Dragon Ball Z (ドラゴンボールZ, Doragon Bōru Zetto) is a Japanese anime series based on Akira Toriyama's manga of the same name, and a direct continuation of Dragon Ball. Produced by Toei Animation, the series aired from April 26, 1989 to January 31, 1996 on Fuji TV in Japan.
After failing to find an audience with Dragon Ball in 1995, FUNimation Entertainment opted to focus on dubbing Z in hopes that the more action-oriented series would draw in more views. For this project, FUNimation partnered with Saban Entertainment to bring the series to America. Saban utilized Ocean Productions in Vancouver, Canada which drew from the same cast as the BLT dub of Dragon Ball and had most of the cast reprise their roles. The dub featured an original musical score by famed television composer Shuki Levy and Kussa Mahchi (an alias for Haim Saban, founder of Saban Entertainment) along with an uncredited Ron Wasserman (known for his music scores on Mighty Morphin Power Rangers). The decision was mainly so FUNimation could earn royalties anytime the music was used.
Saban's dub of Dragon Ball Z was heavily censored and edited due to Saban's particularly draconian censorship guidelines. They forbid any explicit references to death, alcohol, or cigarettes, and even prohibited showing "children in distress", which meant that scenes of young Gohan crying had to be digitally altered to remove his tears. Their dub is infamous for their constant attempts to sidestep character deaths as them being sent to "the next dimension". Other times, death is written away via character exposition (An example being Tien being given the additional dialogue "Look! I can see their parachutes! They're okay..." in reference to a plane being blown up in one episode). In one episode, Goku visits Hell (in the show, simply a place in the afterlife) and meets two body-building demons wearing shirts that read "HELL" in block letters; Saban edited the shirts to read "HFIL" and referred to the location as the "Home For Infinite Losers".
Under Saban, 67 episodes were dubbed. However, they were edited down to 53 episodes as well as dubbing the movie The Tree of Might and editing it as a three-part episode, bringing the total count to 56. Their dub made its U.S. premiere on September 13, 1996, airing in first-run syndication on local WB and UPN affiliate networks. Though Saban managed to secure a better morning time-slot than Seagull Entertainment did for Dragon Ball, and managed to give it a 2-season run, the dub was still cancelled due to both poor ratings and Saban scaling down their syndication operations.
Without the financial support of Saban, the future of the dub seemed unclear. However, when reruns of the dub were picked up to air on Cartoon Network's weekday afternoon Toonami block just a few months after the dub was cancelled, Dragon Ball Z finally found the audience it was looking for in the U.S. As a result of its new success, FUNimation resumed production on the series' English dub by themselves, but could no longer afford the services of the Ocean voice actors due to financial constraints, though Ocean Productions still assisted with the scripting. This led to FUNimation forming its own in-house cast at their Texas-based studio. Toei didn't supply FUNimation with the original master tapes at first, so the FUNimation crew had to get in touch with the Mexican dubbing studio Intertrack, who dubbed the show into Latin Spanish, in order to get dubbing copies. Bruce Faulconer and his team of musicians were hired as the new composers, with their soundtrack continuing the synth/rock style of music heard in the Saban score. The strict censorship guidelines of Saban were no longer an issue, allowing the renewed dub to feature less drastic censorship thanks to relaxed censorship guidelines on cable television. FUNimation would dub the episodes uncut for home media releases, while the edited versions would appear on TV.
FUNimation's dub premiered on the Toonami block on September 13, 1999. Though fans were pleased by the series' English dub continuing, it still received some harsh criticism regarding the sudden change of voices and background music. In order to maintain continuity between the two dubs, several FUNimation voice actors made an effort to imitate the previous Ocean voice actors, though they would slowly develop their own performances as the series went on. FUNimation dubbed the series to completion, finishing the dub on April 7, 2003 at 276 episodes.
However, that wasn't the end of Ocean Productions' involvement in dubbing the series. As a result of Canadian broadcasting standards mandating that stations are required to air a certain amount of "Canadian content" (dubs of Japanese anime dubbed in Canada apply), the AB Groupe would partner with Westwood Media to produce an alternate English dub, produced using mostly the same Vancouver actors previously utilized in Saban's dub. Continuing to distribute the FUNimation dub would have been the more expensive option for Toonami UK and Canada's YTV.
Rather than dubbing where the Ocean cast left off, they opted to start where FUNimation's dub was currently at, at Episode 108 (123 uncut). This left Episodes 54-107 (68-122 uncut) undubbed by the Vancouver cast, thus the FUNimation Dub of those episodes would just be aired instead. The soundtrack of this dub was recycled music from other Ocean dubbed titles, such as Mega Man and Monster Rancher, as well as a new intro composed by Tom Keenlyside. Because Ocean Productions was still helping with scripting and digital editing of the FUNimation dub, the same script was used only with light revisions. The Westwood dub of Z is also notable for being very rushed in production, which resulted in many of the key voice actors leaving the show midway through the run, the voice director not being consistent, and the voiceover performances themselves showing a noticeable decline in quality from the original Saban/FUNimation co-production.
With Pioneer's home video license for the Saban/FUNimation dub of Episodes 1-53 (1-67 uncut) expiring in 2004, this allowed FUNimation to redub those episodes with their in-house voice cast and restore the censored content. With the inability to get Bruce Falcouner to return, the music was composed by Nathan Johnson instead. Their new uncut dub first began airing on Cartoon Network in the summer of 2005 at a late night time-slot (in order to air unedited content). In April 2005, Funimation released the first DVD of the "Ultimate Uncut Special Edition" line which would have contained all 67 of the Saiyan and Namek sagas upon completion. However, this DVD line would later be canceled after 9 volumes (containing Episodes 1-27) in favor of the Remastered Box Sets which would feature all 291 uncut episodes of the series.
FUNimation began to go back to their earlier dubbed episodes and began making revisions to their dub for quality and consistency. An example of the kind of changes done would be Dale Kelly's narration for Episodes 68-194 being redubbed by Kyle Hebert, who narrated Episodes 195-291 as well as the new dub of Episodes 1-67. Another example, Christopher Sabat would redub most of his earlier performances as Vegeta as he originally voiced him in a similar manner to his previous voice actor, Brian Drummond. As time went on, Sabat's performance changed drastically in comparison, necessitating a redub for consistency. Other revisions included revising and redubbing lines that originally included awkward or immature-sounding lines. Most of these changes effected the initial Captain Ginyu, Frieza and Garlic Jr. sagas since the cast was just starting out during that point.
The Remastered dub was first released on their Remastered Box Set (a.k.a. "Orange Brick") DVD releases from 2007-09 and their later Blu-Ray releases from 2013-14. In addition to the polishing of the dub performances, the new home video sets also included the dub with the original Japanese soundtrack by Shunsuke Kikuchi in addition to the Johnson/Falcouner score.
- The FUNimation dub heavily referenced footage from the Spanish dubbed version due to the lengthy delay in getting the official masters from Toei Animation.
- Ian James Corlett left the role of Goku due to him feeling he was being underpaid for his role. Peter Kelamis would later leave due to the confusing scheduling and the long delays of the dub.
- Saffron Henderson left the role of Gohan due to her allotted work schedule conflicting with her wedding plans.
- Enuka Okuma was previously attributed to the voice of Android 18 in the Ocean dub of the series. While her website includes the series on her list of credits, the credits were seemingly copied off of the Internet Movie Database.
- Mr. Satan is renamed "Hercule" for the broadcast edits of the dub to avoid controversy. He retains the original name in the uncut dub, in addition to also being referred to as Mr. 'Hercule' Satan.
- On that note, Mr. Satan being named Hercule originates from the French dub of the series.
- Various times in the Remastered FUNimation dub, things are often still inconsistent in areas.
- Mark Britten's minor dialogue as Oolong is left intact during the Garlic Jr. Saga.
- Mark Britten's role as the Ox-King in the episodes "Memories of Gohan", "Save the World", "Goku's Decision", and "One More Wish" are left untouched for some reason.
- Linda Young doesn't redub Laurie Steele's dialogue as Fortuneteller Baba from later in the series, giving her two drastically different voices.
- Christopher Sabat does not redub Mark Britten's dialogue as Korin from Episodes 109-192.
- Dale Kelly's battle screams and grunts as Captain Ginyu are often left intact. This can be attributed to Brice Armstrong's age and difficulty in performing louder vocal performances.
- Mercenary Tao is still erroneously referred to as "General Tao".
- The original broadcast edits included "next episode" sequences, but the remastered DVD's do not. The narrator still often states "stay tunes for scenes from the next episode of Dragon Ball Z" instead of being redubbed to reflect the lack of teasers.
- On an interesting note, Laura Bailey's dialogue as Dende in the Remastered dub of the Cell Games Saga wasn't a redub. FUNimation initially lost all contact with Ceyli Delgadillo, thus forcing them to cast Bailey as a stand-in for the Cell Games Saga. However, Delgadillo finally got back to them, and she redubbed Bailey's work before the dub was aired. Bailey would replace her yet again once Delgadillo moved to Los Angeles.
- Dameon Clarke and Dale Wilson voice Cell in the FUNimation and Ocean/Westwood Dubs respectively. This is notable in that Clarke had previously received voice-over training from Wilson and are good friends.
- Due to censorship, Launch never appears in the Saban Ocean Dub.
- In the remastered version, instead of doing a cover of the Japanese theme "Cha-La Head-Cha-La", the music composed by Mark Menza for the Dragon Ball Z Movie themes was used in its place.
- The theme has been dubbed into English on other occasions, being dubbed for the Philippines English dub, as well as one sung by original singer Hironobu Kageyama himself.
- Shigeru Chiba, who voiced Garlic Jr. (though Akira Kamiya voiced Garlic Jr. in Dead Zone) also voiced Emperor Pilaf in the previous series. Garlic Jr.'s English voice Chuck Huber would end up also voicing Pilaf.
- Justin Cook's voice for Super Buu was originally digitally altered to be deeper and more threatening. In the remastered version, his voice is left unaltered.
|Cartoon Network (Toonami)|
Note that no dub without FUNimation's involvement has been released on home video, meaning the AB Groupe produced part of the Ocean Dub (Episodes 123-291) hasn't been released on home media.
|Pioneer Entertainment||1997-1998||Episodes 1-53 (edited)||Ocean||NTSC||United States|
|1999||Episodes 1-53 (edited)||1|
|FUNimation Entertainment||1999-2003||Episodes 68-291||FUNimation|
|2007-2009||The Complete Series|
|2013-2014||The Complete Series||A|
- Funimation Dragon Ball Z website
- Dragon Ball Z at the Internet Movie Database
- Dragon Ball Z (anime) at the Anime News Network