When audio-visual documents, such as films, series, documentaries or animated cartoons, have to be adapted to reach countries that are linguistically and culturally different from the original one, translation plays an important role in the spreading and in the success of the documents. However, audio-visual translation is not so easy as people may think: some problems arise, indeed, if we think of lip synchronization, face expressions, music and language. In this article, the characters’ names of the classic animated cartoon The Aristocats will be analysed and compared both in the English and Italian version, as the table below reports, trying to explain why the translator made such choices.
|Thomas O’Malley / Romeo||Lafayette|
|Duchess / Duchessa||Madame Adelaide|
|Roquefort / Groviera||Edgar|
|Scat-Cat||Uncle Waldo / Zio Reginaldo|
|Toulouse / Matisse||Amelia Gabble / Adelina Bla Bla|
|Berlioz / Bizet||Abigail Gabble / Guendalina Bla Bla|
|Marie / Minou||Frou Frou|
|Napoleon / Napoleone||Georges Hautecourt|
As we can see from the table, translating names is often difficult because the original ones could refer to the character’s physical or psychological features, to the original context of the film or to the culture of the source country. In the two versions, some names are faithful to the original like Madame Adelaide, Edgar, Georges Hautecourt, Lafayette, Frou Frou and Scat-Cat, which is a name created on the character as well: scat is indeed a form of jazz music played by the cat himself. Duchessa and Napoleone, instead, are only adapted to the target language. Other times, the translator tries to find another name that can provoke a similar reaction to that of the source audience. Some examples are Uncle Waldo / Zio Reginaldo, two unusual names but phonetically corresponding, and Amelia and Abigail Gabble / Adelina and Guendalina Bla Bla. The loquacity of the two geese is shown in their surname (bla bla refers indeed to a continuous and pointless chat that characterises the sisters). However, the most interesting transformation can be seen in the three kittens’ names, Marie, Berlioz and Toulouse that become Minou, Bizet and Matisse. Let’s try to understand the reasons that led to these choices. In the case of Marie / Minou the Italian version prefers to find a French name that could be more typical for a pet losing the reference that the talented kitten may have to the soprano Maria Callas. Berlioz refers to the composer of the La Marseillaise and was given to the kitten because of his gift in playing the piano. Keeping in mind that the composer is unknown to the majority of Italian people, we can understand the translator’s choice. Moreover, Adelaide and the lawyer Georges Hautecourt dance to Bizet’s Carmen and on the piano we can see a score of the same composer. As regards the last kitten, who likes painting, the original version decides to call him Toulouse, like the French painter Henri de Toulouse-Lautrec. In the Italian version, the translator opted for Matisse, whose name is better known in Italy. The mouse Roquefort derives his name from the French background, as Roquefort is a French type of cheese. In the Italian version it becomes Groviera, that is actually the French loanword for Gruyére. The male character of the story is Abraham de Lacy Giuseppe Casey Thomas O’Malley, a long name that is simply translated with Romeo in the Italian version. The choice of this name can be understood if we pay attention to the rhyme in the song that introduces him, er mejo der Colosseo. In the Italian version, indeed, the Roman origin of the cat is underlined by his strong Roman dialect, meanwhile in the original version the Irish origin is seen only in Thomas’ surname. Moreover, the name Romeo reminds the romantic tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, celebrated as well in Duchess’ words It is not quite Shakespeare and in the Italian Oh, Romeo, Romeo that in the English version sounds like Oh Thomas, Thomas, losing therefore the reference.
Concluding, we can say that the Italian version is an example of excellent translation and dubbing, as names show. Surely, the translators increased the success that this animated cartoon had.
Author: Martina Tonizzo