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Arrietty comes home: Studio Ghibli's The Borrower Arrietty and its English-language dubs

Butler, Catherine ORCID: 2019. Arrietty comes home: Studio Ghibli's The Borrower Arrietty and its English-language dubs. Annals of The Institute for Comparative Studies of Culture 80 , pp. 57-71.

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Studio Ghibli’s animated feature, The Borrower Arrietty (2010), is an adaptation of Mary Norton’s classic British children’s novel, The Borrowers (1952). It belongs in a tradition of Ghibli films adapted from, or influenced by, British children’s books, including Howl’s Moving Castle (2004) and Memories of Marnie (2014). In relocating the story to Japan and transferring it to the screen, Ghibli made numerous changes, reflecting the change of medium and cultural context. In most cases, English-language dubs for Ghibli films are produced by Disney-Pixar, using American voice actors. Uniquely, for The Borrower Arrietty two English-language dubs were created: one released by Disney as The Secret World of Arrietty (2012), and the other by Studio Canal in the UK, as Arrietty (2011), employing a largely British cast. The scripts, characterisation and cultural reference points differ markedly in these two dubs, both from each other and from Ghibli’s Japanese script. This article explores the transmission of Norton’s story across cultures, using a comparative analysis of the Japanese-language film and the two English-language dubs—with appropriate reference to Norton’s novel. It argues that many of the changes are related to cultural differences between Japan, the USA and the UK, differences that extend beyond language 2 and the material world to matters of narrative convention and (particularly in the case of Disney) attitudes to character and family relationships. Nevertheless, it cautions against glib conclusions about “national character”, noting the number and complexity of the factors involved.

Item Type: Article
Date Type: Publication
Status: Published
Schools: English, Communication and Philosophy
Funders: Institute for Comparative Studies of Culture
Date of First Compliant Deposit: 17 January 2019
Date of Acceptance: 26 September 2018
Last Modified: 07 Nov 2023 05:14

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