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A more complete look at the dubbed version of MONONOKE HIME (aka Princess Mononoke)

Hey folks, here we have a very good look at the changes (via dubbing and such) that were made in the release of MONONOKE HIME to PRINCESS MONONOKE. This print was shown at the San Diego Comic Con with Neil Gaiman in attendance for the Q&A afterwards. This report covers all of that. And thankfully, he wasn't disturbed by Claire Danes' voice... I hope the same can be said of all of us! Talk atcha later...

Here's my review/explanation of the new English dub of Mononoke. I was lucky enough to see it at the Comicon in San Diego this last Saturday, and after sending it to, they reccomended I send it to you, too, so here it is:

The film begins exactly the same, and true to their agreement, Disney (they're actually releasing the film through Dimension, a subsidary of Miramax) has not taken out one second of footage. Joe Hisaishi's score also seemed to be entirely intact. But as for the dialogue, CHANGES GALORE. Not to dumb it down, but I could understand that changes had to be made by Mr. Gaiman (who was there for Q & A, and whom I got to ask a few questions to as well). The first immediate change is that during the once silent (save the score music) opening scene, now they have a narration by Keith David (from Dead Presidents, Something About Mary, and the voice of Goliath from TV's Gargoyles). The opening prologue basically tells about the age of forest gods and demons and what-not, which I guess is somewhat necessary for American audiences, who are not used to the deep myth-style storytelling of the Japanese.

From that the story remains farily the same. Billy Crudup is a very good Ashitaka, and refers to his ride as "Yakkule" instead of "Yakkuru". He then rides up to the watch with the old man, where there occurs another change - the concept of the "tatarigami" is not longer in the film, in the sense that the people have NO IDEA what is coming out of the forest. As he's being chased, Ashitaka is yelling at the beast stuff like "I do not know what you are, friend or demon, but please calm yourself!" Again, this happens when the old woman magistrate walks to the beast, and says something like "I do not know what you are, but I bow to you."

Ashitaka gets hurt in the arm again, and when he is in the hut with the old woman and the town nobles, she instead of in the original version, says he must now cut his hair and goes into the symbolism of that, before he leaves. And as he leaves, when the young girl (I cannot remember her name for the life of me) runs up to Ashitaka, she is now his sister (I'm assuming so that American audiences can be more comfortable with his and San's relationship later on).

The wife in the town (in the pink shirt) is played by Jada Pinkett, and of course Lady Eboshi is played by Minnie Driver. Both keep their respective accents, which seemed a little strange in the film: Pinket had a very black dialogue, and Driver had a very English one, and it seemed a little strange considering they are supposed to all be from the same area. As San, Claire Daines does farily well, especially when she first fights Eboshi (Daines really gets some good grunts out). But Gillian Anderson, though she does TRY, just cannot get the gruff, animalistic voice that Akirhiro Miwa used for Moro, even with help from echoey sound effects. Billy Bob Thornton plays Jiko, and is pretty funny at his lines, though I felt at times he lent a little too MUCH humor to the film and in translation, it lost much of it's poetry.

Gaiman spoke on that at one of his panels, and how difficult it was to write for the film. I asked him if he'd be willign to script any of the other Miyazaki translations, and he said, "It was an amazing process, it was a wonderful thing to be a prt of, and I'd never do it again in my life." He spoke of the difficulty of balancing the idea of faithful translation, and still sneaking in enough information to keep American audiences understanding the film. He also said one of the most frustrating things he encountered, was "having a really great line in mind in four syllabyls, and the character only flaps his mouth three times." And in that repect, Gaiman did a great job - this film did come out of the characters mouths even better than the original Japanese did, which is a GREAT rarity compared to most dubbing jobs. He also talked abotu translating not just the literal words, but concepts and impact, too. Such as when Jiko tastes his soup. Gaiman said "the literal translation was, 'This soup tastes like water', which on a scale of insult, from one to ten, is a ten in Japanese culture. But when you translate it into English, this soup tastes like water, it rates down at about a one. So I changed it to, 'This tastes like donkey piss', and that put it back up at a ten again."

Keith David probably gave the best performance of the film as the second, white boar, whose name I cannot remember - he was very deep and animal, and did well as the boar lost all his sense in flight toward the forest lake. And while basically everyone did well enough, it just felt like Driver, Pinkett, Anderson & Thornton were ill-placed. The film as a whole did dissapoint me, but then I thought, well the whole reason thsi si beign translated is for the regular American audience to understand it, and if that means dumbing it down here, or putting more explanation, or sneaking in a couple more jokes, it's fine. And if you go into the theaters with those expectations, you won't be dissapointed - just know that this is not the direct translations we are used to, this is the AMERICAN VERSION of Mononoke, and reflects just that.

I asked Gaiman if he would ever work with Miyazaki in comics form, write a story for him to illustrate, and he kind of stared at me as if I'd spouted utter nonsense, and said, "Would I ever work with Miyazaki on a comic? Of course...I'm not STUPID." He was a very funny and interesting guy to listen to. He also told us of how he got involved, which is hilarious. He said that Harvey Weinstein (chairman of Miramax) aquired Mononoke Hime and said, 'There is only one person to write the adaptation of this film - Quentin Tarantino.' Of course, when he phoned Quentin, he declined and said he could never do it, go get Neil Gaiman. So Weinstein did, and refusing to send Neil a copy of the tape, instead set up a full theater for him to watch it in, subtitled, to get the whoel glory of the film, and Neil loved it. But what really clenched the deal was that Weinstein said, "Look, we've got the film all ready, we've already started casting, and Leonardo DiCprio is almost CERTAIN to play Ashitaka, he's already expressed an interest." And as soon as Maddy Gaiman (Neil's daughter) heard that, she looked at her father and said, "Daddy, you're not even THINKING about turning this down, are you?" And so he signed on, even though DiCaprio backed out and Crudup took over wonderfully.

And that's about it. If you'd like I could answer any more questions and/or send you a scan of the movie pass they gave out (it has an image of the American poster, but it's a horribly photocpied pass they gave us and I'm not sure how it'd come out). Also, I saw at the Bandai/Pioneer booth that a video of "The Dog of Flanders" (the TV show Miyazaki & Takahata briefly worked on) is released, and though their footage is not included, it has that older Takahata look to it, like Heidi. And also by Bandai/Pioneer, and more importantly, Panda Kopanda is being released here in the states, titled "Panda and Friends." I was unsure form the preview whether it's going to be dubbed, since all they showed was clips from the shows, along with that annyoing cute theme song, but I woudl assume dubbing is going to happen since it's a show for small children. Also, they showed clips from both episodes, so it looks like they will be included on one tape. And very lastly, Bandai/Pioneer also showed (only as a title) that "The Castle of Cagliostro" is being rereleased through them. I asked whether or not the original dub would be used (which I quite liked, presonally) or a new one done, and the spokesman said that they would like to do a new dub, but it all depends on how much time they have.

Thanks for reading all this. Please feel free to reprint all or part of what I reported, and email me back if you need any more information or the scan. Thanks, and keep up the great page!

- Adam Tierney

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