Friday, July 8, 2011

Disney's Lumikki and the Three Finnish Dubs

In Finland, Walt Disney's Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, or as it's called in Finnish, Lumikki ja seitsemän kääpiötä, has had no less than three distinct and separate dubbings. Add to this the earliest 1938 Finnish "cover" versions of the Snow White songs plus the 1966 LP recordings by Reino Bäckman, and it seems that nearly each new generation has had their own version of the movie and/or songs.

Title Plate in Finnish



According to the IMDb theatrical release info (which is not nearly a complete list), Lumikki first premiered in Finland on the 16th of October, 1938. This version, however, was not in Finnish. It featured the American soundtrack with subtitles in both Finnish and Swedish. Since Swedish is the national second language for Finns, the Swedish dub, with Finnish subtitling, was also released throughout Finland.

Kenneth Sundberg, a resident of the greater Helsinki area and creator of the KenNetti Snow White Database, shares this anecdote about the 1938 premiere..
Although the actual date was October 16, the movie's first showing started at midnight between a Saturday and Sunday. Since people tend to live "Saturday" even after midnight, the premiere date is sometimes ascribed to the 15th of October. in this original 1938 Finnish newspaper ad (pictured below). "KESKIYÖNESITYS" translates literally into "Midnight First Performance".

1938 Newspaper Ad for Snow White.



The first Finnish-language dub premiered in December of 1962, and it was directed by Ms. Ritva Laatto. This is unprecedented! It was the early 1960s. Women directors were not common, especially when it came to working within the male-dominated Disney strata. Yet, Laatto at age 31, proved an exceptionally strong leader. When she took the reins for Snow White, it could very well have been the first time this film was creatively controlled by a female. (Twenty years later, Sweden's Doreen Denning would translate and direct the 1982 Swedish dub.)

Ms. Laatto (pictured later in life)
Image and info via Helsingin Sanomat.

This first dub is interesting in that only the dialogue was translated into Finnish. The the songs were still in Swedish, apparently from the original 1938 Swedish dub. This omission may simply have been due to budgetary constraints.

Form Kenneth Sundberg...
In his biography, Markku Kivekäs [a Finnish Disney expert] mentions that the Disney Company "demanded the dub to use only the cream of Finnish actors." Hence most of the actors of Laatto's version came straight from Suomen Kansallisteatteri--The Finnish National Theatre.

The speaking voice of Snow White was played by actress Eeva-Kaarina Volanen who was around 40 years of age at the time. Just as a comparison, her English-speaking counterpart, Adriana Caselotti, was 19 when Walt Disney picked her for the role.

Eeva-Kaarina Volanen

The Evil Queen and Old Witch were voiced by Rauni Luoma, an accomplished actress of both film and stage.

Rauni Luoma



The second dub was released at least twenty years later in what is thought to be December of 1982. (The actual premiere may have occurred somewhere between '82 and '86.) Directed by nationally known actor/director Matti Ranin, this was the first complete version to include both Finnish dialogue and songs.
Matti Ranin, late 1980s

Not only did Ranin translate the script and direct the film, he also played the role of Viisas, or as he's known in English, Doc. (Viisas literally means wise in Finnish.)

Actress Kyllikki Forssell embodied the parts of both the Queen and Witch. As it happens, Forssell and Ranin had worked together before, 25 years earlier as stage actors in the 1957 play "Hedda Gabler" written by Henrik Ibsen. Now they were reunited in the characters of a dwarf and evil villain.

Ranin and Forssell in Hedda Gabler, 1957. 
 Photo © Suomen Kansallisteatteri (The Finnish National Theatre).

The warm speaking voice of Jaana Oravisto who played Snow White was perfectly matched in song by opera singer Johanna Nurmimaa.

The two voices of Snow White: Jaana Oravisto and Johanna Nurmimaa

It's interesting that in this Ranin version, the Finnish names for Happy and Dopey--Lystikäs and Vilkas--were mixed up so that the non-speaking Dopey became Happy and Happy was Dopey.

Here's the reason why from Kenneth Sundberg...
Since Matti Ranin has a somewhat poetic talent in handling the Finnish language, the mistake can be his alone. That is, the word Lystikäs, meaning almost hilarious, suits the Dopey character somewhat better than Vilkas which means nearly wild.



The third Finnish dub came in 1994 for the first home video release. Director Pekka Lehtosaari worked with new voice actors for each of the characters. Matti Ranin returned to reprise his role as Doc, although the performance was totally different than his original in 1982.

Pekka Lehtosaari

From Kenneth Sundberg...
Matti Ranin passed the baton to Mr. Pekka Lehtosaari in the early 1990s. The approach of these two directors was very different. While Ranin made his dubbings to sound good in Finnish, Lehtosaari emulated the English originals. As a result, Lehtosaari became the favourite of Disney Character Voices International, and also became the most celebrated Finnish dubbing director. 
This third dub has been the one used in all of the home video releases--VHS/1994, DVD/2001 and Blu-ray/2009.

1994 VHS. Iimage via Renaya

2009 Blu-ray. Copyright Disney.


2011 Ranin Screening...

While Matti Ranin 's 1982 version is now in danger of being lost to obscurity, many fans in Finland still feel that the "Golden Age" occurred during the Ranin era. While some of his dubs, like Beauty and the Beast still exist on DVD, his original versions of Snow White along with The Little Mermaid and Mickey's Christmas Carol are no longer available. Yet these are among some of the most cherished of Finnish-dubbed Disney films.

Back in February of this year, a special screening was arranged in Helsinki by Kenneth Sundberg. The guest of honor was none other than Mr. Ranin himself. Nearly three decades have passed since the release of Ranin's Lumikki ja seitsemän kääpiötä and almost twenty years since it had been seen on the big screen. Yet, for one evening only, a select audience of about 30 dedicated fans were invited to hear Matti speak and to watch his Snow White masterpiece.

Ken Sundberg and Matti Ranin, Helsinki screening, February 2011.


Matti Ranin's Small World...

- Ms. Ritva Laatto (director of first Finnish dub) also directed Matti Ranin as an actor in two plays for the Finnish National Theatre in the late 1950s and early 1960s.

- In Ranin's 1982 dubbing, the role of Snow White was played by his daughter-in-law, Jaana Oravisto.

- Kerttu Hämeranta, who provided lyrics to the Finnish version of "I'm Wishing" (for Reino Bäckman's LP recordings), was Matti Ranin's mother-in-law.

- In Laatto's 1962 dubbing, the role of Snow White was played by Eeva-Kaarina Volanen who was Matti Ranin's big crush and a life-long friend.

Matti Ranin and Eeva-Kaarina Volanen on the stage, circa 1952.
 Photo © Suomen Kansallisteatteri (The Finnish National Theatre).

All images courtesy of KenNetti Database unless otherwise noted. Used with permission.

Directed by Ritva Laatto
Translation by Lea Joutseno

Eeva-Kaarina Volanen - Lumikki (Snow White)
Rauno Ketonen - Prinssi (The Prince)
Rauni Luoma - Kuningatar/Noita (The Queen/The Witch)
Pentti Irjala - Viisas (Doc)
Pentti Riuttu - Ujo (Bashful)
Risto Mäkelä - Jörö (Grumpy)
Martti Tschokkinen - Lystikäs (Happy)
Jukka Sipilä - Unelias (Sleepy)
Heikki Savolainen - Nuhanenä (Sneezy)
Mauno Hyvönen - Taikapeili (The Magic Mirror)
Ritva Ahonen - Kertoja (Narrator)


Directed by Matti Ranin
Translation by Matti Ranin
Song translations by Matti Ranin, Reino Helismaa & Kerttu Hämeranta
Song recordings supervised by Heikki Laurila
Dubbing produced by Suomi-Filmi Oy and Finn-Kasper, Matti Ranin ky

Jaana Oravisto - Lumikki (Snow White)
Johanna Nurmimaa - Lumikin laulut (Snow White's songs)
Matti Olavi Ranin - Kertoja/Prinssi (Narrator/The Prince)
Markku Runne - Prinssin laulut (The Prince's songs)
Kyllikki Forssell - Kuningatar/Noita (The Queen/Witch)
Matti Ranin - Viisas (Doc)
Aimo Tepponen - Jörö (Grumpy)
Olli Tuominen - Nuhanenä (Sneezy)
Martti Pennanen - Unelias (Sleepy)
Uula Laakso - Ujo (Bashful)
Esa Saario - Taikapeili (The Magic MIrror)
Ari Piispa - Metsästäjä (The Huntsman)
Pekka Autiovuori - Lystikäs (Happy/Dopey)


Directed by Pekka Lehtosaari
Translation and song translations by Pekka Lehtosaari
Dubbing produced by Tuotantotalo Werne Oy
Dubbing supervision by Kirsten Saabye, Disney Character Voices International

Riikka Väyrynen - Lumikki (Snow White)
Kukka-Maaria Ahonen - Lumikin laulut (Snow White's songs)
Tom Nyman - Prinssi (The Prince, and his songs)
Terhi Panula - Kuningatar (The Queen)
Seela Sella - Noita (The Witch)
Matti Ranin - Viisas (Doc)
Veikko Honkanen - Jörö (Grumpy)
Tom Wentzel - Nuhanenä (Sneezy)
Antti Pääkkönen - Lystikäs (Happy)
Pekka Lehtosaari - Unelias (Sleepy)
Juha Muje - Ujo (Bashful)
Juha Hyppönen - Taikapeili (The Magic MIrror)
Markku Riikonen - Metsästäjä (The Huntsman)
Esa Saario - Kertoja (Narrator)


Special acknowledgment goes to Kenneth Sundberg for the sharing of his extensive research on the Snow White Finnish dubs. Much of the information found herein comes directly from him and his KenNetti website.


  1. Seven cheers for Robert for this groundbreaking post! The special acknowledgment really goes to him. I'm astonished of how well he edited my never-ending ramblings and dug up all those wonderful additional photos (Laatto, Luoma & Lehtosaari). Thank you, Rob!

  2. Thanks for the collaboration Ken. Looking forward to more in the future. Heigh-Ho!