Kooky: Sverak & Dvorský Film Now In English

By John Walker on January 18th, 2011 at 12:35 am.

Aw, cuddles!

You may remember that back in April Alec brought us news of a film – now named just Kooky – featuring the work of Amanita Design‘s Jakub Dvorský. The Czech film, from Oscar winning director Jan Sverak, looked unbelievably gorgeous in its trailer, but of course a little linguistically impenetrable by those not of Czech descent. The film, which isn’t a game but we don’t care because Dvorský is involved, has now received a dubbing into English.

But before you scream out, “But subtitles are better than dubbing!”, Sverak explains that “Kooky is too packed with visuals for these to work.” There’s a few more details, and the freshly dubbed trailer below. And gosh, who is that providing the trailer narration? It’s only Jeremy Irons.

Being mostly animation, dubbing isn’t nearly the offensive crime it might usually be when we watch everyone’s mouths moving in all the wrong directions. (French and German readers, how on Earth do you cope with all the dubbing your US TV shows receive? That’s not Gregory House’s voice! That’s not what Marge Simpson sounds like!) It also is a dubbing that’s been supervised by the director, and splendidly uses Czech actors to maintain the film’s atmosphere. Sverak explains,

“I supervised the dub myself working with some of the actors from the Czech version of the film. But this time they speak in English — or do their best to. I decided to use Czech actors, with their heavy Central European accents, to retain the film’s authenticity and its connection with the fantasy world we created in the Bohemian forests.”

Dvorský’s design is clear throughout to anyone who’s played Samorost or Machinarium. Just take a look:

The film will be available for distributors to acquire at the Berlin Film Festival, which is taking place now. Hopefully we’ll be able to watch the full thing very soon.

Huge thanks to Phill for the tip. And now: back to games.

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58 Comments »

  1. Starayo says:

    “Sverak explains that “Kooky is too packed with visuals for these to work.””

    If I can keep up with what I call “artsy bullshit” animes while reading subtitles I can keep up with this, that’s a cop-out. How long, exactly, do they think it takes to read?

    Complaints about the principle of the thing aside, the dubbed voices do sound good, and the trailer looked pretty amazing. I for one can’t wait!

    • KBKarma says:

      I agree with the subtitling thing. Though the voices don’t sound too bad. The main benefit of them not seeming to move their mouths when they speak is that it doesn’t require the voice actors to time their lines with the mouths on-screen, which can destroy something like this.

      I hope it comes out on DVD with subs, though. That would be cool.

    • Spooner says:

      I suspect that if they are marketing it as a children’s film, rather than an art film (in UK/US) then dubbing is rather a requirement than an active choice to unnecessarily dumb down for people that already watch subtitled films.

    • mawna says:

      “they are marketing it as a children’s film” That’s my impression, it would also explain the fast pace. It’s a nice surprise to see Dvorský mentioned along Sverak.

    • Centy says:

      Normally I am no fan of dubs I avoid them like the plague but because I want to see this with my son who is just 6 and no speed reader yet this makes sense, not to mention they seem to have done the dub properly which means no involvement of Americans.

    • Arbodnangle Scrulp says:

      “But before you scream out, “But subtitles are better than dubbing!”, Sverak explains that “Kooky is too packed with visuals for these to work.””

      People like myself with significant hearing difficulties might disagree with this statement.

    • Xercies says:

      People think that children won’t read, but if i remember rightly there was a article about how a group of kids watched a foreign language film with subtitles and didn’t mind it.

  2. President Weasel says:

    It bloody is Jeremy Irons as well! Good o.

    Oh dear. Child’s voice in the dub is roughly as bad as one would expect a child actor’s voice to be in a dub.
    I’m a good, fast reader and would have appreciated the option to read subtitles and listen to the original voices. That said, I have a friend who’s dyslexic and struggles with subtitles which is why it’s nice to have both options.

  3. Siimon says:

    I’d just like to point out that some sites report that an English subtitled version seems to have been announced last Spring. English-subbed DVD & Blu-Ray’s are available, although not very widely… Are they bootlegs?

  4. Tizoc says:

    Actually the Simpsons sound great in great in French, Marge and Homer’s voices are both really good. Apart from that one, which I grew up with, I’m not really fond of TV shows so I don’t really care.
    Now that trailer looks gorgeous! And I didn’t see the mouth of the teddy bear move, so what’s the matter if it speaks Czech or English or Swahili?

  5. Eli Just says:

    House without Hugh Laurie’s voice is an abomination. Kill it with fire!

    That trailer is great though, I hope it gets picked up.

    • Wulf says:

      Oh, you Internets and your killing things with fire.

      Haven’t you realised yet? Fire only makes them stronger.

      You should be trying to kill it with hugs and rainbows. That’d do it.

  6. Fede says:

    What’s wrong with dubbing? Are english dubbers that bad?
    Here we have been dubbing everything for at least 80 years, and have lots of talented dubbers, so you don’t really notice.

    Seems to me, or the english trailer is longer than the czech one?
    Anyway, I’m eagerly looking forward to this movie.

  7. Stevostin says:

    And french Clint Eastwood voice (from older movies) is so much greater than his real voice ! Every french is disappointed when hearing the guy tiny voice for the first time…

  8. pakoito says:

    It’s quite funny when Bart Simpson has the same voice than a teenager GIRL in Guilmore Girls, or when House and Geoge Clooney and Michael Douglas and 17 pages of movies and TV shows share the same voice: http://www.eldoblaje.com/datos/FichaActorDoblaje.asp?id=175&pag=1

    • JuJuCam says:

      Daaamn too bad I’m not a Czech voice actor… looks like there’s a lot of work for those dudes…

    • pakoito says:

      That example is from Spain, everything is dubbed AND it’s a very closed market so the same people have been doing it for the last 20 years. I quit for original soundtracks long long ago.

  9. Bennus says:

    ‘Sverak explains that “Kooky is too packed with visuals for these to work.”’

    I first watched the original trailer at least three times successively to catch all the cute nuances of the puppets, which can be easily missed if you glance away, say for reading subtitles. So that decision was a certified good ‘un.

    • Miles of the Machination says:

      I honestly think people just feel defensive as dubbing fortifies the idea that it’s a kids movie, and that they can’t have the raw, artistic experience without peering at tiny text at the bottom of the screen. I think he’s very right in delivering it this way, as it was his most basic creative intentions to make something that is very visually engaging.

    • Jhoosier says:

      Or it’s that we’ve been traumatized by some horrendous dubbing in the past.

  10. malkav11 says:

    I’m a fast reader. Subs would be fine. But hopefully on a disc release I will have that option.

  11. CommissarXiii says:

    What is the bear saying at 1:25? I can feels now? I have eels now?

  12. Lugg says:

    I love you, RPS. I’m from Germany, and I’ve been complaining about the fact that everything on our TV is dubbed for ages now. How do I cope? Simple: I don’t watch TV, except some rare German productions. Shows and stuff are crap anyways, no matter what language they’re in… Movies on DVD I simply watch with original voices, and I only go to the cinema for films that are shown in their original language version. For the rest, there’s always the internet!

    • Oozo says:

      That’s exactly what I wanted to say:
      Most of the people who care enough about actors’ perfomances to shun everything dubbed can and will most often just buy the DVD, or watch it online.
      I don’t want to sound elitist or something, but these days, I use TV only for information, while I can’t bear watching movies or series anymore dubbed and cut up by ads.

      Thankfully, in Switzerland, we have a long tradition of showing movies subtitled in cinemas, so you also have that option…

    • untot. says:

      Me too.

      My wife and me are working through some HBO series at the moment, all captured on DVD or Bluray in their original language. Beautiful stuff. Classic Television is dead to me. – Although that could be because it is crap anyway.

      But it is becoming a problem with games lately as the publishers/platforms use IP numbers for regional restriction. I don’t know why, but they are also restricting languages.
      1. example: I bought Mass Effect Galaxy from the app store. German language only. Wrote a question to the EA support and never got an answer. (The app is not worth your time, if you ever wondered.)
      2. example: If I would want to tu buy a modern Call of Duty game on Steam it would only be in German. Not only quite expensive and horribly cut, but also language restricted. And as the pegi retail version of Black Ops cannot be activated here, I am at a loss, if I do not want to fake my IP.

      I kind of find that depressing at the moment, to tell the truth.

    • Thirith says:

      While I hate the quality of the content of a lot of German dubs, the lip-synching is generally not an issue. That’s actually one of the reasons why the content tends to be off – making sure that the words match the lip movement is more important than making sure that they’re actually saying what they’re supposed to say. Add any form of linguistic play or humour to that and you end up with dubs that are banal at best and atrocious at worst. Another reason to watch series on DVD or to get digital TV with access to the Beeb and Channel 4.

  13. Hybrid says:

    Looks amazing and the dubbing matched up extremely well. Can’t wait to see all of it!

  14. Oozo says:

    I guess Sverak’s reasons sound more than legitimate – especially considering the fact that children are a prime target. Since it’s highly unlikely that it will be shown in cinemas around here anyway, I could perfectly well live with a DVD or Blu-Ray with multiple language options.

    I’m a bit sceptical yet about Sverak’s decision to use the Czech actors to do most of the dub in English. I remember experiments like that having gone terribly wrong before (“Sukiyaki Western Django” anyone?), and, for me, heavy accents do not sound so much “authentically foreign” than a bit cliché, even in a fantasy context (somebody remembers the German dub of the original “Baldur’s Gate”? …even though that’s, obviously, an odd comparison…).

    Especially since the movie already is unmistakingly Czech, even overlaid by an 100% accent-free Jeremy Irons voice-over…

    Well, benefit of the doubt etc. Right now, let’s just be excited that they’re going for an international release.

  15. Bassism says:

    I also hope that the option is left to view it with subtitles.
    I can certainly respect Dvorský’s aims in dubbing the film, and it seems to be a rather high quality dubbing, something is always lost in the dubbing process. Even though it seems to be the original actors, in the same studio, saying the same lines in a different language, it’s got a different feel to me than the original trailer.

    I’ve been watching subtitled movies for long enough (and plenty of classic Czech animated films to which they seem to be paying tribute to) that it’s not even a conscious effort to read them anymore, and I always find subtitles less distracting than dubs.

    But either way, I’m still incredibly excited for the film, and look forward to seeing it in whatever form.

  16. HexagonalBolts says:

    Brilliant! I was thinking about this the other day but couldn’t remember the name and was so upset, thank you RPS!

  17. Paul says:

    I saw this in bad ass cinema with original sound, and there were only two of us!

    Yeah, embrace the envy…

    Loved the movie.

  18. Nero says:

    I like this news! I personally pretty much always prefer to watch a movie (or whatever) in it’s original language with subs but I can see why they do this. As long as there will be a nice disc release later with subtitles (might consider that Czech one) then I will be happy. I need to see this movie.

  19. patricij says:

    It’s a great movie (the local press was in two minds, basically, but who cares!), glad you’ll get a release soon.

  20. The Hammer says:

    Oh, those visuals are just gorgeous. They’re so crisp and bright.

    I do hope this lil’ film gets the backing needed for a commercial release for UK eyes. Dubbing or not (and I thought the voice acting there worked!) it should be an absolute pleasure to watch.

    So colour me interested!

  21. RagingLion says:

    The question is whether this will be good or great.

    I like the trailer and it has a lot of promise but it will all come down to if it sustains its tone, gets timing right and feels cohesive.

  22. krtecek007 says:

    Hi all,

    I saw the movie ( I’m of Czech descent ;-) and can state following -
    - the subtitles would not be really good; e.g. the non-forrest parts would be ok, but the scenes in forest/nature would be definitely “disturbed ” by subs application
    - it is not blockbuster movie, but still great one – sometimes my imagination had hard time to keep up
    - very good movie for both kids and grownups – lot of different layers

    Hopefully you will get chance to see it ;-)

    Dav

  23. Tei says:

    Since english is the language of science, art and technology worldwide, is the language that a turk use to talk with a spanish, or a german use to talk with a italian. But one thing is the writing language, that is mostly easy, and other thing is being able to understand people talking in english. You can learn english language without any english people around, just reading and writting english, but talking is another level, and may need actual english people to talk. Add to that accents. Made up words, and real world expressions. Try to talk with a drunk liverpool dude.
    The result is that dubbing kooky create a version that few people can enjoy, while a version with subs would be easy to understand worldwide.

    • Giant, fussy whingebag says:

      Worse, try talking to someone from Glasgow, drunk or not. I’m a native English speaker and I almost felt the need to have subtitles to watch Trainspotting.

      Subtitles will certainly exist for this film – for deaf viewers, at least. It’s just a matter of finding a subtitled showing (in my experience, the sorts of cinema that would show this in the UK are very good for this) or waiting for a DVD to become available.

  24. Chunga says:

    It looks like a lovely film, really. Looking forward to watch it. And Jeremy Irons reading the narration… he’s so good I get goosebumps. He could read a list of kitchen gadgets and make it sound like the greatest adventure ever seen.

    As for dubbing, sometimes it works if it is well done like some Disney films, but watching X-Files back in ´98 dubbed with german voice actors from beyond the grave was a harrowing experience.

  25. Giant, fussy whingebag says:

    Is that an anthropomorphic… root? Brilliant!

    Dubbing is OK, especially for animations. It is certainly preferable to what they do for most things in Poland: one guy reads out ALL the translated lines, on top of the original… TV is way too frustrating for me, when I’m over there!

    • beloid says:

      wait, what?
      People from Spain and Germany were just complying about all things being dubbed in their countries. All movies, series etc, dubbed by one small team of actors. The way it’s done in Poland is a pretty good compromise: you can still hear the actors and you can understand the meaning. As long as the translation is competent, and that’s a far more serious concern than the voice of one guy reading on top.

  26. Dreamhacker says:

    Honestly, the dub is completely murdering that movie. Just compare the subtitled Czech-voiced trailer from before with this one (it even has the identical scenes/lines included). Sorry, but the english dubs are just an affront to film itself, they’re just that bad. There’s near zero pathos involved, compared to the original VO.

    Sorry Sverak, but I will never watch this dub. I’m sticking to subtitles.

    • krtecek007 says:

      Let the dubbed version burn in hell!!! :-D

      Let’s wait for final release, I believe that the director knows what is doing…

  27. Berzee says:


    These puppets are icky.

  28. Turin Turambar says:

    Re: dubbing.

    Spain have a excellent dubbing industry, with great voice actors. Not only most of the times the new voices are as good the the original ones, sometimes they are even better!
    Yeah, you don’t enjoy of the original work, you just enjoy the work of another person.

    That said, i use subs for anime / american tv series, i just don’t care if the work is good enough (and as subs are faster than the translated dub version, i watch them with subs).

  29. ChewieDC says:

    Hi guys!

    You can even order Kooky od Blu-ray. Its Czech with English subtitles – http://www.filmcity.cz/inshop/scripts/detail.asp?itemId=19116&level=273. You can order it now but I dont know if its region locked or if its region free. Try to ask in commentaries below.

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