Yeah, yeah, yeah. “IT’S OVER 9.000!,” Power Levels, Kamehamehas, “sixteen episodes of constipated cartoon characters ‘powering up,'” whatever you want to say about Dragon Ball Z, it’s all probably true.
But let’s not lie to ourselves. We all watched it after school, every afternoon. Even if you didn’t really “get it,” the show was such a powerful pop-cultural force in the minds of cartoon violence-addled children since its North American debut in 1996 that it was impossible to ignore. Course, it took a little while before it became the omnipotent force of anime dominance that it remains today. And I figured, since FUNimation’s giving the original 53 episode syndicated (and severely edited) original broadcast run a special DVD release, let’s take a look back at all this DBZ nonsense and figure out what some of the people involved with it are up to these days!
To make a long story short, Dragon Ball Z had something of a tumultuous birth in North America. It began, as many things do, with pure nepotism: a man named Gen Fukunaga was approached by his uncle, one of the producers at Toei Animation who was responsible for the many permutations of Dragon Ball, to release the series in the United States. (There was an earlier attempt in the late ’80s to release Dragon Ball by Robotech purveyors Harmony Gold, but alas, ’tis a story for another time.) Fukunaga was able to scrounge together some capital to create a company known as FUNimation, they were given the license to the original 1985 Dragon Ball series, and 13 episodes were shipped off to local affiliate networks around the country, in the hopes that kids all across America would be hooked from the get-go, and they’d call their local networks en masse and demand more, more, more!
I’m not ashamed that I can sing this song verbatim at a moment’s whim.
But, no, kids did not ask for more Dragon Ball. But FUNimation was willing to give the series another go, and so they opted for the heavier, bulkier, and much more action-oriented stylings of Dragon Ball Z, starring an older, married Goku and his son, aliens, planetary destruction, power levels, and all that nonsense. FUNimation’s initial run of Dragon Ball Z in 1996 was both weirdly ambitious and curiously cheap, all at the same time; in the hopes of succeeding where Dragon Ball failed, FUNimation contacted the good folks at Saban Entertainment. Saban being the company that spent a good chunk of the ’90s rolling in money from the success of Power Rangers, FUNimation was certain that Saban could work their Midas Touch on another Japanese property. But rather than utilize Saban’s stable of Los Angeles-based talent, FUNimation strangely handed off the dubbing duties to the Vancouver-based Ocean Group, a Canadian dubbing studio that was surely familiar at the time to any of you fellow nerds who were already watching Ranma 1/2 or Fatal Fury.
That didn’t quite work, either. 53 episodes were once again shipped off to various syndicated TV stations across the country, where the show was largely ignored; thanks mostly to the state of syndicated children’s programming itself at the time. Network affiliates were, at the time, loathe to spend money on kids’ shows when they could instead just fill their early-morning slots with infomercials, which is just free money; the show ran very intermittently at strange timeslots with little in the way of promotion. I remember seeing a random episode sometime in 1997 when I was a kid in Arizona – at 7:30 in the morning on a Sunday. By all reasonable accounts, Dragon Ball Z should’ve ended its ignominious life right then and there; a sad coda to the antiquated method of syndicated children’s television. Were it not for the saving grace of Cartoon Network, and its endless parade of reruns, Dragon Ball Z would simply remain something spoken of in hushed tones by idiots on YouTube in their “REMEMBER ’90S CARTOONS?!!” videos, betwixt mumbled laughter about the existence of Mummies Alive! and so forth.
Enough of the history lesson, though! Let’s look at some of the original Ocean Group dub cast of Dragon Ball Z, and see what they’ve been up to since!
10) Ian James Corlett – Goku / Master Roshi
It should be noted that Ian Corlett only voiced Goku for the first 30 episodes or so, before he was replaced by an actor we’ll see further down the list. DBZ enthusiasts have fired up the rumor mill about his sudden departure since the ’90s, citing weird things like “unprofessional conduct,” whatever that is, and “lack of compensation for several of Goku’s trademark yells,” also whatever the hell that means.
As far as non-cartoon roles go, Ian Corlett’s IMDb profile suggests that Mr. Corlett had some sort of “in” with the band Queensr?che! That’s pretty metal. Makes sense that he ended up playing a cartoon character that spends more time yelling than talking.
He also voiced the character “Mayor of Keena” from the Wuxia fantasy kids flick Warriors of Virtue, played Zitz in the legendarily awful TV pilot based on the Nintendo game Battletoads, and in my favorite bit of video game verisimilitude, voiced both Doctor Wily in Captain N, and then later Mega Man in the 90’s Mega Man cartoon. No fair batting for both teams, Ian!
9) Terry Klassen – Krillin
The voice of Goku’s bald, diminutive buddy has quite the impressive voice resume – any diehard Bronies out there have probably heard his trademark squeal on any number of My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic episodes, while Mr. Klassen parlayed his voiceover career into a vaunted spot in the director’s chair, handling all voice direction duties for the Cartoon Network show Ed, Edd & Eddy.
I neglected to mention this before, but a binding thread that ties together a bunch of the Ocean Group dub cast of Dragon Ball Z is quite hilarious; remember those crummy-looking ripoffs of Disney movies put out by “Good Times” home video? Why, our boy Terry provided his vocal talents to a whole bunch of ’em, from The Hunchback of Notre Dame,, Sleeping Beauty, Jungle Book, and many more!
Terry Klassen can also be heard in some of the most noxious TV cartoons of the ’90s, like Bucky O’Hare, Street Sharks, and the terrible video game superhero team-up cartoon Video Power, which I am ashamed to admit that I at one point taped every episode I could find off of the TV. I feel no shame in not knowing where any one of those tapes are. I hope they were cast back to Hell.
8) Michael Dobson – Nappa / Kami
Considering that Ocean Group was stationed in Vancouver, I fully expected to find at least some – if not most – of the Dragon Ball Z cast in various X-Files episodes.
And, sure enough, ask and ye shall receive… the voice of Nappa in X-Files episodes, that is! Yessir, the voice of the burly man who is forever tainted by the phrase “WHAT DOES THE SCOUTER SAY ABOUT HIS POWER LEVEL”, was in several of them, including the classic “Jose Chung’s ‘From Outer Space'” episode!
He was also responsible for the pivotal role of “Coast Guard” in Free Willy 3. Thus covering the entire acting spectrum.
7) Lalainia Lindbjerg – Bulma
While every other actor in the Ocean Group repertory usually provided any number of voices in the series, good ol’ Lalainia Lindbjerg’s only credit is for the sole voice of Bulma – which, it should be noted, she also provided for the brief 13-episode run of the original Dragon Ball as well.
But of course I would be remiss if I didn’t include some things on her resume, such as: a recurring role on the hilariously, inappropriately kid-friendly RoboCop: Alpha Commando, the voice of “Venus De Milo” in the past-its-prime Saban’s Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation, and some cheesy TV movies with titles like Murder at My Door, and my personal favorite, BABY MONITOR: SOUND OF FEAR.
I would be remiss if I didn’t bring up this user review:
“Some friends and I happened to be flipping through the channels and we came across this movie. USA has had a history of coming out with bad movies, but this one took the cake. Those were the two dumbest criminals since Home Alone. Anyways, it sucks, please don’t waste the time or braincells watching it.”
6) Brian Drummond – Yajirobe / Vegeta
Yes, nerds, I know, calm down – Brian Drummond only voiced Vegeta in the later episodes that were specifically dubbed for Canadian audiences, because for some reason a Japanese cartoon show still counts as “Canadian Programming” so long as there’s a Canadian voice cast. Moving on!
And speaking of nerds, Brian Drummond is involved with some of the nerdiest TV shows of the ’90s and early aughts: Smallville, Stargate SG-1, and once again, The X-Files! Granted, his credits for each of those shows include such marquee roles as “Attendant” and “Security Guard,” but hey – nerd cred is nerd cred.
And speaking of cred, Mr. Drummond also has the dubious honor of being the only person on this list to have a screen credit on one of Hollywood’s most notorious box-office bombs: the dreadful Antonio Banderas / Game Boy Advance vehicle, Ballistic: Ecks vs. Sever! He had the thankless task of being “VPD Officer – Sc. 116.” Hey, at least it’s more specific than just “Guard” or “Officer.” Work is work, folks.
5) Cathy Weseluck – Puar / Chiaotzu
My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic has already been brought up here, but Cathy has been blessed by the Brony contingency by voicing one of the actual factual mainline stars of the show: that’s right, everybody’s (maybe not necessarily) favorite dragon sidekick, Spike!
And if that’s not enough, Cathy was also the lead in the short-lived and much-beloved Fox Kids show Cybersix! And she was every sad ’90s anime nerd’s object of lust as Shampoo from Ranma 1/2! Some people have all the luck!
Well, maybe: she also voiced the titular “Lapitch” in Sony Wonder’s (probably not very Wonder-ful) straight-to-video Lapitch the Little Shoemaker, and a TV movie mashup of The Hunchback of Notre Dame mixed with Soccer, fittingly titled The Halfback of Notre Dame. But maybe I’m just being a jerk; this user review certainly suggests as much:
“Hey if your into films that have loads of comedy and are totally romantic and definitely crazy!! then this is the movie for you. This movie supplies all these things and more. You will fall in love with Crazy and Esmeralda and you’ll find yourself rooting their love all the way.”
2 of 6 people found that review “helpful.” Make of that what you will.
4) Scott McNeil – Piccolo
Lessee here, let’s find something weird by Scott McNeil… Rattrap in Beast Wars.? Eh, people seem to really like that show. He was The Vulture and Man-Wolf in the rather dull Spider-Man Unlimited. He played an astronaut in the 90’s update of The Outer Limits. That’s kinda cool, I guess.
Oh, did I neglect to mention that Scott McNeil also played the voice of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ? Yes indeed, there was a crummy cartoon version of Ben Hur – one that proudly displays “FEATURING THE VOICE TALENT OF CHARLTON HESTON” in case you were wondering what kind of audience they were gunning for.
It also features John William “Long John” Baldry as Pontius Pilate!
This is the best thing I’ve ever heard. A direct-to-video Ben Hur starring Chartlon Heston, the voice of Piccolo, and Dr. Robotnik / an unsung blues legend who claims to be the last guy to see Marc Bolan alive. The meaningless trivia gods have smiled upon us this day.
Gods? Er, God. I forgot this is Ben fucking Hur.
3) Richard Newman – Captain Ginyu / Oolong
On the face of things, looking at Mr. Newman’s voluminous profile, there’s nothing exceptionally noteworthy – the dude played Rhinox in Beast Wars, Professor Moriarty in the rather awful Sherlock Holmes in the 22nd Century, a few bit parts on Mary Kate and Ashley in Action!, and…
Hello, what’s this? Dude played “Marty” on The Commish? Minister Amunde on an episode of MacGyver?! I feel like I need to call my dad right now and tell him that Captain Ginyu was on The Commish, which I feel like is the Quintissential Dad Show Of The 90’s.
2) Doc Harris – Narrator
In a bit of trivia that should hopefully come as a surprise to no one, the man who provided the dramatic bombast for Piccolo blowing up the moon is also a disc jockey in Vancouver.
One thing that I haven’t mentioned so far this article – and again, I would be remiss to neglect it – is that Doc Harris, along with most of his Dragon Ball Z castmates, were integral in the execution of the voice talent for the crowning achievement in animation history that is… Camp Candy.
Camp Candy, of course, being one of the final projects of both a Saturday Night Live mainstay, but also folk music legend Harry Nilsson! Yes, that’s right – within less than three degrees of separation, Dragon Ball Z has ties to some of the most legendary voices in music!
1) Saffron Henderson – Gohan
Like many things, this list ends with a whimper, and not a bang. OR DOES IT?!?
Well, kinda. Saffron Henderson is a bit unique in that she also provided the original voice of Kid Goku in the initial Dragon Ball dub – a role which of course provides canonical benefits as the voice of Gohan.
But nevermind that! Freakin’ Saffron Henderson played J.J., the wannabe rock star, who gets whacked by Jason in Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan!
I was hoping to find at least one death scene featuring a Dragon Ball Z voice actor; any list of this nature that doesn’t feature a death scene from a bad horror movie sequel.
Now then, that begs the question: what parallels can be made between Dragon Ball Z and Camp Candy? Which Beast Wars character could survive a Kamehameha? Which crossover DBZ fanfiction is now plausible with all these voiceover artists in other cartoon shows and movies? How would Jason Voorhees kill Vegeta?!?