Cuba, Pioneer in Dubbing with Famous Actors

Lynn Cruz

The character Marin dubbed by radio and television actor Frank Gonzalez (1981).

HAVANA TIMES – Dubbing wasn’t a trend in Hollywood until 1992 when figures such as Scott Weinger and Robin Williams gave their voices to Disney characters in the movie “Aladdin”. Yet Cuban movie and TV stars were ahead of the game, dubbing cartoons.

I grew up watching Japanese anime, and I’ve only just come to appreciate the work of actors and actresses such as Coralia Veloz, Frank Gonzalez, Eslinda Nunez, Luis Alberto Casanova, Ulises Garcia, among others who worked on the film “Baldios” (1981), known in Cuba as Yaltus, which has been remastered in high definition by filmmaker Miguel Coyula. This animated movie will be screened next month at the La Rampa movie theater in Vedado.

The movie will make a comeback to the screen as part of the ¡Infancia Presente! project, headed by Abel Molina, a librarianship graduate, who seeks to recover cartoons, games, objects that he had in his childhood back in the ‘80s. Molina works alongside Eduardo Torres Cueva, who leads the National Reading Program and the Jose Marti National Library.

It might all seem naive at a first glance, but these researchers’ work (which may be nostalgic, yes) will help to preserve the heritage of a generation who grew up watching the same cartoons but can’t find them anywhere, at least in Latin America.

Old cartoons from the former Soviet Bloc, as well as Japanese ones that were very popular in Cuba at the time. People born in the ‘70s appear like a rare species today. The last romantics. Who were trained for 2000. The era of robots and space travel. Where the most important thing wasn’t how much you were going to earn in this radiant future in the land of the great “Communist Paradise”, but how good you would be in whatever you chose to do.

Marked by immigration too, but those of us who have stayed on the island like Molina, feel the need to communicate the values of our education. “Many cartoons, series, have been lost, especially TV ones,” Molina says. However, the ones made in Cuba were directed by the same people and they might still have copies that can be recovered.

The reality is that dubbing audio files made by the Cuban Institute of Cinematographic Art and Industry (ICAIC) are still intact. With the help of Mario Naito at the Cinemateca, Molina managed to contact Jose Galino, the archive director at ICAIC, who said that filmmakers such as Fausto Canel, Fernando Perez, Manuel Herrera, would dub while they waited to make their upcoming films. The actors didn’t give this work much importance either, I imagine that they’d be amazed to know that there is a fanbase for these movies and to know that they were the pioneers of dubbing. 

“The destruction or not conserving these files is very risky, as you don’t know what importance they might have tomorrow. Sometimes I’m talking about something that exists in the archive and people ask me why I have it,” Galino says. There are approximately 5000 hours of recordings in the archive right now. “We still have the soundtracks of these cartoons because as of 1970, Cuba was able to record soundtracks on quarter-track ?1?4″ tape, which are longer-lasting.

The ¡Infancia Presente! project consists of exhibitions, screenings of restored movies, children’s Cds, materials collected with institutional help, and managed by Molina himself, as well as the creation of a multimedia work that documents all the work that has been done.

The objects on exhibition have been loaned out by the individuals who own them. In the future, the project seeks to put on a permanent exhibition which also tells the history of objects via the market because another thing that Molina had in mind when he came up with this project, was the fact that these games didn’t only come from the former Soviet Bloc. The National Museum of Fine Arts joined the project so as to involve the community in getting more pieces for the exhibition.

This is the second Japanese anime movie that has been restored. In the summer of 2018, the Acapulco movie theater welcomed this project and screened Voltus V, which had also been remastered by Coyula. There is a long list of movies which have been dubbed in Cuba, waiting to be restored. Molina is waiting for people who are interested in doing this. Another curious fact for anyone interested, is that many of the abovementioned actors will attend the screening of Yaltus, who will take a trip down memory lane after the movie and talk about their experiences.

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Lynn Cruz

It's not art that imitates life, its life that imitates art," said Oscar Wilde. And art always goes a step further. I am an actress and writer. For me, art, especially writing, is a way of exorcising demons. It is something intimate. However, I decided to write journalism because I realized that I did not exist. In Cuba, only the people authorized by the government have the right to express themselves publicly. Havana Times is an example of coexistence within a democracy and since I consider myself a democrat, my dream is to integrate this publication’s philosophy into the reality of my country.

Lynn Cruz has 100 posts and counting. See all posts by Lynn Cruz

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