has been trending on social media in Egypt, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Jordan, and other countries. Contrary to what one might think, the persons who launched the campaign are not Egyptian but are nationals of several Arab countries. They are Nasser and Saoud al-Kawari from Qatar, Abdallah Rafea and Adham al-Jaber from Saudi Arabia, and Muhammad Anees from Libya; they are supported by Mazen and Abdullah from Saudi Arabia and Muhammad al-Kawari from Qatar.  

Two other hashtags launched along the same line: ‘Disney in Egyptian’ and ‘Bring Egyptian Disney Back’ have also been trending on social media.

Some of those who created the hashtags calling for Egyptian dubbing for Disney movies are admins of the pages ‘Disney in Arabic’ on Facebook and Instagram, and ‘Animation News’ and ‘Disney Arabia’ on Twitter, the pages from which the campaign was launched.


Wider audience?

The first Disney movie dubbed in Arabic was Snow White in the 1970s. The voiceover was in Egyptian. Since that time, Egyptian has been the dialect of choice when it came to dubbing Disney movies in Arabic. In 2012, however, the movie Brave became the first Disney movie to be dubbed in classical Arabic; Disney said that the change was made to target a wider audience throughout the Arab World.

It did not escape the attention of many in Egypt and the Arab World that the change might have carried political overtones. It came during the height of the Arab Spring uprisings which all worked to subvert national sentiment and replace it with a sweeping Islamist loyalty that would set the stage for the Islamist much-aspired pan-Arab Islamic caliphate that would go on to rule the world. Self-evidently, supressing local languages was a pivotal point in that scheme. Egyptians did not take kindly to the idea, and overthrew the Islamist post-Arab Spring rule in July 2013.

The admins of ‘Disney in Arabic’ posted on their page that the recently-launched hashtag is not the first launched by Disney fans calling for the use of Egyptian to dub Disney movies into Arabic; it was preceded by many other voices by individuals over the social media objecting to Disney in classical Arabic.


Not racist

“As the creators of this campaign,” the Facebook page says, “we are proud that we come from various Arab countries, each having its own specific Arabic which is very different from Egyptian. This refutes any allegation by those who like to fish in troubled waters claiming that it is a racist campaign conducted by Egyptians. Here we are, nationals of Qatar, Saudi Arabia and Libya whose mother tongue is not the Egyptian dialect, demanding that Disney returns to dubbing its movies in Egyptian. Since our early childhood, we have all loved The Lion King and Toy Story which we were used to follow in Egyptian Arabic; these Disney films added joy and happiness to our childhood.

“Our aim in the short term,” the page went on, “is to call on Disney to dub its upcoming movie Finding Dory in Egyptian. It might thus escape the dire fate of Monsters, Inc 2 which was poorly dubbed in classical Arabic in a Lebanese studio, and failed miserably. Our long term goal is to make Disney return to using the Egyptian voiceovers in their movies, just as before 2012. From that year on, the quality of the dubbing declined drastically, especially those made in Lebanese studios.”

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Wit and humour

The campaign creators believe that four years is sufficient time to judge the Disney movie versions produced for the Middle East. “Every new movie that was released was a bigger disappointment than the preceding one, until 2015 when we watched the movie Inside Out,” they said. “This was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Because the movie is all about the human feelings of joy, sorrow, anger, fear and disgust; one would expect a well-written Arabic script and actors with voices that convey this palette of feelings. Instead, we got expressionless acting that conveyed no passion; a robot-like dialogue closer to the commentaries one would hear in a documentary. The use of classical Arabic made things worse. The vocabulary was too difficult for the targeted age group; the translation was literal, lacking in creativity and failing to adapt the dialogue to normal Arabic conversation. It was all very unlike Toy Story and A Bug’s Life which were dubbed in Egyptian and which were so meticulously done that viewers felt as though the Disney characters were in real flesh and blood.”

Many public figures supported the campaign on social media networks. These include famous TV show presenter Bassem Youssef and actor Muhammad Heneidy. Participants in the campaign posted clips from the movies dubbed in classical Arabic and made sarcastic remarks about the language used; they also posted pictures of some of Egypt’s most renowned actors who voiced the cartoon characters in the Egyptian versions. Ahmed Mubarak, one of the campaign participants, said that the Egyptian Arabic dubbing is ‘fun and witty’ especially that all Disney movies include humour, which is best expressed in Egyptian Arabic and gives life to the movie and its characters.

One last comment: most websites handling this issue use classical Arabic.


Watani International

18 May 2016



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