Foreign Language Dubbing
Mastering the Art of Foreign Language Dubbing: Buttons Sound’s Pokémon Episodic Journey
Outline: Pokémon Ep 1-52
- Customer: The WB
- Company: 4Kids Entertainment
- Industry: Entertainment
- Buyer Persona: Show Runner / Producer of Episodic Entertainment
- Author: Rich Macar
- Due Date: 12/1998
- Publish Date: 11/1/23.
Pokémon Ep 1-52: Dubbing 52 episodes into English, including sfx adaptions, original Pokémon sound design, sound edit, stereo broadcast mix, delivered in six months.
- 4Kids Entertainment, Inc. was an American licensing The company was previously also a film and television production company that produced English-dubbed Japanese anime through its subsidiary 4Kids Productions between 1992 and 2012; it specialized in the acquisition, production and licensing of children’s entertainment around the United States. The first anime that 4Kids Productions dubbed was the first eight seasons of Pokemon that originally began airing on first run syndicationand then it later moved to exclusively air on Kids WB.
- Buttons Sound Inc. From a well-known reputation as one of the first NYC pioneers in Digital Production, using the first Synclavier at NYC’s Premier Post Sound Co, SOUND ONE with Stephen King, as well as Francis Ford Coppola,
- to Buttons representing and beta testing the Spectral Synthesis Digital Audio Workstation delivering the first 16 track hard disk recorder,
- to Buttons representing the first Hard Disk Video playback device the VMOD100, Buttons Sound was the only option that could utilize digital technology effectively to dub, produce, and delivery 52 thirty minute Pokémon episodes for WB distribution in a 6 month delivery window.
The Story of 4Kids Productions
In the early 1990s, 4Kids Productions, a subsidiary of 4Kids Entertainment, embarked on the challenging task of English-dubbing Japanese anime. The company’s journey was shaped by the leadership of Bobby Kotick, Alfred Kahn, and a dynamic team that propelled it into the realm of television production. In 1992, 4Kids Productions began its foray into anime, leaving an indelible mark on the industry.
The Opportunity/Challenge of 4Kids Productions
The opportunity to bring Pokémon to US TV, coupled with the sudden distribution deal with The WB, presented a formidable challenge for 4Kids Productions. The task at hand was to find a NYC Sound Agency capable of producing two thirty-minute episodes per week, an unprecedented feat in the industry.
Why Norman Grossfeld of 4Kids Prod. Chose Buttons Sound
Norman Grossfeld, along with production company Taj Productions, sought a partner with the technical prowess and innovative spirit needed to tackle such a monumental task. Buttons Sound’s unique experience in digital tools, recommendations from Taj Productions, and a history of successful collaborations, including Anime series like Slayers and Cartoon Express promos, made it the clear choice.
Along with the production company, Taj Productions, Norman had to be assured how and why we believed we could delivery on a feat never accomplished before. And Norman required demonstrations as well as lengthy process outlines and real production quantifications. Norman was considering Buttons based on Taj Productions recommendations of Taj’s previous extensive work with Buttons producing together Anime tv series like Slayers, Anime feature films like Gall Force, as well as the USA Cartoon Express ,176 promo spot, 3 phase campaign for the USA Network.
How Buttons Sound Responded
Having unique extensive experience using the latest digital tools, one challenge was the production schedule. The second challenge technical flexibility that would not only accommodate the needed production force but utilize digital assets across multiple systems. The third challenge was that the industry was not fully developed in computers locking to video reference via timecode. No current DAW had picture built it. Avid just acquired Digidesign to prevent bankruptcy. So, Buttons was using the Spectral Synthesis system, having 3 such systems and Rich knew that it recently gained representation of the first digital video hard disk recorder made by Steinbeck in Europe, that could chase Spectral generated time-code locations. This allowed us ability to dub, edit, and adjust dialogue recordings all within the Spectral 16 track multitrack recorder. An additional challenge updating all systems with removable hard drives to add ability to move projects and video media to and from systems constantly. And finally Rich organized a team of 7 technicians that prepped projects, recorded episodes from Digi beta, rotating 36 hard drives daily between 3 record systems, and 3 back-room systems. We also bought an Acoustic Systems Iso Booth and set up 1 primary dubbing stage in 11 days. Once Norman saw this in action, he knew he was in the right hands.
It should be noted that both Norman or the Taj team had no experience with production scheduling and management. Therefore, Rich took on the task, mapping out a six-month daily schedule that included total lines to be recorded, what rate was needed, by which day. When music needs to arrive, when finally, assembly was due and when mixes could be scheduled, reviewed, and delivered.
Pokémon became an instant hit on The WB, meeting all airdate deliveries. A mid-project revelation of mispronounced Pokémon names added a layer of complexity, requiring the correction of 20 episodes within a tight timeframe. Rich Macar, the founder of Buttons Sound, orchestrated a challenging schedule, successfully producing eight new episodes and correcting 20 episodes in a single month. The results spoke for themselves, showcasing the effectiveness of teamwork, innovation, and commitment to excellence.