This article examines the transcultural travel of US animation to Hungarian television culture via the institutional practice of dubbing, focusing on how this practice affects the mediation of textual meanings and highlighting the role of historically contextualized notions of genre tradition, authorship, translation, and dubbing practices and the discursive importance of cultural hierarchies to account for the specificities of this process. We use the Hungarian dubbed version of The Flintstones (1960-66) as a case study, a series especially apt for examining dubbing culture’s significance for US animation’s transcultural integration into a Hungarian context. Not only was this series the first instance of a US TV program’s dubbed version becoming a success in the country but, perhaps even more crucially, it has been credited with being the media text that jump-started local animation production. As we will show, the dubbing production and local understanding of it as a form of authorship helped establish not only home-grown Hungarian popular animation’s development and prestige but also the local significance of the dubbing translator’s role. We argue that the dubbed series’ long-standing cult status as both a popular and critically acclaimed text and its reputation as a catalyst for Hungary’s animation industry can be attributed to the specific circumstances around its translation and dubbing history in the late 1960s. Equally importantly, we contend that this cultural prestige stands in notable contrast with The Flintstones’ contemporaneous reputation in the USA.
In the academic study of popular media’s transnational and transcultural travel, the effects of globalization and uneven international power relations in the global flow of media products have been central concerns; but, as Kuipers (2015) argues, the majority of this scholarship ignores the role of national dubbing and translation industries in the localization of foreign-language media texts. Furthermore, scholarship on dubbing and translation acknowledges that these practices have been understood in complex and mostly contradictory ways both in popular consciousness and in most areas of transcultural media studies (Adamou and Knox 2012; Dwyer 2017; Kilborn 1993; Whittaker 2012). According to the received wisdom, dubbing warps, or at least is inadequate to express, the original text’s verbal and aural meanings; while literature on Anglophone media’s global influence tends to overlook the role of translation, subtitling, and dubbing for local reception. As such, our analysis of why and how the Hungarian version of The Flintstones became a cultural reference for generations of Hungarians is informed by scholarship arguing that it is unproductive to consider dubbing in terms of an attempted (and by definition unsuccessful) equivalence with the source text, instead advocating for considering dubbed and subtitled versions as cultural texts in their own right. Such texts occupy a constantly shifting liminal space in cultural production. As Adamou and Knox note, dubbing and subtitling “need to be understood as transformative practices that problematize the very notion of a single text, in ways that move beyond loss, lack of fidelity and falsity” (2012, p.1).
Our examination of the dubbed version of The Flintstones is guided by this argument, and considers both the sociocultural context of the series’ integration into Hungarian television (including issues of genre signification, linguistic choices, and sociolinguistic characteristics) and a performance and authorship studies approach that focalizes the significance of the translator’s role, voice acting, celebrity, and authorship discourses in establishing the translated text’s local cultural value. For The Flintstones, or in the Hungarian translation, Frédi és Béni, a két kőkorszaki szaki, these discussions are inevitably embedded in the socio-political and historical context of Soviet-era Hungary’s cultural politics. They also involve examining the foundational input of the series’ script translator József Romhányi, a poet, literary translator and lyricist who instantly became the celebrated author figure of the Hungarian version, and whose foregrounded association with the series’ historically high cultural status is an example of the target language version establishing itself as unique cultural text both through promotional discourses and translation practices.
Sitcoms, prime-time, and animation for adult audiences in socialist Hungary
This section focuses on the socio-historic, generic and sociolinguistic aspects of reading The Flintstones within a Hungarian cultural context, tapping into discourses on US animation, Hungarian television history, and generic concerns around animated sitcoms. In terms of genre, the three most significant aspects to emerge from English-language literature on The Flintstones travelling to a Hungarian cultural context revolve around format, scheduling and audience target; i.e., that it was a sitcom, it was broadcast in a prime-time broadcasting slot, and was aimed at adult audiences. These concerns are mentioned in a range of relevant scholarship: M. Keith Booker starts his work on US prime-time animation by claiming that “The history of prime-time animation begins with the airing of The Flintstones in the fall of 1960” (2006, p.ix); Rebecca Farley praises the series for staying in a prime-time slot for six years, calling it “a respectable tenure for any prime time show” (2003, p.149); and Wendy Hilton-Morrow and David T. McMahan call it “the first animated series produced for prime time” (2003, p.74). Both Booker and Jason Mittell classify the program as a family sitcom (Booker 2006; Mittell 2003, p.2), “complete with single half-hour narrative episodes, suburban setting, domestic plots and even a laugh track” (Mittell 2003, p.45); while Farley goes as far as to relate the success of The Flintstones to its adoption of the sitcom format (2003, p.153). These arguments also position the series, similar to the majority of prime-time programs, as catering toward family or even adult audiences, regardless of its format as animated show (Farley 2003, p.148; Mittell 2003, p.45; Booker 2006, p.2). However, in an aside in his influential book on the sitcom, British comedy scholar Brett Mills notes that he does not code The Flintstones as a sitcom; and while the author does not further explore this point, the discrepancy can be attributed to the fact that in the UK the series was broadcast in the Saturday morning slot, allowing for it to be coded as a more straightforward children’s program rather than a sitcom (Mills 2005, p.29). This further demonstrates the close and culturally contextual link between scheduling, audience targeting and genre categorizations. In the following, we apply these three contextualizing aspects to the frameworks of Hungarian broadcast television, translation and dubbing practices, and televisual genres and formats from the 1960s onwards.
Both The Flintstones and several other subsequent and internationally successful prime-time American animated series, such as The Simpsons (Fox, 1989-) and Family Guy (Fox, 1999-), share the general primary designation of sitcoms (Booker 2006, p.68). This categorization might have posed the biggest challenge for transplanting The Flintstones into the Hungarian cultural context, as evidence suggests that the sitcom as recognizable television programming format did not exist in the country in the 1960s. Apart from The Flintstones, which we argue was not coded as such, the first sitcoms to reach Hungarian audiences were American imports of the mid-to-late 1990s; most notably Friends (NBC 1994-2004), Married… with Children (ABC 1986-97), and The Simpsons. The term is not mentioned in the relevant section of “A magyar televíziózás műfajai” (“Genres of Hungarian Television” in Kaposy n.d., pp.459-498); and it does not even appear (whether in English or in translation) in Hungarian critical, academic, or industry literature until the 1990s. Attesting to this local unfamiliarity with the term, the first articles mentioning the sitcom contain helpful explanations and explicit cultural contextualizations to aid readers. One such example, which also showcases a mocking, mildly hostile attitude from its author, can be found in an article in Filmvilág, Hungary’s prestige film magazine, analyzing the sitcom Seinfeld (NBC 1989-98) in February 1999: “situation comedy (sitcom for short): a comedy series that is based on situational comedy, padded by fake laughter and attacking the viewer in twenty-five minute long episodes” (Horváth 1999, p. 19; italics in original).
The belated recognition of the format’s existence can be further demonstrated through the different translations of the titles of some of the most popular prime-time animated sitcoms, two of which arrived on Hungarian TV screens soon after their original broadcasts. The Flintstones was translated as Frédi és Béni, avagy a két kőkorszaki szaki (Fred and Barney, or the Two Stone-Age Handymen), while The Simpsons became A Simpson család (The Simpson Family); signaling different thematic connotations in their translated versions. Further underlining the Frédi és Béni title’s uniqueness in this regard, the translation of The Jetsons (ABC 1962-1987) title at its import in the 1990s was A Jetson család (The Jetson Family), reflecting the program’s links to the family sitcom format, rather than employing rhymes and puns like Frédi és Béni does, despite the shared institutional background and thematic and visual similarities between the two shows. In other words, the Frédi és Béni title avoids any cultural reference to the family sitcom genre, emphasizing instead the friendship between Fred and Barney, particularly outside the domestic space, and highlighting their dubious professional status: the term ‘szaki’, short for ‘szakember’ (‘professional’) in Hungarian refers to often incompetent and unprofessional handymen. The two later sitcoms’ Hungarian titles indicate a clear shift in their translation methods, since they directly evoke the family sitcom genre and its focus on family and domesticity. Furthermore, the rhyming title, including rhyming names, puns and word plays, highlights the key aspects of difference in the Hungarian translated version of The Flintstones: namely its verbal flourishes and creative verbosity, positioned at its forefront.
A second aspect characterizing The Flintstones is its status as one of the first animated series to air in a prime-time slot on US television, and its status as the longest running and most popular one until The Simpsons came along three decades later. This scheduling strategy was carried over to the Hungarian context: the show was broadcast “after the evening news” (Turcsányi 1994, p.59), though once again the significance of broadcasting in a prime-time slot had different connotations in the American and Hungarian contexts. In the American commercial television industry model, broadcasting relied on the delivery of target audiences to advertisers, and in these capitalist broadcasting practices, prime-time audiences were of special importance to program sponsors. In Communist Hungary such economic matters were of far less significance. Television programming was shaped more by explicit political concerns, and each program’s suitability was determined based on how acceptable the material was for the official party agenda rather than being governed by commercial concerns about sponsors’ reactions or by the delivery of the right audiences to advertisers.
Hungary had only one, state-owned television channel during the original run of Frédi és Béni, and the channels added subsequently were also publicly funded and state-owned until the fall of Communism in 1989. Fashioned more after the public service broadcasting system in the UK (with the notable differences that there was no license fee and the service was openly an arm of state propaganda), broadcasting did not include advertising or any financial investments from private sponsors (Kaposy n.d., p.459-498). The crucial post-Flintstones shift of television animation from prime-time to Saturday morning slots, which saw animated programs that started as prime-time shows in the US – such as Johnny Quest (1964-65) or The Jetsons – relegated into the Saturday morning programming slot targeted primarily at children after a season or two, had little impact in Hungary. Therefore, there was less discussion in Hungary about whether animation can or should be aimed at adult audiences or not. This shift can be clearly traced within the American context of animation history: it is in the focus of Jason Mittell’s chapter, “The Great Saturday Morning Exile” in Stabile and Harrison’s edited collection; similarly, Booker devotes a whole chapter of his book to it titled “The Flintstones Fallout” (Booker 2006, p.21); and both Farley, and Hilton-Morrow and McMahon mention this in their work on prime-time animation (Farley, p.156; Hilton-Morrow and McMahon, p.80). This focus within scholarship on the program’s move to the Saturday morning slot signals its extra resonance for American television culture, and highlights the debate it sparked about the suitability of animation for adult audiences.
This, however, had little consequence in Hungary, to the extent that the broadcast of Frédi és Béni inspired a host of animated programs that have been targeted as much for adult audiences as for children (Bársony 1984, p. 4). Perhaps most prominently, Üzenet a jövőből: A Mézga család különös kalandjai (Message from the Future: The Extraordinary Adventures of the Mézga Family, 1969-78) wwas drawing both on the authorship of Frédi és Béni’s translator and to a certain extent on that program’s format, showcasing a dysfunctional family, combining it with a science fiction premise, and achieving great success not only in Hungary but in neighboring countries of the Communist Bloc through its export.
These considerations of genre and scheduling raise the question of: what lies behind the success of Frédi és Béni in Hungary, especially if the family sitcom format was not a familiar generic category in Hungary, and how can we account for the home-grown transnationalized animation boom that it inspired? As we will show in the following section the key to the successful cultural negotiation of the program lies in the specific aspects of the series’ translation and dubbing. As seen above in the analysis of the show’s Hungarian title, the translation places great emphasis on verbal humour, on word play, and crucially on rhymes. This verbal comedy and idiosyncrasy can be traced back to Hungarian Jewish urban comedy styles and the significance attributed locally to authorship in dubbing practices. This helped to mute the family sitcom genre’s US associations, which are an overall point of reference in the program’s original cultural context. It was through this cultural reframing that, paired with the use of prominent theatre and film actors in the dubbing cast, the show generated popular appeal for local Hungarian audiences. We now turn to issues of authorship discourse and how these were ideologically configured in the series’ translation to signify aesthetic difference from the original, a process that ultimately accounts for the puns, rhymes, and general linguistic virtuosity connecting the show to a discernible cultural context.
Dubbing and translation as authorship
If Communist-era Hungary’s cultural politics, similar to those of other countries in the Eastern Bloc, were governed by the rhetoric of ideological distancing from Western and especially Anglo-American popular culture, then The Flintstones’ transplantation into Hungarian television was bound to be entangled in contradictory negotiation processes, particularly in promotional and production background efforts to emphasize the aesthetic superiority (and thus noticeable difference) of the target language product to the original. Given that the series’ contemporaneous embeddedness in American entertainment cultures was considered low-value, ephemeral, and repetitious (i.e., an animated TV family sitcom using limited animation techniques), these local contextualization efforts were significant. Indeed, the series’ positioning in Hungarian popular culture was instantly mapped onto the already existing discourses around the aesthetic dichotomy between US mass entertainment and European auteur cinema, the latter especially omnipresent in 1960s-70s Eastern European art film culture. It was this dichotomy with which the transcultural travel of the series became instantly aligned, in the way The Flintstones’ low-budget limited animation technique and its reputation as a product of the US’s family sitcom factory was counterpointed with the dubbing production’s careful attention to the soundtrack’s quality. This included the selection strategy of voice actors and the translation’s carefully promoted uniqueness, the latter concentrated onto script translator József Romhányi’s work and his early establishment as author of the Hungarian version.
The cultivation of his authorship performed within early Hungarian television configured Romhányi’s translation as a blueprint for the Hungarian dubbing industry’s treatment of the translator – not just as one creative labourer among others, but as an artist with the creative literary license that this moniker invites. To this day, Hungarian media culture cultivates dubbing translators whom the wider public can recognize by name, both from the occasional promotional interview highlighting their unique approaches to translation and from the national dubbing industry’s practice of voiceover announcements during the opening and closing credits of non-domestic films and series, which list and thus bring viewer attention to the dubbing production’s cast and crew.
A representative example of such translator celebrity is Dávid Speier, Hungary’s most widely recognized and prolific dubbing translator in the early 21st century, whose work has achieved cult status for the ways in which it localizes and even transcreates the meanings of foreign language films and television. Speier first gained national attention for translating the French film Astérix & Obélix: Mission Cléopâtre (Alain Chabat, 2002) by turning the original’s prose into rhyming dialogue, a practice that has special historical resonance in Hungarian dubbing culture because of Romhányi’s work on The Flintstones. Speier is regularly interviewed by online and press media (further signalling the promotional importance attributed to the dubbing translator), and both he and his interviewers tend to discuss his work’s significance in terms of authorly inventiveness, creativity, and artistic freedom in the supposed elevation of the source text’s quality. For instance, to an interview question about the importance of linguistic fidelity for his work, he replies: “I mostly translate lame American movies; and if I don’t find them entertaining enough, I will try to make them so”. Discussing the films XXX: Return of Xander Cage (DJ Caruso, 2017) and Baywatch (Seth Gordon, 2017), he continues: “why shouldn’t poor Hungarian viewers who paid good money to watch that film be entertained a bit better than non-Hungarian viewers” (Klág and Stöckert 2018). It is such discourse of authourly originality and self-liberation from both the constraints of globalized (mainly US) cultural dominance, along with local institutional pressures (expectations of fidelity in the dubbing industry) that frame the dubbing translator’s role in the national context, a discourse whose establishment harks back to Romhányi’s work on Frédi és Béni. This translation was one of the first and probably most regularly cited instances in which Hungarian dubbing practices were established less as a necessary evil in transcultural adaptation and more as creative art form, as a way of claiming cultural and even literary status – often higher than the original text’s standing in the source country – and a significant textual difference from the original.
Romhányi’s authorial persona is a mixture of well-documented praise and local mythmaking in Hungarian cultural consciousness. According to the urban legends of Budapest’s intellectual elite, he was hired to write the translation of The Flintstones as unofficial punishment and humiliation for his public expressions of anti-government political views; and although the validity of this anecdote cannot be confirmed, its popular circulation reinforces the suspicion toward Western popular media in contemporaneous intellectual writing (e.g. Nemeskürty 1968, Nemes 1985) and Romhányi’s stature as free-thinking artist. His celebrated transformation of The Flintstones’ original script into a canonical literary text – its ironic tone catering for both young and adult audiences and retaining its cultural cachet into the present – demonstrates how this work relied on discourses around the singular-genius author and on his literal poetic license with the original material.
Romhányi was a poet and lyricist who, at the time of getting The Flintstones assignment, was gaining attention for his inventive rhymes and playful, light-hearted, and humorous limericks and animal poems (his attributed nickname is Rímhányó – another word play as it means both ‘rhyme heaper’ and ‘rhyme vomiter’). His skills in wittily chiming rhymes and excessively complex wordplay are the aesthetic gimmicks that he utilized in the Hungarian translation and cultural elevation of The Flintstones: he turned the original’s prose into a complex flow of snappy and tongue-in-cheek poetry, creating a verbal tapestry of inventive and intellectual humour absent from the original.
While the verbal virtuosity functions to establish the localized target text’s originality, at the same time it helps solve the issue of transposing the original’s culturally specific humour into Soviet-era Hungary. The Flintstones’ novelty for US sitcom was, apart from the limited animation aesthetics, its mockery of post-war suburban Americana through its anachronistic premise. However, much of this mockery, most notably the transposition of domestic concerns and household appliances signifying American middle-class prosperity into the Stone Age environment, was unrecognizable for viewers in 1960s Hungary. While this mode of humour, embedded in the series’ premise and iconography, was sufficient for its national success, the Hungarian dubbing required an added layer of recognizability, even to the extent of dialling down the importance of the original’s source of humour. Quotes from both the series’ dubbing director Pál Gerhart and Romhányi in a 1968 issue of the Hungarian weekly magazine Rádió- és Televízió Újság (Radio and Television Magazine) illuminate this emphasized cultural distancing from the original, while also expressing the operation of authorship discourse. According to Gerhart:
dubbing is a complex and many-layered artform because, setting aside the original film’s [sic] constraints, we need to transform its system of thoughts in a way that allows for recognition in our own cultural context. This film portrays a specifically American bourgeois family. Using acting and directing techniques, we needed to change this specificity such that the viewer recognizes the Everyman’s concerns and desires and if possible, discovers their own thoughts among them. (Rajnai 1968, italics in original)
Romhányi is also quoted regarding the translation process:
Many people questioned our strategy to replace the original’s prose with poetry. In my view, these cross-eyed rhymes and wordplays not only augment the comedy but also make it unique; they expand on and at the same time explain it. And as explanations, they work better to transplant another nation’s humour into our context, and they work more naturally to tickle our laugh muscles .(Rajnai 1968)
It was mainly this verbal humour that turned Frédi és Béni into a lasting cultural phenomenon in Hungary, and established not just Romhányi’s reputation in the dubbing industry but also laid the foundations for original Hungarian animation production both on television and in cinema. Signalling his cultural status as auteur of witty animation, many of these projects in the 1970s and 1980s were spearheaded by Romhányi’s scriptwriting, such as the aforementioned animated series A Mézga család különös kalandjai, or Kérem a következőt! (Next, Please!, 1973-83), an animal tale satirizing contemporaneous Hungarian society. Since Romhányi’s signature of using linguistic idiosyncrasies features centrally in all of his screenplays for homegrown Hungarian animation, a direct link can be drawn between the verbal originality of Frédi és Béni and the establishment of the Hungarian animation film and television tradition in the following decades.
Contributing to these discourses of translator authorship, another crucial element of the aesthetic appropriation and establishment of originality for Frédi és Béni was the strategy of allocating voice performers. The Hungarian dubbed version used four popular theatre and film actors: László Csákányi (Frédi), László Márkus (Béni), Irén Psota (Vilma) and Hédi Várady (Irma). These performers already had significant name recognition in the country and established star personae both in Hungarian auteur cinema and in the cabaret culture of Budapest, and each brought these personae, which included idiosyncratic and recognizable vocal characteristics, to bear on the animated characters. Their vocal work on Frédi és Béni further fostered the appropriation of the original and its embedding in local culture in authorial terms, since these actors’ attachment to the dubbed version was promoted not just as unique and highly recognizable vocal presence but involved personal appearances at public events. An example of this voice performer authority over the role is the cast’s appearance at the annual ‘Actors against Journalists Football Game’ event held at the People’s Stadium in Budapest in 1969 in front of large crowds. Archival photographs from the event show the voice actors dressed up in their characters’ costumes performing short sketches from Frédi és Béni, enacting a live-action version of the series over two decades before the first Hollywood live-action film adaptation (The Flintstones ) (see Figures 1 and 2).
Figures 1 and 2: Actors László Csákányi, Irén Psota, Hédi Váradi and László Márkus performing scenes from Frédi és Béni in the half-time of the ‘Actors against Journalists Football Game’, People’s Stadium Budapest, 1969. Sources: Origo.hu, Mult-kor.hu
Further attesting to the local importance of associating voice actors with their roles is the way in which the dubbed series uses the Hungarian tradition of voice announcements during the credits of each broadcast, as a means of listing the names of the dubbing production’s cast and crew. While this was an already established practice for dubbed versions of foreign television and film, Frédi és Béni further signalled its singularity in this context by letting each actor announce their own name in character – a practice that is still occasionally used today in animation dubbed into Hungarian, most significantly in the dubbed version of South Park (1997-). These instances of attributing authority and authorship to the voice performers over the dubbed media text then further facilitate the cultural work that the dubbing translator’s discursive role already signifies: the insistence that the imported media text is less concerned with importing US culture and more with creating meanings for the local Hungarian context. But ultimately, these gestures are ambiguous, since they at the same time display an anxious competitiveness with the original.
Using Frédi és Béni as case study, this article explores some of the key factors of the cultural negotiation practices working in a Hungarian cultural context for the local import of US animation, including generic concerns, socio-political and socio-linguistic aspects, and the role of the translator and the dubbing cast in transcreated animated texts. As emphasized, the significance of these aspects can be measured by the fact that, to this day, Hungarian media discourses configure dubbing translators as literary authors and the practice of dubbing as an art form in its own right, to the extent that some of these practitioners gain wide name recognition from promotional interviews that highlight their unique approaches to translating audio-visual material. This cultural status of contemporary translators such as Dávid Speier (but also others such as Zsigmond Nikodém, Zorka Tomasevics or László Aprics) can be traced back to Romhányi’s authorial persona in the 1960s and his work on The Flintstones, which placed great emphasis on exploiting the local context’s own cultural and comedic characteristics, often significantly amending the meanings of the source text in the process.
It is the latter aspect, the practice of using the target nations’ comedic characteristics as an authorial springboard, which raises a crucial question regarding genre in relation to translation practices in Hungary: it emerges that the role of comedy is a particularly fertile ground for further research on discourses around the translator and their authorial voice. Whereas there have been acclaimed dubbing performances by well-established Hungarian actors in both dramatic and comedic roles since the establishment of the Hungarian dubbing industry, the question of genre becomes more complicated in relation to the translator’s role. The issue of a translator significantly deviating from original content, exercising a firm authorial voice, and deciding autonomously what a particular target culture would find appealing about a media text, comes to the foreground particularly strongly for media texts coded as comedy. This has close links to cultural norms and revolves around the question of what is considered funny by a transcreated media text’s target audience. As such, while outside the scope and research of this article, the issue of genre emerges as an area meriting further examination for the transcultural travel of Anglophone media texts, whether animated sitcoms or other forms, to further unpack the ways in which authorship and cultural mediation function in transcreated media texts.
Anna Martonfi recently completed her PhD at the University of East Anglia, examining transnational aspects of Jewish humour in British and Hungarian comedy films in the inter-war era. Her research interests include British television and film comedy, the role of popular music in British films of the 1960s and ‘70s, interrogating cross-cultural comedy, Hungarian comedies of the inter-war era, and Jewish comedy. She is a contributor of the edited collection And Now For Something Completely Different: Critical Approaches to Monty Python.
Julia Havas completed her funded PhD research in 2017 at the Department of Film, Television and Media at the University of East Anglia, and currently teaches television and media modules at UEA. Her doctoral project investigated the ways in which feminism is represented on contemporary American “quality” television by analysing four female-centred programmes. Her research and teaching combine the study of US-American television, the gender politics of popular media, issues of cultural value in the convergence media era, and the transcultural flow of Anglo-American media with particular attention to the role of dubbing and translation. She is a contributor to the edited collection Hysterical! Women in American Comedy, and has recently published an article in collaboration with Maria Sulimma in Television and New Media on dramedy television’s cringe aesthetics and gender politics. She is currently developing a project on streaming television’s engagement with diversity politics, and also co-investigating a project with Anna Martonfi on the transnational travel of Anglo-American film and television to the Hungarian mediasphere.
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xXx: Return of Xander Cage (2017). Directed by D.J Caruso. Paramount Pictures.
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 The 1975 Hungarian documentary Magyar hangja… (‘Dubbed by…’), a short film explaining and promoting the Hungarian dubbing industry to lay viewers via interviews with dubbing professionals, includes a short segment with Romhányi about his work on The Flintstones. The footage presents him in a manner that assumes his recognizability for contemporaneous viewers: neither the film nor Romhányi offer any explanations about his role; instead he speaks in playfully rhyming language about the original’s Hungarianization. Further indicating the original dubbed version’s cult status are the media and industry discourses before the series’ Hungarian DVD release in 2005. Distributor Warner Home Video issued a request to the Hungarian public before the release, asking for copies of a selection of episodes containing the original dubbing, which were apparently missing from the archives. This public statement/request appeared in most major news media outlets (Keresik Frédi és Béni eredeti hangját 2005) and is a significant example both of a media company directly appealing for the public use of personal television archives, and of the dubbed series’ canonized status in the nation’s cultural history.
 Unless indicated otherwise, all Hungarian texts are translated into English by the authors.
 All four main characters’ names were translated into Hungarian: Fred – Frédi, Barney – Béni, Wilma – Vilma, and Betty – Irma. As with the title, the intent to create rhyming names between the gendered pairs was stronger than concerns to remain faithful to the original text.
 Romhányi’s animal poems were collected in his book Szamárfül (‘Donkey ear’), first published in 1983 and re-published in eight re-prints since.
© Anna Martonfi and Julia Havas
Edited by Francis M. Agnoli and Rayna Denison, University of East Anglia