Storytel: Reimagining 1984 to create an immersive experience for global audiences


About the client

Stockholm-based Storytel is one of the world’s largest audiobook and e-book streaming services with the vision to make the world a more empathetic and creative place by sharing great stories that can be enjoyed by anyone, anywhere. Founded in 2006, the company offers subscribers access to over 500,000 titles and is active in over 25 countries.

When Storytel embarked on the ambitious project of reimagining George Orwell’s 1984, adapted by Anna Lea to create an immersive audio experience, their team turned to VSI as a leader in localisation to support their global launch.

The project

Voice-over and Translation  

Spanish (Castilian & Mexican), Italian, Dutch, Turkish, Swedish, Danish, Finnish, Bulgarian

George Orwell’s 1984 is arguably one of the most famous and influential novels of the 20th century. The phrases he used in his story about the corruption of state power are now embedded in the English language, such as “newspeak”, “Big Brother”, “thought police” and “doublethink”.

The challenge with revisiting this classic text is there have already been countless iterations of the tale: the original novel, comic books, movies and traditional audiobooks. Storytel didn’t want to simply create another e-book, but instead dramatise the story to bring new audiences to the Orwellian novel. It’s much more than a traditional audiobook with a single narrator. This is a dramatised re-versioning of the political and dystopian story, with actors portraying each character within an impressive soundscape, helping to create a real sense of atmosphere and tension. The result was launched to huge acclaim as their first global audio drama, nominated in the Best Audio Drama Category for the 2023 Audie Awards, the leading awards ceremony of the audio industry.

Storytel tasked us with helping them prepare for the release in nine different languages in their respective territories: Castilian Spanish, Mexican Spanish, Italian, Dutch, Turkish, Swedish, Danish, Finnish and Bulgarian.

Our approach

The way 1984 was recreated by Anna Lea, with the focus on creating an immersive experience, meant we approached the localisation workflow more like a complex dubbing project than a standard audiobook.

Storytel engaged VSI early in the pre-production process, which meant our teams worked closely not only with our client, but also those involved in creating the original English version. Whilst establishing the creative brief, it was clear to us that the true weight of the main characters, including protagonists Winston Smith, Julia and O’Brien, was critical to the success of the localised versions. But we also shouldn’t discount the value the walla and background dialogue adds to the overall experience, contributing to crafting a modern, industrial vibe that sounds authentic to local audiences.

There were four main phases to the project: casting, translation, recording and audio post-production.

From the very beginning, a key focus was the casting process, as a voice can make or break the final outcome. We explored all avenues, working in collaboration with the clients’ local offices and our in-territory studios to select the perfect voices for the story, engaging star talent for a few of the languages.

Lining up a strong regional cast to bring life to the audiobook was key for this project, but it only adds true value if the intent and the nuance of the original are fully captured throughout the translation process. This is also where we shine. We deeply understand the importance of ensuring that content resonates with the final intended audience whilst safeguarding the sentiment of the original version. For this interpretation, it was critical to use language reflective of the present day, analysing the world around us and what it means to live in 2022. Our translators got to work ensuring they created an accurate and appropriate localised script for each language, ready for the talent to head to the studios and do what they do best: bring life to the scripts.


This project was a great example of the importance of effective collaboration and partnership between a client and their localisation service provider. Being brought on in the pre-production stage enabled us to get directly involved in the creative brief, leveraging learnings from the original English version (directed by Kate Jones) to shape the outcome of the subsequent language versions. Storytel Original’s 1984 became one of the brand’s most successful audio experiences to date, and they were really pleased with all nine localised versions we produced to support their global distribution.

It’s a project our local teams thoroughly enjoyed working on and we believe our cast’s performances across the different territories brilliantly captured the characters’ personalities in this reimagined version of Orwell’s classic novel. This audio experience also topped the charts in 70% of the markets, further establishing Storytel as a bold and forward-thinking innovator in the audio entertainment industry.

We look forward to continuing our collaboration with Storytel and working on more of their compelling audio projects in the future.