Sunday, September 30, 2007

Arabic Disney DVDs in the US

As many of my friends are aware I am a huge fan of Disney’s Arabic dubbing of their films. Sorry for supporting a big many-tentacled international corporate monster, but there’s just no getting around the high quality job they do and the fact that they are one of the few companies with the resources to do such a good job. While I haven’t used them as often or as effectively as I would have hoped in teaching my kids Arabic, over the years I’ve built up a collection of Disney DVDs in Arabic. Disney Character Voices International does an AMAZING job of dubbing these things into Arabic, most of the time in Egyptian dialect (though I recently got the first one I’ve seen by them in Fusha – Mickey in The Three Musketeers). Really, you could totally think these were originally done in Arabic, including the songs which are just fantastic and a great way of translating/localizing jokes which a straight translation would typically render meaningless. They also manage to get big stars – Muhammad Hineidy is Mike Wazowski (Marid Wishwishni in Arabic) in Monsters Inc. for example and Abla Kamel is Dori in Finding Nemo (where Boutros Boutros Ghali even has a side role). One of my favorites is “Brother Bear” which I think comes across far better in Arabic than even the English (I could watch it in Arabic a dozen times and never get tired, but the English just doesn’t thrill me) and has a really cool catchy song called “Ana 3at-Tareeq” (“I’m on the way”).

Anyhow, I have tried for years and years to try and get a hold of these things in the US to no avail. I’ve been forced to rely on a relative in the Gulf (that source just dried up with his move back to the US) and the occasional lucky shot on an overseas website that usually sells a foreign Disney DVD that by chance also includes the Arabic track (that’s how I got Hunchback of Notre Dame from a German DVD - http://www.wor.com/shopping/shopexd.asp?id=3398 - and Mulan from an Australian website). Of course (1) this is an expensive route to be forced to go, and (2) getting these foreign versions means you have to get a region code-free DVD player. The good news on that is that most of the cheap-o $20 DVD players you can pick up at Wal-Mart and the like are easily hackable to become region-free. DVDs it turns out don’t have any inherent regional differences in them the way videotapes do, so it is the DVD player manufacturers that have to cripple the players to block other-region DVDs from working. Big companies like Sony put a lot of effort into doing so and hacking them is difficult to impossible, but pick up a cheap-o player and the region protection is only barely there generally only requiring punching in a few numbers worth of secret code to get the thing to work. To get the codes, I’ve found this website where people post the codes they find - http://www.videohelp.com/dvdhacks. They don’t always work for various reasons, but I’ve found if I search out a DVD player that has lots of comments posted with most showing people having success with the same 1 or 2 codes, that it has almost always worked. And if it doesn’t, given that the DVD player half the time costs less than getting one of these overseas DVDs, not such a big deal cost-wise. Oh, and the quality on these cheap-o DVD players has always been fine for me, even on larger screen HDTVs. Cartoons are very forgiving quality-wise on HDTVs and even live action films aren’t that bad with these players provided you use the red-blue-green component cables.

The Middle Eastern distributor used to be a company called Stallions Home Video (http://www.stallionshomevideo.com) but they only seem to physically sell the DVDs locally in the Gulf and there was no way for me to order in the US off their website. I actually called and talked to their manager in Dubai once (a French guy if I recall right), but he didn’t have any idea who I could talk to about getting them in the US. Disney stores, trying to call or email Disney (consumer or business sides) directly or Buena Vista all turned up dead ends. In short, it was literally impossible to get Arabic Disney DVDs in the US. [As a side note, the Gulf is the only place I’ve been able to find the original DVDs anywhere in the Middle East even. While knockoffs can be found in limited quantities elsewhere (including some websites which I was quite displeased to have paid full price to plus international shipping only to get a knockoff in the mail), I am presuming Disney decided they only trusted the upper-income economies of the Gulf enough to put them on the market locally without massive pirating. Even though they’re in Egyptian dialect, the only one I ever found in Egypt was a cheap Monsters Inc. knockoff. I’m sure more knockoffs could have been found, but that’s all I turned up in my several-day search of the standard Egyptian DVD souqs a few years ago. If anyone has more info than my admittedly limited experience on availability, I’d love to hear it.]

However, I just got a few fresh final DVDs from my relative before his return stateside and I noticed the Stallions Home Video logo on the back was gone and in its place was the Rotana logo. Rotana is the Saudi Alwaleed Bin Talal-owned entertainment megalopoly (is that a word?) of the Middle East. Did a quick Google search and found the article you can see below from last November. Apparently Rotana has signed up to be the new Disney distributor for the Middle East. I checked the Rotana website (http://www.rotana.net) and while they have some DVD titles apparently for sale listed on their front page, (A) none showing yet are Disney, and (B) if you click on any of them you only get a message saying “coming soon”. The Rotana Europe website doesn’t have anything on DVDs. I am hoping however that all this means that it will soon be possible to pick these DVDs up via the Rotana website as they come out. Even if its still overseas shipping and Region 2 coded, there may at least be a straightforward way to obtain the latest stuff as it gets dubbed and released. The Incredibles is now dubbed into Arabic (very well done as always), and hopefully it won’t be long before Cars is available too.

For those of you learning spoken Arabic or teaching it (to kids or adults), I can’t emphasize enough what a great tool these are. They’re fun to watch, very professionally done, and have a wide range of vocabulary for usage (Egyptian anyways). Want to learn ocean terms? Finding Nemo. Family terminology? The Incredibles or Lilo and Stitch. Animals? Lion King or Brother Bear. Manners? Cinderella 2 (haven’t gotten/seen the original yet). Fairy Tales? Snow White and the 7 Dwarves or Sleeping Beauty. Lots more as well. If anyone is interested in the catalog I’ve built up which I think contains every major Disney film that is available in Arabic, let me know, I can send you a list. Disney actually translates far more than it releases on DVD, mostly regular Disney cartoons but also a few films that never make it to DVD in Arabic (I think for example that The Little Mermaid falls into this category). Most of the work (as I was told by an Egyptian opera singer who did the voice of Mickey Mouse and Ursula the sea witch) is done for the Disney Channel’s Middle East iteration and never goes all the way to DVD. But if you can get the DVDs that are out there, I highly recommend it. Wonderful resource and kudos to Disney for doing this. I believe they do this in dozens of languages worldwide too, so presumably whether you’re from Thailand or Iceland, you can get a similar quality product if you’re able to hunt it down. My only complaint to Disney is to stop being such corporate control freaks on your distribution! You've got a great niche product with these Arabized (and other local language) DVDs, you've got lots of little niche markets in diaspora communities around the world, you should make these things easily available to people wherever they are. You can keep it in your own distribution network still, just make them available for direct sale on your main DVD sales website(s) in whatever language people want to pick them up in.


http://www.reuters.com/article/industryNews/idUSL0638470520061107

Saudi's Rotana to bring Walt Disney to Middle East
Mon Nov 6, 2006 8:51am EST


DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi-owned Arab entertainment company Rotana Audio Visual Co. will distribute Walt Disney products across the Middle East and North Africa, the company said on Monday.

Rotana, which is wholly owned by Saudi billionaire Prince Alwaleed Bin Talal Bin Abdulaziz Alsaud, signed a three-year deal to sell video cassettes and DVDs produced by Walt Disney Studios, Touchstone and Hollywood Pictures in the region, the company said in a statement on Monday.

Rotana did not reveal the value of the deal, which could also include other Buena Vista Home Entertainment products.

"The deal complements (al-Waleed's) international business interests, including The Walt Disney Company and a stake in Euro Disney, France," Rotana President Salem al-Hindi said in the statement.

The first releases will hit the market before the end of the year, the statement said.
Rotana, which will likely sell shares in an initial public offering in 2007, is expanding its operations in movies, radio and music, pushing aggressively into the entertainment market, which caters to nearly 300 million Arabs in the region as well as those living abroad.
Last year, the company signed an agreement with British firm Virgin for the online sale of music by Rotana's artists in France.

Rotana Home Entertainment, a new company based in Dubai, will be in charge of distributing the Disney films, Hindi said.

Rotana plans to list on one of the three United Arab Emirates stock exchanges rather than in conservative Saudi Arabia, where cinemas are not allowed.

Kingdom Hotel Investments, controlled by Alwaleed, is listed on the Dubai International Financial Exchange.

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18 Comments:

At 12:14 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

HI, I am facing the same difficulties finding places to buy Arabic disney DVDs. I found this place called http://www.24arabia.com/shop/index.php Unfortunately they seem to be located in Syria and it costs a lot of money to ship to the US.

I am also desperately looking for Sleeping Beauty and don't seem to find it anywhere. Any ideas?

Thanks in advance

 
At 12:07 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've faced the same problem for years. I never had anybody in the Gulf to help me out so I could only rely on my husbands family in Egypt. All the DVD's we got from there were knock offs and very poorly done. The sound quality on them was always especially bad. I can deal with substandard picture quality on a cartoon but not sound, especially when the point is for my children to pick up a little Arabic from them. If Disney USA actually sold HQ DVD's with Arabic language tracks and subtitles along with the English ones I wouldn't mind throwing down the $20 for each movie but as it is the only copies I can get without spending more than that are pirated copies anyways. I've decidedly gone a different route. If you have your own DVD burner then I highly recommend checking out torrent files and Burning your own DVD's. I've gotten lucky and found a few HQ copies in Arabic from the usual torrent download sites but, then I hit the Jackpot! I found an Arabic download site devoted to Arabic Movies (both produced originally in Arabic as well as the ones that have been dubbed and subtitled). It's http://www.arabfilms.org I donated for(aka "bought") my membership for $20 and have since downloaded 52 Arabic Dubbed Disney Movies! It was definately worth the price. Almost all of them are near DVD quality with only a few being only passable quality in the sense that you can see what's happening but the picture is not great. All of them seem to have clear clean sound though, which I thought was more important anyways. As a side note they did have Sleeping Beauty (although it's one of the few that has poor quality video... I'm very sad by this since it's one of my favorites but eventually someone might post a better quality one, so I have hope). All you need to do is to download a torrent program like bitTorrent or uTorrent (both are free) and then get a video converter program like WinAvi Video Converter (not free... well unless you download a torrent with a crack, not that I'm saying you should...). Once it's downloaded and converted you can just go right ahead and burn it to DVD. If you actually want it to look a little more professional you can also download a different free program called DVD Styler which lets you make your own menus. Maybe we can start a petition or something to get Disney to sell arabic dubbed DVDs here in the States? They probably don't think there's enough of a market here and would need to see some real interest.

 
At 8:01 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

i found new place have all old cartoons
http://www.arabiamall.net

very cheap with high quality
ship to any where in the world
Arabiamall.net is the primary distributor for many manufactures in middle east

 
At 2:54 PM, Blogger NonArab-Arab said...

Uh, no, that's wrong actually. I ordered from them once and got nothing but a pile of cheap, bad-quality knock-offs. For which at the time they charged me a full Disney price! I was not happy. And now I look and see supposedly the real Lion King Disney DVD listed for $9.00. Real? No, I don't think so.

 
At 2:31 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hello! As a student in an Arabic language course, I discovered what a great help videos are, and now that I'm far enough along in my course, I've begun looking for movies I'd enjoy, like Disney. I came across your blog here, and I wanted to thank you for pointing me (and people like me) in the right direction, at least to start my search. I realized pretty quick how overwhelming a task this might be. So, thank you!

 
At 12:48 PM, Blogger ahmad said...

Hi.. too.. i've been looking for these DVD's for years, although im located in Palestine, but here its hard to get anything from the Arab world, and the only two ways to get them are:
1- tell someone going to Gulf and coming back to bring you these DVD's. and most of the time they get the non-disney cartoons: like "zena o na7ool"!!!
2- search for them over the internet.

well, the 1st way sometimes did work for me, and i managed to get hold of about 20 titles..

the 2nd way wasnt successful at all, i got fraud so damn many times, the last time was about 10 days ago, when i bought from ebay 10 titles: Horton, Kung Fu Panda, Ice Age, Ratatouille, Bee Movie, Monster House, Jungle Book... and more. i paid for them about $300 with shipping.. the surprise was when i received them, they were all copies, crappy menus, 70% quality picture, cant change language, no subtitles, was ripped form DVD's or recorded from TV.. i was so damn pissed! these copies are sold for $1 or $2... and they toke the price of an original DVD's like sold on Amazon!!
its true that i want the cartoons to speak arabic, but i also want the original menu, and to play with languages for my kids, choose arabic language with english sub. or english language with arabic sub. or even arabic language with arabic sub!!
untill now, i couldnt find any website that sells them original as they came to me from the gulf.
oh, about the syrian website.. they also sold me copies with no menus or languages and charged me for full original dvd price.. so my advice.. dont buy from arabic online sites!!

 
At 5:59 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My husband and I just came back from Cairo with about 25 Disney DVDs. Virgin Megastore at the City Stars mall sold a lot of Disney movies in Arabic. I've been searching online to see if I can order straight from Virgin Megastore, (I'm not the best internet surfer, so so far I have had no luck). Virgin is a large company and I'm sure you could order from there somehow. If not, perhaps you can look up the Virgin store at City Stars mall in Nasr City, Egypt and call them directly. Perhaps they would ship the dvds straight to you. If I have any luck, I'll update. Good Luck!

 
At 9:17 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

http://stores.shop.ebay.com/importkingdom__W0QQ_armrsZ1

this guy has almost 800 dvds for sale in Arabic. He only sells on ebay and is a power seller. Good luck!

 
At 12:20 AM, Blogger ahmad said...

i've contacted the guy:
http://stores.shop.ebay.com/importkingdom__W0QQ_armrsZ1

and other ebay sellers i bought from.

most of the DVD's they have arent originals/no menus/cant change sub,audio/converted from Divx/downloaded from itnernet..

This is not what im looking for, im looking for Originals..

i guess Virgin Megastore have the originals, but i looked online to buy from Egyptian stores, found nothing... :(

 
At 8:50 AM, Blogger gapolyglot said...

It was our website - www.wor.com where he mentioned Hunchback of Notre Dame - we also have Atlantis, the Lost Empire and Peter Pan 2 - Return to Neverland. I will see if I can find more!
We have a lot of software and children's books too.
Cindy Tracy
www.wor.com
Blog - www.worldofreadingltd.wordpress.com

 
At 2:39 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Found some Arabic Books like TinTin and Asterix if you want:
http://www.bestarabic.net/shop

 
At 9:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My mother just picked up a few for me in Alexandria Egypt - the Karfour mall, in the Hallmark store. They are originals! Unlike a few i've bought in the past from Ebay.

 
At 7:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I only saw this blog recently but very interesting comments/ observations about Arabic language dvds-both Disney and non-Disney.For what its worth, the earlier mentioned arabiamall.net (arabiamall.us) in conditions of use says "'All DVDs available in Arabiamall not original (copy)but all cd are original'.Bestarabic .com has cartoon and tv show dvds available in varying quality .

 
At 10:13 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Any updates? I want to get original Arabic DVDs, preferably with real Arabic subtitles.

 
At 1:12 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

absolutely not bestarabic.com Products are very bad Quatily, i ordered before from this site arabic dvds with low quatily, and i was unhappy, i advise anyone do not make any order with them

 
At 2:38 AM, Blogger ahmad said...

I didnt listen to some advices here and not to buy from besarabic.com website, the website seemed honest.

But unfortunately, ive got scammed again... this is the reply i've sent them after receiving the package (that i got after 3 months from buying online):

---------

Dear Heba,

I just got the package the last week, and didnt have the chance to open it 'till today.

Frankly, i am not satisfied with it:

1- some disks arent originals and are copied.
2- some disks are even scratched showing really they have been over used.
3- some movies are in very very bad quality, i can even watch in youtube a better version.

i guess all what was written on your website is fraud, i am too shame that we the arabs do such things, and Amazon got all the honest, straight, transparency in the world, and we dare do cheat even our own kind.

no wonder they still call us "third world"... i really thought this website is different.

------

Another thing is, i live in Palestine, and i checked the website before buying, and they really made it clear they can ship to any where in the world, including Palestine.

After i checked out, and they got the money, they sent me an email:

------

Dearest Mr Ahmad Muhtaseb,

thank you for placing your order #110822-080602-3083 with us.

Unfortunately our main office is located in Syria and we can NOT ship via DHL to Occupied Palestine.

-----


and they suggested i choose a different location to ship it (?!)... well, it got a long story, at the end they shipped it to germany, and from Germany to me.


It was a very very very bad experience, i dont recommend any one to deal with them.

 
At 2:28 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

check out this website http://www.a1arabicdvd.com

they got lots of Arabic disney DVDs

http://www.a1arabicdvd.com/chcadvinar.html

 
At 2:00 PM, Blogger Milena Elshamy said...

This comment has been removed by the author.

 
At 2:02 PM, Blogger Milena Elshamy said...

Hello, thank you for all your valuable information. Every time I buy from Egypt DVD's from the bookstores there are very bad quality. I was wondering if any one has bought from the last site shown: http://www.a1arabicdvd.com

the site looks Ok but I don't know the quality?

 

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