Ivar Combrinck is quite possibly the ultimate blind idiot translator. He single-handedly ruined The Simpsons, Futurama and Family Guy for German audiences.
"Don't Fear the Roofer" has Stephen Hawking's explanation about having discovered "a tear in the fabric of space-time" translated as "Träne" (as in teardrop) instead of "Riss".
After a victory by the Springfield Isotopes, Homer barges into Moe's bar and proclaims "Isotopes rule!". Mr. Combrinck translates this as "Isotopen-Spielregel" ("Spielregel" is the literal translation of "rule" as in "the rules of the game").
In the same episode, the "Game of Lent" (Lent being the Christian festivity) is translated as "Das Leihhaus-Spiel" ("The Pawn Shop Game"). "Leihen" is the German word for "to lend".
Some jokes however are simply difficult to translate. A good example is when in one Simpsons episode Bart makes a joke about buttocks (butts) towards his new girlfriends parents. When kicked out of the house he tries to excuse himself by saying "but" which sounds just like butt. In the German "buttocks" means "Hintern" while "but" means "aber". Since it's impossible to translate they just went with Bart saying "aber Hinter Hinter Hinter Hinter...".
Strangely enough, the Norwegian or Swedish translator (the exact same errors are often present in both translations) of The Simpsons often gets the names wrong, resulting in everything from minor oddities such as Ben Flanders and Crusty McClown, to weirder ones like Mark Grimby (Mayor Quimby). One of the worst (non-name) errors made by the translator is mishearing "Percadine addiction" as "perky Diane Dixon". Obviously, the translator is just casually listening to whatever he's supposed to translate, not knowing anything about the series itself.
A particularly hilarious and stupid example occurs in one episode, where Matt Groening made a short appearance. The original dialogue was something like "Look, it's Matt Groening, creator of Futurama! Could you sign my Bender doll?" It came out as "Look, it's Matt Greening, creator of Futurama! Could you sign my transvestite doll?" Slightly understandable, as "bender" is a slang term for a transvestite, but still...
Some references in the French dub aren't translated at all, we get horrors such as calling Ecuador (the country) Ecuador and not Équateur, its proper French name, or calling Waldo Waldo, and not Charlie (which is the name everyone knows in France). These instances are pretty annoying, given the fact that the French dub of The Simpsons is overall awesome.
Of course, The Simpsonslampshades the Trope a lot. The best example is the "Mr. Sparkle commercial", with such gems as "I am disrespectful to dirt! Can you see that I am serious?" "Get out of my way, all of you! This is no place for loafing! Join me or die, can you do any less?" "For lucky best wash, use Mr. Sparkle."
The Finnish subtitles for one episode translated Kang and Kodos as "Kag" and "Cordos" respectively.
The Brazilian dubbing of an episode translated "I miss America" as "I am Miss America".
The Simpsons in Hungarian is comparable to the dubs described above. Name translations tend to change within the same episode, sometimes within mere seconds.
One of the most infamous examples is when one Couch Gag featured a newspaper with the headline "COUCH GAG THRILLS NATION" — translated as "Coach Gag is a threat to the nation." Another episode had PETA translated as Alcoholics Anonymous, "murder of crows" as "crow killing", the Holy Land as Hollywood, "My bad" as "Me bad", license plate as dinner plate, the sign "Marine home for Christmas" as "Christmas sea house"... and it's pretty much a wonder if any of Bart's chalkboard gags make sense. See: "I am not Charlie Brown on acid" -> "I am not the grouchy Charlie Brown"
Some errors are even the result of the translators thinking they know better. There's a scene where Principal Skinner says it's a cheat for Lisa to rename her found cat as Snowball II and act as if it was the same animal as the real Snowball II, to which she replies "I guess you're right, Principal Tamzarian." This silences Skinner, and he walks away embarrassed — the joke being that Skinner's an impostor himself, and his real name's Armin Tamzarian. The dub has Lisa calling him Skinner, so the gag's lost.
One Swedish translator tasked with subtitling The Simpsons episodes managed to confuse "fry" with "freeze", thus translating "I got this deep fryer on loan from the US Army. It can flash fry a buffalo in 40 seconds" into "I got this deep freezer on loan from the US Army. It can freeze a buffalo in 40 seconds."
Spanish dubs of The Simpsons fall victim to the same issues:
Perhaps the most infamous is the time Lucy Lawless did a guest appearance and the translator translated her last name, so she was Lucy Sin Ley (literally, "Lucy Without Law"). Seriously, how can you screw up something like that? Frustratingly enough, this same mistake happened in the Brazilian dub, wherein she was Lucy Sem Lei.
When Homer entered a Catholic school, he wrote "God = Good" and "Devil = Bad" on his left arm. The dub failed to notice "God" and "Good" were different words. Technically it's still accurate. God is God, after all...
When Martin Prince mentioned Saved by the Bell, the dub had him call the series by a literal translation of the title (Salvos pelo Gongo) instead of how the series became known in Brazil. (Galera do Barulho).
When Homer mentioned the Police Academy movie series, the same kind of mistake happened and he called them "Academia de Polícia" instead of "Loucademia de Polícia".
And in the Italian dub, episode "Milhouse of Sand and Fog". Maggie gets chickenpox, and Homer hosts a chickenpox party so other kids can get it. Except that, on the sign, they interpreted "chickenpox" as "pox-flavoured chicken".
A bootleg Russian translation of Ralph Bakshi's animated adaptation of The Lord of the Rings was full of hilarious mistakes. "Great elven kings" was mistaken for "Great eleven kings"; "To Helm's Deep!" became something akin to "Let's put on our helmets a bit deeper!". Also, Sauron was consistently called "Prince of Darkness".
Then we have the Mexican Spanish translator for Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog, who translated Tails as a FEMALE CHARACTER. To this day, many people who grew up during the 1990s in Spanish-speaking American countries still believe Tails (or Colitas) to be female. Additionally, Tails's real name (which he claimed he disliked in the cartoon) is Miles Prower. In the Spanish translation? Bibi Gavilán (Bibi Sparrowhawk).
While mistaking Tails for a girl is a bit unforgivable, changing the English names of fictional characters to more Hispanic-sounding names is actually a common practice in some parts of Spanish-speaking America. (In Mexico it was required by law for a while.) For example, Bruce Wayne's name was changed to Bruno Díaz.
In Spain, however, Tails is actually MALE and keeps his English name.
In an episode of Phineas and Ferb, Doofenshmirtz talks about how he likes to give people nicknames and mentions that his nickname for Perry the Platypus is Mr. Duckbillface. In the Norwegian version of that episode, this is translated as "Ande-regnings-tryne". Apparently the translator somehow failed to realize that "bill" in this context referred to... Well, a duck's bill, and so the bill part got translated as the kind of bill you have to pay.
The German Star Wars: The Clone Wars dub of "Duchess of Mandalore" had Dooku say "I will send an assassin to Coruscant", while Pre Viszla is seen to send him out IN THE SAME MOMENT.
The hungarian dub translated and continues to translate "fighter" (as the small spacecrafts used by Jedi and clones) as "harcász", whereas the hungarian word for a fighter jet is "vadászgép" ("hunter jet"), and "harcász" actually means "tactician" in hungarian. Esspecially jarring because the translators of the movies, and the various novels/comics from the Expanded Universe got it right.
Also the hungarian dub of "Storm over Ryloth" had Anakin's line "The Twi'leks on that planet can't wait forever, Master." translated as "We can't wait for the Twi'leks any longer."
Yet again the hungarian dub of "Children of the Force", had Anakin's line "The gungan child was screaming" translated as "the gungan boy was screaming". Two minutes later, we find out that the child in question is a girl.
They translated the "Nightsisters" as "Daughters of the Night", despite "Éjnővérek" (literal translation of Nightsisters) was already established in the Expanded Universe.
The BIONICLE movies, also in Hungarian. Tenses are constantly varied no matter what the original dialog said (or what's on screen), the translator made the words "duty", "destiny", "responsibility" and "task" interchangeable, and shoehorned the word "destroy" into the dialog as many times as possible (in place of "defeat", "strike down" or "fail"). Some examples:
Norik, original: Unity, Duty, Destiny. It starts with Unity. Dub: Unity, Responsibility, Duty. Starting with Duty.
Nidhiki, original(to himself, lamenting Krekka's stupidity): Why do I bother? Dub(to Krekka): What does it matter?
The fourth movie, The Legend Reborn got a new translator, for better or worse. Glatorian simply became gladiators, while the giant Skopio beast was called scorpion. As for the dialog:
Metus, original: l told you, Raanu, pitting Vastus against Tarix would pack them [the audience] in. Dub: I told you, Raanu, pitting Vastus against Tarix is a big mistake!
For the longest time the Norwegian translators of 'Family Guy' couldn't decide how to translate the opening theme leaving the line "Lucky there's a Family Guy" translated differently every time, frequent errors include "Walter is a Family Guy", "Peter is a Family Guy" and even "Lucky is a family guy", leaving the word Lucky untranslated as if it was the name of a character.
In the Swedish dub of Batman: The Brave and the Bold, the English line "I feel invincible" was translated into "Jag känner mig osynlig", meaning "I feel invisible".
In the Italian dub, a "two years ago" panel at the beginning of a flashback was translated as "two years later".
The Ben10 cartoons is Hungary were handed over to a translator who had a fondness for translating everything word-for-word without taking the context into consideration. Thus we got gems like "Beats me" becoming "It's hitting me", and the "plant" part of the word power-plant also proved to be too tough of a nut to crack. So these facilities became patches of vegetation in the dub.
Same with the Hungarian World Of Quest. "Carnies" (as in, carnival people) became "Carnivores", Dear God. Often, the lines failed to make even grammatical sense.
And in yet another Hungarian example, the localization of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic also seems to be heading this way, though not to such an extreme degree, but it's still half-assed enough to be bothersome.
The Swedish dub, while not completely terrible, seems to have had little to no effort put into the translation. The worst examples include translating "the Wonderbolts" into "Underskruvarna" ("the Wonderscrews") in the pilot episode and translating the episode title "Applebuck Season" into "Äppelpengssäsong" ("Apple Money Season"). There are various other things to complain about, but most of them are due to lack of effort rather than misunderstandings.
Perhaps even more disastrous is how they translated the line "You don't wanna get a tummy ache" into "Du vill väl inte ha ont i tummen?", believing that "tummy" meant "thumb". As the context is about eating too fast, this is basically inexcusable. Humorously enough, the reaction shot that follows can easily be interpreted as targeted at the translation itself. Another case of plain idiocy is how "pet alligator" was translated into "leksakskrokodil" ("toy crocodile"). Ignoring the change in species, how can anyone believe that something that's obviously alive - and in fact attempts to attack one of the characters mere seconds later - is a toy? And further more, in the Winter Wrap-Up song, Twilight wonders how she's gonna be able to help without using her wand.
Just a quick note, according to Svenska akademien (Swedish Academy), "alligator" and "crocodile" are the same thing. Like how turtle is "sköldpadda" and tortoise is "landsköldpadda".
Congratulations Rarity, you're the new Rainbow Dash.
Ditto with the Russian dub: a statue are called a tree in "A Bird in the Hoof", Grand Galloping Gala is referred as "the Magnificent Gala concert" and is said to be annual, Luna is said to be corrupted by the dark side of the moon (and only has one name, the Moon Pony; if multiple names of her were used in the original, they were just repeated in the dub); Cutie Mark Crusaders search for a handgun after failing to get their cutiemarks (where in the original they searched for a cannon), et cetera.
Bizarrely, the French dub retains the name Owlowiscious in "Owl's Well That Ends Well," but in "May The Best Pet Win!" he's called "Chouette Délicieuse," literally "delicious owl." This totally ignores that Owlowiscious' name in the original English has absolutely nothing to do with the word "delicious," but is a homophone for the name "Aloysius" that also includes the word "owl."
In the Chinese/Taiwanese Translations, arguments caused by whether to translate their names phonetically or by meaning has made a lot of naming quite funny, most people resort to using English names during discussion.
The reason for these half-assed mistakes in the Hungarians translations originates from the mostly "Truth in Television" stereotype of translators/localizators being not educated, well-informed professionals, but relatives of some people (cough-cough "Nepotism"), with minimal knowledge of the foreign language and a bad dictionary (this is especially true with english as most of the people who went to school after the "The Great Politics Mess-Up" learned some(emphasis on the some) english.
Speedy Gonzales: In the episode called "The Pied Piper Guadalupe", one of the mice carries a "Loco El Gato" sign. While this does technically translate as "Crazy Cat" it's incorrect in that, in Spanish, adjectives are supposed to come after the noun they're modifying. (So technically, the sign was saying "Crazy. Cat." as if they were seperate concepts, or worse "Crazy. The Cat.") The sign should have said "El gato loco", or, even better "¡El gato está loco!" ("The cat is crazy!") or "¡Qué gato tan loco!" ("That cat was crazy!").
In the Brazilian version of Sponge Bob Square Pants, "barnacles" are always translated as mussels, even in the episode "Barnacle Face", where barnacles actually appear in.
The episode "Shuffleboarding". The title sounds very unnatural when translated literally (becoming something like "klutzy boarding"), as the sport doesn't have a Portuguese name. Within the episode, SpongeBob and Patrick call it "wooden disks [biscuits]" instead.
Parodied by the episode "Reincarnation", part of which was done in a pastiche of a badly-dubbed 80's anime. Among "mistakes" in the "translation" are extremely redundant dialogue added just to preserve lip-syncing, metaphors translated too literally, and obviously Asian landmarks being labeled things like "Omaha, Nebraska". At one spot, Amy explains how they are unable to communicate with the aliens as the aliens don't understand Japanese; the word "Japanese" is partially replaced with the voice of an annoyed man (presumably doing last-minute post-production and noticing the obvious mistake) saying "English!"
The Italian dub obviously did not understand that the werecar from the episode "The Honking" was a reference to a werewolf. They went with the other kind of "were" as in "they were very bad at translation." In other words, "The Car That Was."
The Brazilian dub of Avatar: The Last Airbender has a shaky translation — never getting incomprehensible or changing any plot point significantly, but constantly mistranslating small details here and there. The biggest problem is that it mistranslated a certain portion of the Opening Narration: "He has a lot to learn before he's ready to save anyone" became "he has a lot to learn before he can say 'I am Aang'", which, of course, makes absolutely no sense whatsoever. Yet this was never corrected, so it was one translation mistake you had to hear in every single episode.
In the Chinese dub of the U.S. Acres cartoon "Sleepytime Pig", the song name "One, Two, Three, Snore!" was changed to "一二三四" note One, Two, Three Four , due to the dubbers possibly mishearing "snore" as "four".
The Spanish dub of "Wanted: Wade" is worse. The rooster crows are called "rooster songs", Wade mistakes the law label for a newspaper, and instead of "What harm can it do?" being repeated three times before and during the song (except for the ending, when it is cut off by Roy arresting Wade), that phrase is repeated twice, followed by a phrase meaning "I don't want to do this", which he's supposed to say after the fantasy ended as the dub's equivlent of the line "No! I don't want to go to prison!".
Even worse than these two are the Spanish DVD subtitles, which don't match the actual Spanish dialogue most of the time and are direct translations of the English dialogue. One time, they even used the word "condenado" for the word "doomed" in the subtitles, which also means the F-word, even though it wasn't used like that.
The end of Mighty Mouse Playhouse has the hero saying to us "See you next week, boys and girls...same time, same station. Goodbye!" The Spanish dub turns it into "That's all, friends, and don't forget your vitamins and minerals!"
Both of the Hungarian Transformers: The Movie dubs are treasure-troves of baffling, nonsensical translation work. Just one example from the 2nd dub: Astrotrain's "Jettison some weight, or I'll never make it to Cybertron!" line became "Gettison, the ship is too heavy, we'll never reach Cybertron like this!" The bizarre name changes (like "Unicorn" for Unicron or "Fishing Rod" for Hot Rod) also went memetic.