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BEHIND THE SCENES: Singer gets to be 'part of that world' as Arabic voice of Ariel

BarrieToday's Nikki Cole takes us behind the scenes

In each “Behind the Scenes” segment, Village Media's Scott Sexsmith sits down with one of our local journalists to talk about the story behind the story.

These interviews are designed to help you better understand how our community-based reporters gather the information that lands in your local news feed. 

Today's spotlight is on BarrieToday's Nikki Cole, whose story 'Singer gets to be 'part of that world' as Arabic voice of Ariel' was published on September 5, 2023.

Here's the original story if you need to catch up:

While many young girls around the world never get to realize their dreams of growing up and becoming a Disney princess, that dream recently became a reality for one local woman.

Midhurst resident Rana Kamel, who goes professionally by the name Rana Adel, was selected by Disney studios to perform both the standard Arabic and Egyptian Arabic dubs of this year's The Little Mermaid live-action version starring Halle Bailey. 

Kamel, 32, grew up in Cairo, Egypt and moved to Canada three years ago. She studied at the Complete Vocal Institute in Copenhagen, Denmark before beginning her career as a singer, vocal coach and voice-over artist. 

“I had recorded with them the voice of The Little Mermaid before, but she was just a minor role in Wreck It Ralph and I did the The Incredibles 2 movie," she tells BarrieToday

"I saw the trailer of the live action and thought, 'Well, now I have that special connection and I had done her voice before … and she’s my favourite Disney princess! I have Ariel on my hairbrush!”

Taking on the iconic role was an honour, Kamel says, but didn’t come without some challenges. She says she knew how important it was to also stay true to who Ariel is.

“Aside from how the Arabic told the story in its own flavour … it was important for me as a singer and actress to understand Ariel’s world and struggles to match her voice in her dialogue and singing," she says. "Dubbing is about staying true to the character, feeling with her, struggling with her, and really matching her every expression.

"The more accurately it’s done, the better the job. One of the best compliments is when people tell me that it looks like it’s her real voice,” Kamel says.

Connecting with the character was not difficult, she adds, having grown up watching the original animated version many times.

“I think I had that link, of course, growing up as a child (watching the movie), but when I started singing her, that’s when I thought, 'Oh, there’s something there.' When Jodi Benson was singing the first Ariel in the animated movie, I would just have those sparkly eyes, and I loved the sweet, pure expression of how she was feeling in the singing and movement," Kamel says. 

"I would just always sing along just for the fun of it,” she adds. “Having the opportunity to be in the live-action movie … was like a beautiful flow of a series of events.”

Kamel recorded the dialogue and vocals for two versions of the movie, and each one had its own flavour, she says.

“It’s still the same voice — it’s still me, it’s still the same meaning for the words, but not the exact same words. The classical Arabic sounded more like you’re reading a book, like the old English-Shakespearean … like she’s coming out of a book telling you something," she says. 

"I feel like the Egyptian Arabic (version) was more like a person expressing what she needed to a friend. I feel like the language brought it, by itself, different flavours,” Kamel adds.

Seeing the film and hearing her voice coming from the screen is definitely a unique experience, she admits.

“In the recording process, you’re very much taken into the role and what she is saying, how she’s singing it, how much vibrato she has … what is the dynamic, what does the opening of her mouth look like, because you kind of need to lip-sync," Kamel says. 

"You’re just taken in by all of these things, because you want to make it as perfect as possible. It just takes my heart.”

As for what’s next, Kamel says she has to keep that close to the vest, but did share that she will be travelling to Egypt this week where she will begin work on another Disney project. She says she's excited to bring her own voice to yet another one of her favourite characters. 

“She has a beautiful voice and she’s just so dreamy.”