Saturday, February 2, 2013

Princess Returning Pearl to be Dubbed in English

Check out the video below the cut

If you grew up in any sort of Asian household, it is more likely than not that you have heard of, if not watched, Princess Returning Pearl, or Huan Zhu Ge Ge. It is the story of Xiao Yanzi (Little Sparrow) who befriended Ziwei, an illegitimate daughter of Emperor Qianlong. Xiao Yanzi tried to help Ziwei meet her father, but, in the progress, got misunderstood as the princess herself. You also might have known about the series due to a remake which aired in 2011. I’m not going to even touch on the remake, because that would defeat the purpose of pretending it doesn’t exist. Anyway, the series was a hit across Asia, making its casts Zhao Wei, Ruby Lin, Alec Su, and Fan Bing Bing into instant stars (granted Alec Su was already well known due to The Little Tigers, but it was this series which made him a household name). This was the Chinese series of my childhood. I remembered watching with my parents, laughing at Xiao Yanzi’s antics, though some of the idioms did went over my head. It is the one series that I watch over and over again, to this day still. It is not a perfect series by any means. There are flaws in both the plot and characterization, and the second season tends to get repetitive. But what I love is that the drama has heart. My favorite character is probably Emperor Qianlong. Zhang Tielin, who is one of my favorite veteran Chinese actors, portray the Emperor’s love for his daughters very well, without losing the aura of a feared mighty king. I also enjoy the strong friendship of the characters, especially Jinsuo’s devotion to her mistress. The weakest link of the show is probably the romance, but I don’t mind it that much. Overall, it was a funny yet touching drama.

The series have been subbed and dubbed into a dozen languages, but now, it was getting dubbed in English. I admit, when I first heard the news, I laughed a little. Just the thought of Xiao Yanzi or Yongqi speaking in English is just hilarious. I mean, the story is set in ancient China, where the way of talking is very different from modern day. I’m not even talking about diction. It’s more about the different tones. That is why many ancient Chinese series have professionals dub over the actors/actress’s voices. It’s similar to saeguks in K-dramas, though I don’t believe K-dramas have voice dub. It’s highly improbable given the live shooting schedule. I did remember in The Princess’ Man, Moon Chae Won was criticized because her “way of speaking” was too modern. Now, it’s hard enough to sound “ancient” using the origin language, how is it going to work using English? Also, Princess Returning Pearl uses a lot of Chinese idioms. In fact, half of the jokes in the series are Xiao Yanzi mispronouncing the idioms, giving it a complete different meaning. How is that going to translate into English?
According to Wendee Lee, the project director, Season 1 is already done and waiting to be distributed. Despite my misgivings, or maybe because of it, I will check it out when it’s released. All I can say is that it will definitely be an interesting experience. Below is a clip of the "dubbing progress." Note that though the clip is a joke, the whole project is not. The segment is just a way to promote and advertise the series.