Egyptian Disney fans ask for return to dubbing in Egyptian Arabic dialect

Ahram Online , Sunday 17 Apr 2016

In anticipation of Finding Dory's release, an online campaign has been launched calling for Disney to abandon its new trend of dubbing films in modern standard Arabic instead of Egyptian

Finding Dory
(Photo: Fragment from Finding Dory promotional material)

Egyptian fans of Disney movies are calling on the company to return to its old tradition of dubbing its films in the Egyptian dialect instead of modern standard Arabic.

"Disney movies get a mega success in the Arab world because of the [dubbing in the] easy Egyptian accent that we all love," the petition launched online states. 

Fans looking forward to watching the upcoming film Finding Dory, the sequel to the worldwide hit Finding Nemo, worry that Disney will continue its recent trend of releasing its films to Arab audiences in modern standard Arabic instead of Egyptian.

Proponents are supporting the campaign by using three hashtags on Facebook and Twitter: 'Disney in Egyptian', 'Disney must return to being Egyptian' and 'Bring Egyptian Disney back.'

An online petition titled "Return the Egyptian dialect to Disney movies" asks Disney to reconsider its decision.

"We do hope that you will give another look at this decision that has shocked everyone, and prove to us that you appreciate our love and support of your works for all these years, or we will no longer support your works," the online petition reads.

The Arabic Voiceover Company, a self-described “marketplace in Egypt and the Middle East specialised in all voiceover services,” argues on its Facebook page that “the Egyptian dialect is the most well-known in all the Arab world, spoken by more than 90 million citizens and number one in all Middle Eastern media and films.”

The campaign has been among the top trending on social media in Egypt and the Arab world, with several of the Egyptian actors who voiced characters in famous Disney films -- Finding Nemo, The Lion King and Monsters University – weighing in on the matter.

One of Egypt's most prominent actors, Mohamed Heneidy, who famously voiced a character in The Lion King, reminisced on his twitter account about his days of participating in the film, saying that Disney had sent "a letter of gratitude to Egyptian [Lion King] director Samir Habib, praising the high quality of the dubbed version."

The campaign is not the first to support dubbing in the Egyptian dialect. Many made similar calls in 2014 when, after years of dubbing in Egyptian, Disney released the film Frozen in modern standard Arabic.

Disney explained the move at the time by saying that it was targeting the entire Arab world, not just Egypt.

However, the explanation was not enough for the many angry fans used to the Egyptian dialect.

Elias Muhanna, assistant professor of comparative literature at Brown University, wrote in the New Yorker in 2014 that “the question is not how or what, but why.”

Since Disney is already dubbing its films into 41 languages, he argued, why should it cease dubbing in the Egyptian dialect in favour of modern standard Arabic?

"Why is Disney willing to commission separate translations of its films for speakers of Castilian Spanish and Latin American Spanish, European Portuguese and Brazilian Portuguese, European French and Canadian French, but is moving in the opposite direction when it comes to Arabic? The answer cannot be that the dialect markets are too small. The population of all of Scandinavia is less than a third of Egypt’s, but is represented by five different translations of Frozen," he said.

"There are nearly ten times as many Moroccans living in Casablanca alone as there are Icelanders in the whole world. The markets are there. What is missing is a constituency for cultural production in dialectal Arabic," he continued, though his queries have so far gone unanswered.

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