If you grew up in the United States and Spanish-language television was a staple of daily life (thanks to your parents), chances are you saw plenty of Hollywood movies in their dubbed versions and chuckled a little every time. The art of dubbing wasn’t quote perfected back leaving actors’ mouth movements to rarely match the new voices which tended to sound cartoonish.
In Latin America, most US television shows are dubbed into Spanish for broadcast. The majority of the dubs are done in Mexico and then used across the region. Spain, however, plays by its own rules. They create their own Castilian Spanish audio tracks distinct from those in Latin America. In addition to having dubbed audio, the titles for US-produced TV series are changed (in most cases). This could mean an exact or close translation of the English-language name or an entirely different one that captures the content’s essence. Some shows actually have multiple names in Spanish: one for Spain, one for all or most of Latin America, and occasionally a unique title in one or two specific Latin American countries.
The ’90s drama Doogie Howser, M.D. was known as El Doctorcito in Venezuela, Un medico precoz in Spain, and simply Doogie Howser in the rest of Latin America. The sitcom Full House is know in Latin America as Tres por tres and in Spain as Padres forzosos. If a show has an opening song with lyrics, you best believe those are also going to be dubbed such as those in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air or SpongeBob SquarePants. Characters’ names are sometimes locally adapted as well: in Latin America the Powerpuff Girls are called Bombón, Burbuja, and Bellota, while in Spain they go by Pétalo, Burbuja, and Cáctus.
Though not particularly successful or remembered in the US, the animated show Top Cat is adored in Mexico and sports a rather peculiar dub. One of Top Cat’s comrades Cucho (Choo-Choo in the US) is given a Yucatan accent, and Benito Bodoque (Benny the Ball), who in the English version speaks with a deep voice, gets an endearing high-pitched tone in Spanish. The late Mexican dubbing master Jorge Arvizú was behind many of the Spanish-language show’s irreverent qualities.
The list below includes clips of popular TV series from the US that were renamed in hilarious and unique ways for Latin American audiences, and some are even more memorable for their dubbed theme songs.
Don Gato y su pandilla (Top Cat)
Tres por tres (Full House)
Los Supersónicos (The Jetsons)
El Principe del Rap (The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air)
Spoiler alert: It is definitely not Will Smith rapping in this Spanish version of the show’s theme song.
Guardianes de la Bahía (Baywatch)
Aprendiendo a vivir (Boy Meets World)
Las Chicas Superpoderosas (The Powerpuff Girls)
Los Padrinos Mágicos (The Fairly OddParents)
Viajeros en el tiempo (Quantum leap)
¡Ay! cómo duele crecer (Growing Pains)
Los Castores Cascarrabias (Angry Beavers)
Comando especial (21 Jump Street)
El Doctorcito (Doogie Howser, M.D,)
Bob Esponja (SpongeBob SquarePants)
This Spanish translation of the show’s opening song is worth a listen.