The lost Harmony Gold dub of Dragon Ball has been found, over 30 years after it aired! Watch it here!
With the help of a dedicated fan, a VHS collector, and yours truly, the episodes have been recovered!
I now present them to you for the first time since their original airing in 1989!
Harmony Gold Dub Primer
The Harmony Gold dub is a rare English dub of Dragon Ball that only aired on two American TV channels from 1989 and into the early ’90s.
It has a different voice acting cast than the voices in the official dub that many fans grew up with.
And because the cast used pseudonyms to work on the project, many of the voices still haven’t been identified.
There has been an air of mystery about the Harmony Gold dub that survives to this day.
It was thought to be lost forever.
And it was, until now.
We have five episodes available to watch, consisting of Dragon Ball Episodes 1 to 5.
There’s also a full movie, consisting of Dragon Ball movies 1 and 3 combined together. That is, Dragon Ball: Curse of the Blood Rubies and Dragon Ball: Mystical Adventure.
Know going in that the Harmony Gold dub is not the definitive release of Dragon Ball.
The Harmony Gold dub of Dragon Ball is incomplete, mashed together, censored, oddly translated, and has poor visual and audio quality.
This is not what Akira Toriyama intended Dragon Ball to be.
But watching this release is not about experiencing the perfect Dragon Ball dub.
It’s about experiencing this lost artifact of Dragon Ball history and enjoying the series in a new light.
There’s a lot of good fun to be had here, and you may even prefer the new voices. Or rather, old voices.
So enjoy watching the videos!
I tried to upload the videos to my YouTube Channel, but they were struck down immediately by Toei Animation for copyright infringement.
So I’ve decided to host them on my own server.
Just bear in mind that my server is not a global streaming platform, so please be patient. You can’t jump ahead in the videos. They have to load first.
I will release one video per day for the next 6 days. So return tomorrow for a new one.
We’ll start with Dragon Ball Episode 1.
Beneath the video is a story about where these tapes came from, my decade-long attempt to find them, and their ultimate arrival.
Dragon Ball Harmony Gold Dub Episode 1
Wasn’t that fun?
And there’s a lot more to the story.
History of the Harmony Gold Dub
The history of the Harmony Gold dub is a tale all its own.
In 1989, a company in Los Angeles called Harmony Gold licensed the rights to an English adaptation of the original Dragon Ball.
Harmony Gold is most famous for their localization of Robotech (1985). This is a science-fiction anime with aliens and shape-changing jet craft based on the Macross series.
The dub was recorded at Intersound, Inc. in Hollywood, California.
The voice actors hired for the roles were professional voice actors and members of SAG (“Screen Actors Guild”). I was told by the CEO of Harmony Gold, that Amit, the producer on the project, was “100% certain that it was non-union.”
However, SAG actors are forbidden from doing non-union work, so they were forced to use pseudonyms to take the jobs.
For example, the voice of Son Goku was played by Barbara Goodson, but she was credited as Betty Gustafson.
Many of the Dragon Ball character’s names were changed, a lot of the dialogue was altered from Akira Toriyama’s original intentions, and a fair amount of content was cut out for censorship reasons.
For example, Son Goku’s name is changed to Zero. Bulma’s name is changed to Lena. And Yamcha’s name is changed to Zedaki.
Yes, our good friends Zero, Lena, and Zedaki.
If you’d like a full list of the names, actors, and other Harmony Gold trivia, please request it and I’ll publish one for you.
On a related note, a lot of people have asked me why Goku’s name was changed to Zero.
My theory is that it’s because the literal translation of part of Goku’s name means “emptiness,” “void,” or “nothing.”
So I figure the localizers decided it would be odd to name a character “nothing,” and figured that Zero was a decent localization, since nothing and zero are kind of the same thing.
Also of note is that the original Japanese score by Shunsuke Kikuchi is retained in this release. So there is no localized music, as there was for FUNimation’s Dragon Ball Z.
These 5 episodes dubbed by Harmony Gold aired for a short period of time in several select cities across the United States.
For example, in Philadelphia on channel Philly 57-WGBS-TV, and in Detroit on WGPR and WXON.
The 5 episodes we’ve recovered were recorded from the WGPR broadcast that aired between December 1989 and February 1990.
Television stations that simulcast these station’s main broadcasts also aired them, which meant that viewers in neighboring states and regions (such as Canada) may have also been able to watch the show.
Altogether, Harmony Gold dubbed at least 5 episodes of the series.
They also dubbed Dragon Ball movies 1 and 3, and combined them together into a single release.
It’s possible that they dubbed more than this, but such content has never been found.
When I asked Tommy Yune if Harmony Gold had dubbed more than 5 episodes of Dragon Ball, he said he didn’t know because he wasn’t working at the company at the time. And they gave up the license to Dragon Ball so long ago that there’s no record in their systems.
And until these first 5 episodes were recovered on March 1, 2020, only the first one had ever been seen by me and a few other die-hard fans.
It’s unknown why Harmony Gold stopped production of Dragon Ball.
The common theory is that ratings in their test markets weren’t high enough. But there’s no evidence for this.
Another theory is that they would have had difficulty censoring Dragon Ball Episode 6, where Bulma dresses up as a Playboy bunny girl.
They may have found it impossible to censor the episode and still retain the plot, since she is in so many important scenes.
In any case, fans knew that these episodes were rumored to exist, and for several years I made it my mission to find them.
My Work to Recover the Lost Harmony Gold Dub
I started searching for the Harmony Gold dub’s lost episodes in 2010.
I knew that these episodes had been produced. It was just a matter of finding them.
I started by looking online, searching user groups for anime clubs, contacting people who used to work at Harmony Gold, and so on. I even called television stations across the United States to see if they had any tapes in their archive vault. None of them did.
Despite all of this effort, I hit dead end after dead end.
In 2011 I traveled to Anime Expo in Los Angeles and met with Barbara Goodson, the voice of Goku (Zero), to ask her about the dub.
Barbara said she remembered working on the dub, and thought Zero was “a real cutie.” But she said the recording was so long ago that she couldn’t recall how many episodes or movies they recorded. And she didn’t own any of them.
(I later met Barbara again at the 2019 Grand Rapids Comic-Con, and she reiterated her previous statement, but agreed to a future interview with me about the Harmony Gold dub.)
Then in 2012 I spoke with Tommy Yune, the current CEO of Harmony Gold, on the phone, and via email.
I asked Tommy if he had any information about Harmony Gold’s dub, or if they had any tapes.
Much to my surprise, he said yes!
On January 17, 2012, at 2:55 pm, Tommy said the following:
“I’m 99% sure the videos are gone forever.”
“Usually TOEI will ask for expired license materials to be sent back to them. So we either sent it back or it disappeared somewhere else.”
He added, “When we lost the license and FUNimation had it, we probably either sent the dub’s back to TOEI or sent it to FUNimation because it was their license now. So it’s possible that either of those companies is sitting on them without even realizing it.”
Then on Feb 27, 2012, Tommy Yune told me that Harmony Gold had “a music reel for HG Dragon Ball” in their vault!
I asked what was on it, and he said, “It’s a mystery as it is on a 4-track analog reel that can only be played back on a professional (circa ‘70s to ‘80s) reel-to-reel deck. We did this recently with Robotech’s music to digitally remaster the tracks as the digitization hardware available today is better than what was available decades ago. However, these analog decks are disappearing from service and will be a vintage rarity in a matter of time.”
He said, “I didn’t take a pic of the Dragon Ball reel yet, but here’s what our Robotech reels look like.”
Tommy added, “Though the music rights are still owned by Harmony Gold, I can predict the company will be unlikely to authorize a digital transfer as the license to which it is attached is expired (i.e. no projected revenue stream, no funds to spend). If the present license holder (FUNimation) is willing to cover material costs, and some type of simple agreement can be reached to permit the reproduction of the music as a DVD extra, etc. by FUNimation, I suppose it can be done.”
“Yes, a lot of red tape to get this obscure gem back out, but I’m just giving you the proper procedure to do it, by the book. Let me know what you want to do next.”
Considering that the Shunsuke Kikuchi music is used for the score of each episode, with the exception of the intro, this tape may have contained the original recording of the Harmony Gold intro to each episode.
Or it could have contained the episodes themselves. Or blooper reels, production notes, or literally anything.
And as it turns out, the tape needed to be baked in a kiln in order to access the footage.
Tommy said, “We have a well stored audio reel of the dub. We’ll have to find a guy to bake the moisture off the tape. It’s marked “Dragon Ball” and marked “Music,” but we have no idea what’s on it.”
Because it’s a very old magnetic audio tape, he said they would have to hire a specialist to bake the moisture off the tape, which if done incorrectly is risky because it will melt the tape. But he knew a guy who does this well.
However, the baking process cost between $100 to $1,000. He said if we (the fans) pooled our money together, he’d do it for us.
He also proposed the following:
“I suppose we could digitize it. We aren’t that inclined to do it, but if you can find a few hundred buyers, we’ll issue a short run of 500 to 1,000 CDs, and then you guys can sell it for whatever you want. We could also include it as a bonus download or audio CD on FUNimation’s releases at some point in the future, if they wanted to do that.”
Tommy was eager to work with me, with FUNimation, and with the fans.
But I did not have any spare money to spend on this tape, as I was living week-to-week and struggling to survive. My financial situation continued like this for many years. And I’m still not doing that well.
So the tape sat in the vault.
I asked several people at FUNimation if they wanted the tape, but even after dozens of emails and voice mails over a span of years, I never received a response on the matter.
My intention was to provide FUNimation with additional content for an official re-release of Dragon Ball. Even Tommy Yune wanted to give it to them.
Year after year I tried to connect the two parties together so that Harmony Gold could give the tape to FUNimation, or FUNimation could pay for the tape to access and digitize the content. But nothing ever came of it.
Unfortunately, enough time passed by that when I next contacted Tommy in 2016, he informed me that the tape was no longer in their vault. It had been removed along with a large batch of other tapes.
And to make matters worse, the manager of the vault, Billy Davis, didn’t know where it went.
I first tried contacting Billy in 2011, but never received a response. Dozens of emails and voice mails later, I finally spoke with him on June 17, 2017.
Billy said that he no longer had any record of the Dragon Ball tape in his system. They started using a different system than the one they used in 2012. As a result, there is no information about the tape, where it was shipped, or who it was shipped to. They didn’t even know if it was sent to FUNimation or if it was sent to Toei, or sent anywhere for that matter. Could be in a dumpster. He also does not recall seeing it in the vault, as Tommy does, nor it vanishing from their vault afterward.
And par for the course, when I contacted FUNimation about it several times to see if they received the tape, I did not receive a response.
Naturally, I can’t help but feel that if I had received a response to my requests from any of these parties involved that this situation could have been avoided.
But it was not their priority.
At least nobody with the power to do anything about it.
And as a result, the lost dub was literally lost.
With that, I felt crestfallen. I had done my best, but it wasn’t enough.
Every path I had gone down was a dead end—except one—but it cost money that I didn’t have.
And with the passage of time, this path also came to an end.
A New Path in 2020!
On Feb 8, 2020, I was contacted on Facebook by a young man named Joey Pasteris. He said he found a guy who might have the tapes.
Joey and I discussed the project and his intentions. He said, “I just want to record history and share it with others.” And, “I’ve been searching for it for years myself, and it’s nice to get an expert involved.”
Joey found me through a Dragon Ball forum called Kanzenshuu, where I had posted updates in real time during my search for the Harmony Gold dub tapes, as summarized above. So there was an archive of my efforts.
“You influenced me by making me think, ‘Wow, one Dragon Ball fan alone was able to contact all those people and organizations for the dub? I wonder what I could do to help?’ I had been following your search since I started high school in 2013, and just recently I decided to take matters into my own hands.”
Building on what I had established, Joey used social media to contact former users of anime Usenet groups who traded tapes back in the early ‘90s. As mentioned, I attempted to do this myself but didn’t have any luck.
I said, “Glad it’s working for you.” Joey replied:
“Not me, for US. The fandom as a whole.”
Joey also contacted Kei17, a famous Japanese fan in the Dragon Ball community who specializes in collecting Dragon Ball tapes and audio. Kei17 came through with the delivery of footage of Harmony Gold’s Dragon Ball Episode 1.
Kei17 and another fan named takarajima had sent this episode to me in 2016. So while it was cool because it was a higher level of quality this time, it was not a groundbreaking event for the community.
From there, Joey and I spoke about this project back and forth for a couple weeks. He found a couple leads, but it wasn’t until Feb 20 where he discovered a solid opportunity.
It turned out to be a man named Ryan Gavigan.
Ryan described himself to Joey as, “A longtime anime fan and one of the hosts of Anime Hell!”
Ryan grew up in Indianapolis and attended Purdue University in the ’90s. He had an interest in anime and became a collector. He was then a founder and one of the original chairmen of Anime Central in Chicago.
Back on April 20, 1993, Ryan had made a post on Usenet about the Harmony Gold dub. It can still be accessed on Google Groups.
Here Ryan said, “They also did the first five tv episodes (at least), and they were aired in a few test markets, (the tape I have was taped in Detroit.) and was the final animation effort Harmony Gold did.”
This was enough of a lead for Joey to then use public information to track Ryan down today, and Joey friended Ryan on Facebook.
After discussing the project with one another, Ryan searched his basement and found the tapes!
It was that simple.
Ryan said on Twitter:
“I had no idea these ever went ‘missing’ and never managed to look for it until I cleaned up the basement storage. Many tape traders back then listed it.”
He added, “These were right from my VHS back in the day.”
So the man who had the tape all this time was unaware that it was even in demand!
Isn’t that funny?
A decade of personal struggle could have been resolved through a simple case of, ‘It’s all about who you know.’
Speaking of which, for the story of where the tape came from, Ryan doesn’t know who originally recorded it, but believes it was from someone in Illinois who taped the broadcast on their local station that was receiving the simulcast from Detroit.
Ryan then acquired the tape, put it in a storage bin, and 27 years later, with the help of Joey and myself, it’s now available online.
Ownership of the Harmony Gold Dub
After all is said and done, who owns the Harmony Gold dub?
Is it Harmony Gold? No, because their license to Dragon Ball expired in the early ‘90s and was lost when FUNimation purchased the license themselves in 1995.
Is it FUNimation? Maybe, because it is an English dub. So they could publish it. But they don’t seem interested in it.
My decade-long attempt to get FUNimation to recognize the value of this dub for publication in their official releases has fallen on deaf ear after deaf ear. They just don’t care.
And now that the episodes have been made public online for everyone to watch at no charge, FUNi has little incentive to spend money on producing this content and adding it to a release.
Is it Toei Animation? It’s an English dub, so they probably don’t care about selling it in Japan. And they’re not going to publish a lost English dub anyway. Their focus is on the current dub by FUNimation.
So who does that leave?
It leaves the fans.
That means you, Joey, Ryan, Kei17, takarajima, myself, and countless other Dragon Ball fans.
We are the owners of the Harmony Gold dub of Dragon Ball.
For me, this topic is a bit emotional. I spent years of my life trying to reach this goal. There’s a part of me that wants to take credit.
But the fact is, I stopped. I got burnt out on repeated failures and moved on to other projects, like writing and publishing books.
The Harmony Gold dub was always one of those things that I’d get to ‘someday’ when I had a steady amount of money coming in, and I could focus on a passion project. But that day never came.
So does it even count if you don’t cross the finish line? What value is there in working on something if it never comes to fruition? That’s what I’ve been thinking about all these years.
But I also know that progress is built on the shoulders of other men. And a relay race can only be won with partners.
Thankfully, I had shared my story online as I experienced it—for no other sake than informing the community of my progress—and the archive of these endeavors was enough to inspire Joey.
Joey had the time, energy, and will to continue where I left off.
And he succeeded!
So Joey Pasteris deserves the credit for finding Ryan Gavigan.
And Ryan Gavigan deserves the credit for holding onto a tape for 27 years and never misplacing it, recording over it, or damaging it, and for then finding the tape and digitizing it for all of us to experience.
Congratulations to Dragon Ball fans everywhere who can now enjoy the lost—and found—Harmony Gold dub of Dragon Ball!!
What did you think of Episode 1 of the Harmony Gold dub of Dragon Ball?
Better, worse, more fun?
If nothing else, it’s unique.
And how about that decade-long adventure to find it, huh?
Who knows, there might be more episodes of the Harmony Gold dub out there to discover!
Come back tomorrow for Episode 2!!