Dragon Ball Z celebrated its 25th Anniversary recently, and FUNimation held a special panel with Seán Schemmel and Chris Sabat to mark the occasion.
As a Dragon Ball historian, I was there to cover the event. It occurred on April 25, at 5:30pm at the C2E2 convention in Chicago.
If you prefer to watch the event or listen along with the text, then jump to the 6:28:00 mark in the video above.
It was an hour and a half long panel, so this is my most epic blog post to date.
I spent 6 hours transcribing this text so that international readers can enjoy the conversation. Plus another 4 to make the blog post.
Now let’s take a step back in time.
Warming up the Crowd
The panel begins with an introduction by Justin Rojas, social media manager at FUNimation.
Justin plays some introduction clips to warm up the crowd.
He announces that Resurrection of ‘F’ will be coming to theaters in the United States under a limited release, just like Battle of Gods.
And that you need to pre-order your tickets as soon as they are available, otherwise you’ll miss your chance to see it.
Justin: We’re going to bring out our special guests! Mr. Christopher R. Sabat and Mr. Seán Schemmel.
Seán and Chris
*Seán and Chris walk out to a packed crowd of 1,000 DBZ fans. Thunderous applause.
*The two voice actors look at their images on the big screen, from 1998.
Seán: That’s not what I look like. Wow.
Chris: This is a retrospective.
Seán: So what are we doing here?
Justin: A panel.
Seán: Oh, right! A panel.
Justin: I want to open the panel with a hard hitting question for Chris. This is a retrospective of 25 years of Dragon Ball Z. What’s the deal with that shirt?
Chris: Haha. It was a different time back then.
Seán: This is from when they had a time machine where they already legalized gay marriage.
Chris: Yes, it was a forbidden love that was never meant to happen. A love between a man and his really colorful shirt. I somehow misplaced mine, but Kyle seems to have kept onto his.
Justin: This is a photo from 1997 maybe. Chris and Kyle Hebert who is the Narrator and Adult Gohan. It’s crazy, but you guys don’t realize how crazy this weekend is.
In Japan, April 26, which is tomorrow, was the first ever broadcast of Dragon Ball Z, in 1989. Tomorrow is the 26th year, so we couldn’t have timed this 25 year panel any better.
Dragon Ball Z started back then, and FUNimation started working on it in 1994, the original date. We started with the Ocean studio dub. Here’s the timeline, so you can understand the journey that Dragon Ball Z followed. That was in Canada. First time getting it broadcast was 1996. It was a different time back then, with different music, soundtracks with Bruce Faulconer afterward.
Justin: I really just wanted to include this photo because of the moustache.
Chris: It looks like he had a pretty lively porn career back then.
Seán: He’s probably editing one of his films in that picture.
Justin: We had a different take on the soundtrack back then, with a hard rock style. What do you guys think is the reason people resonated so strongly with that soundtrack back then?
Seán: I really, um, I have yet to figure that out, I don’t know, haha.
Chris: I believe that people have a strong connection with the Faulconer music in the same way that they have a strong connection with us, as the actors on the show. We aren’t the original cast, they’re Japanese, but we are one step closer to that. We’ve been attached to these Dragon Ball Z memories that people have; the music, the acting, and everything that goes into it. So I think that people remember that.
Seán: Wait a second, I’m having a moment.
Chris: These moments take a long time to explain.
Seán: Yeah, I’m about to explain something. So when I first got onto Dragon Ball Z, I have a friend of mine who is a smart guy, and he was working on his doctorate in biology.
I was tripping out about the fact that so many kids were hearing my work and Chris’ work on the show. I was lying in bed and dealing with the gravity of that. Their brains are forming at 5, 6, 7, or 10 years old, and my voice is in there with what they’re watching, while their brain is forming. I was completely overwhelmed about, ‘Oh my god, that’s totally scary.’ And now you’re all here as adults, and it’s freaking me out! Haha.
Seán: It’s such a weird feeling. A great feeling, but a weird one.
Justin: The year 1997 is when the dub moves to Texas for the first time, and casting began. Your younger selves.
Let’s talk about the first time you interacted with Dragon Ball Z. Nobody really knew what it was. People were going in blind. Mike McFarland was there (Master Roshi), part of the original cast. What was that like, and how has that changed up to today?
Chris: This is a retrospective, so it’s important to say that a few tiles ago you were talking about the Canadian dub of the show. That was difficult for us on the American cast to deal with at the time. Because panels weren’t like this one. In 1997 or ’98 it was in a room a fifteenth of this size, with 4 people in the room. They would raise their hands and say, ‘Yo, why’d you guys change the music?’ Well it wasn’t my decision. ‘Why’d you change the actors?’ Well I’m one of the new actors, so it’s kind of an odd question to ask that. ‘Why’d you change the script?’ Dude, it’s a really complicated answer.’
So we did the best we could, but our first experiences with going to conventions were nothing like this. So this is making up for all of those horrible times.
Seán: Definitely. And I personally went out of my way. I had such a pet peeve for them changing the voices on my favorite shows growing up. When they changed Ronald McDonald I was furious. So pissed off.
Chris: They changed the Dukes of Hazard too.
Seán: Oh, and that didn’t work either. So when I got the part, first, I wanted to make sure I would finish it where it’s just one version of Dragon Ball with one voice on it. And second, when I first got cast I would listen to video tapes of Ian Corlett’s and Peter Kelamis’ work as Goku and I’d try to match it. I didn’t want anybody to know [it changed].
I fooled one of my closest friends. He said, “Do you watch Dragon Ball?” I said, “Yeah, I kinda’ do.” I didn’t want him to know I was in it. He said, “They changed all of the voices except Goku’s voice.” I said, “No, they changed Goku’s voice too.” He said, “Oh yeah, how do you know?” “Because I’m playing Goku.” I fooled him! I fooled my best friend.
It was important to me to give you guy’s continuity, but at some point I felt like as an actor I had to own the part. That happened to me during the first Super Saiyan transformation when Goku fought against Freeza. After that day I didn’t listen to any more tapes. ‘I’m done, this is mine, I own this, and I’m going to make Goku my own as an actor from now on.’
Chris: Back in those early days, dubbing anime was something that very few people did. There weren’t a lot of dub actors in Dallas.
At the time there were only about 11 or 12 actors on the entire cast list. We called in thousands of people and held so many auditions trying to find the cast for this Dragon Ball dub, and we ended up finding maybe 11 people that were good. That’s why I ended up playing Vegeta, and Piccolo, and Yamcha, and Recoome, and Jeice, and…
Chris: As the voice director for the show, a lot of people say, ‘Why’d you cast yourself for so much stuff?’ It was out of pure necessity, because at that time we were racing to get it onto Toonami, which I imagine we might talk about in a minute.
*Justin loads the next slide, and it’s about Toonami.
Justin: 1999, Toonami hits. Dragon Ball Z launches this entire platform. Which by the way is back, and Dragon Ball Z is back on Toonami! Yeah! What was the difference working on Dragon Ball before Toonami and post Toonami?
Seán: For me it’s not pre or post Toonami. Toonami was extraordinarily helpful, but it was just like, ‘Oh, cool, you’re in Dragon Ball. I’m a big fan.’ But now after 16 plus years it’s changed to, ‘Oh my god, you’re a legend! We’re not worthy!’ In the last 4 or 5 years we get a lot of ‘We’re not worthy,’ but trust me, you’re worthy. Very worthy. I’m not worthy.
And I didn’t know what that felt like until I got to record a Scooby Doo episode with Frank Welker, and I cried before I went into the session and had to stop myself from crying. I’m not comparing myself to him, because he’s so far above me, but I thought, ‘Is this what kids feel like meeting me now?’ It was overwhelming to my brain. Part of you wants to throw it off, but then again it’s probably the best feeling ever as an actor.
Chris: We had our first ever cast party, with a cast of 20 people, when it got on Toonami. Seeing it on the first time was like, ‘Wow, my voice is there!’
Seán: When I walked into a Target, all the TV’s were playing Dragon Ball Z and my voice was blasting across the Target, and I was flipping out. Waaaah.
Chris: Didn’t you have a weird moment with somebody playing with a Dragon Ball toy?
Seán: Yeah. They put my voice in a punching bag Goku toy, a blow up doll, and you punch it and he says (in Goku’s voice), “I will not let you beat me!” and “I’m going to win this fight!”
Seán: Hahaha. You guys are going to make me cry. I’m a pretty emotional guy. So I peer around the corner and hear this.
The funny story behind this is that summer we did a family reunion, because my grandmother is getting older and we were worried about losing her. And she’s passed on, rest her soul. I love her dearly and she got to see my work. But my mom decided to bring that dumb punching bag on an 800 mile drive to Iowa. And that thing does not have an off-switch (Chris: And it was not packaged well). No, and we deflated it, but every time we hit a bump: “I will not let you beat me!” All. The way. There. I’m so sick of hearing that, to this day.
Chris: It’s the same bad packaging problem with the Vegeta toy. My mother got that punching bag, I think to let out some aggression. If you bump the box it goes (In Vegeta’s voice), “Is that all you have?!” “Is that all you have?!”
Justin: As we continued with the show being broadcast on television we continued into the Android and Cell Saga’s, so we had to expand the cast and hire new people. As the director, you were doing a good bit of hiring. A good chunk of newcomers.
Chris: Those are some of my absolute favorite actors. And it was when we got into the Android Saga that agencies were finally starting to notice us. ‘Oh, alright, this is pretty cool now.’ So we had a lot more people trying to be on the show, and stiff competition to get parts around the time these guys came in. A lot of talented people were coming in.
Justin: A lot of actors got their start on Dragon Ball Z for voice acting, and then moved onto other parts.
And back then you were using actual tape, and physical paper for the scripts.
Chris: There was a time when we were recording to the tape.
Justin: With the recording process being so revolutionized by digital media, we’ve recorded a lot of behind the scenes footage. So I want to show you some behind the scenes clips of the previous OkraTron studios, where Chris directs and Seán acts.
*Plays a bonus clip from the Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods DVD and Bluray. Audience applauds and laughs.
Seán: That freaked me out. I look like a schizophrenic person in there, talking to myself. (In King Kai’s voice), “Yes, Bulma’s coming here!” Haha.
Chris: I feel sorry for the voice actors sometimes. I’m surprised more of them don’t fall asleep, because when I’m directing I’m always just like (in a low voice), “Yes, why don’t you try this…”
Seán: Well it’s a very soothing voice.
Justin: The big thing that happened with Dragon Ball Z is when the orange brick seasons came out. These were a big part of the Dragon Ball Z history of increasing the exposure and reach of Dragon Ball into everyone’s homes. Really important, 291 episodes here…
Seán: Because there’s hidden code in each one that will take over your home when FUNimation releases its robots. That’s why it’s really important.
Chris: REALLY important. Justin was telling me about this trailer.
Justin: At the time, 2000 some point, I forget when, this was the biggest, best, definitive collection for Dragon Ball Z, right? There was a trailer that was cut that makes sure that you…
Chris: Drives the point home. It’s ridiculous. And remember that at this point, the Dragon Boxes and other releases are still to come, but this makes it sound like Dragon Ball Z is over at this point.
*Seán and the audience laugh at the statements being made. Applause.
Chris: But wait! That’s not all! Order now and you’ll also get FOUR FREE KNIVES!
Seán: Man, I feel like someone at the studio said, “Hey, we like monster truck commercials, but we have this Dragon Ball Z show, so how can we make our Dragon Ball Z show like a monster truck commercial?” Haha.
Chris: I felt like the text was going to hit me in the face the whole time. You’re watching it thinking, ‘I’m sorry. Don’t hurt me!’
Justin: We got further and further into the series, hitting the Great Saiya-man and the Buu Saga’s, and got more people to work on the show.
Chris: It was nice that Chris Rager got his mom to include this picture of him here.
Justin: And Laura Bailey, as Kid Trunks. And gosh, now she’s doing everything.
Chris: Is Laura available for this game? ‘Nope, not in 2015.’ She’s a busy working lady.
Justin: We finished recording for those Saga’s and then production ends, it’s over, right?
Seán: Mike McFarland and I popped champagne and we took a picture flipping off the script, not because we don’t love Dragon Ball, but because ‘We’re done!’ Then less than a year later we get a call saying, “We’re going to do Kai.”
Justin: So at this point in your career, it’s hit mass popularity, but it’s over at that time, so what did it do for your careers? What did completing Dragon Ball Z do for your career?
Seán: I wouldn’t have a career without Dragon Ball Z. It was my first audition.
I was able to parlay that into moving to New York, meeting people, and open doors for me to work on all the shows I’ve worked on since then. So Dragon Ball Z ending didn’t do much for my career. I was sad, but kind of relieved because I wouldn’t have to scream all the time. I was excited when Kai came back, but we’ll get to that in a second. Chris, how about you?
Chris: Dragon Ball Z has profoundly affected all of the Dallas creative industry. Dallas is a different place now because of FUNimation. Remember earlier when I said there were 12 actors on the list. Now there’s over… 400, you know what I was going to say, right? I know what you wanted me to say [“Over 9,000!”, the audience laughs].
There are countless people who got their amazing starts, including me. I don’t know what I would be doing if I hadn’t accepted this weird opportunity to work on this Japanese show.
I didn’t know anything about Dragon Ball Z when I went into it. In fact, most of the guys at FUNimation in the early days didn’t either. They barely knew about it because there wasn’t an Internet to research it. We had no interaction with the Japanese, hardly, and there was no one on the staff to tell us what was going on.
Seán: I remember when the director, Barry, explained to me what Saiyans were, and he was saying what Saiyans were like he didn’t know what Saiyans were. (In Texan accent), “Okay, so you’re a race of beings known as SAIYAAANS, that’s spelled S.A.I.Y.A.N.” I was like, ‘Okaaay, do you know what they are?’ Haha.
Chris: It profoundly affected everyone. I cannot believe we are sitting here today because of it.
I owe my life to Dragon Ball in a lot of ways.
I had difficulties growing up and had some problems. Dragon Ball Z opened the doors for me to get the help I need, to work on myself and work through a lot of things. I know that’s deep or dark or whatever, but I’m grateful because I was able to take that opportunity and better myself in a way that let’s me have all the wonderful things I have today.
Seán: Basically, I’m saying that because of Dragon Ball Z I was able to move to New York and spend a lot of money on therapy, hahaha.
Chris: Seán told me yesterday, I hope I don’t embarrass you here, but he said, “It’s weird for my career that I played Goku, because people work their entire careers to try and get a part like Goku, and I got it already, without having to do that same 20 year struggle. Recording Dragon Ball Z all that time was a struggle, but still, I already got that part. It almost makes you feel lazy.”
Seán: Yeah, like I’m done because I got that iconic role. I still haven’t gotten another iconic role. I’ve done over 30 shows the last 15 years, Pokemon, Ninja Turtles, Yu-Gi-Oh!, and even Batman in Dark Night Rises for the iPad game, but there’s never going to be, I can’t imagine what role would eclipse playing Goku. And that was my first audition. So I don’t even know what to do. I just want to work.
Chris: It makes you paranoid in auditions.
Seán: It does make me paranoid in auditions. I remember I went to the store late at night to buy some Pepperidge Farms Boston Cream cookies, they’re freaking amazing. Anyway, I go to buy some at 11:30 at night, and the voice of Sponge Bob walks in, Tom Kenny. I had to do a voice match for a McDonalds commercial, not for Sponge Bob, but he was there and I got to talk with him. When my dad was in the hospital for a heart attack, the only show he could watch was Sponge Bob, because it didn’t make his heart beat fast. Tom and I talked for about 30 minutes and I told him how grateful I was that he was part of Sponge Bob and my dad could find solace in Sponge Bob. Just the fact that I did Goku, and then 16 years later I’m hanging out with Sponge Bob in an LA parking lot. It didn’t get any better than that. Hahaha.
Chris: I think your dad is the first person in the world who watched Sponge Bob to relax. Of course, you were his son, so it was the only thing calmer than you.
Seán: Haha, yeah. My dad is the most chill guy in the world, he’s not my biological father, but he raised me. But you think I’m intense now, I’m 46, you should have seen me at 16. Anytime I’d get in a big fight with my mom or somebody else, he’d come into my room and say (in a calm voice), “Hey Seán, just relax.” And then I get this part of Goku where I’m screaming all the time.
Chris: I’ve become your dad on the show. Working with Seán over the years, that’s been our relationship. ‘Dude, just calm down, calm down.’
Seán: That video we watched just now of me recording the movie was the refined and polished Seán.
If you saw a video of me in ’99, oh my god, I was a complete, what’s the word?
Yes. That’s the word.
Anyway, we digress again.
Justin: Not only the anime, but the video games continuously for years. Over the entirety of entertainment, and now with Dragon Ball Xenoverse coming out.
Seán: I played that for the first time today on live television. And I voiced myself as I played with myself. It sounds very erotic, but it was not.
Justin: And with Chris founding Okratron 5000. So now with Dragon Ball it’s not only a talent standpoint, but a business standpoint.
Chris: I started at FUNimation when there were only a handful of people there. Once Dragon Ball Z was done recording, I looked at my future with FUNimation and I thought, ‘The only way I can advance in this business is if I take my bosses job.’
Seán: Or kill Barry.
Chris: Or kill him, eat his heart, and absorb his powers. And I had an epiphany too. He was a gamer, and he always bought us every system. He was an OCD player who quick saves after entering every door, walking through every hallway, and so on.
But after we did our first Dragon Ball Z video game, Dragon Ball Z: Budōkai, I realized, ‘I would love to do this every day.’ I love working on Dragon Ball, but working on the games was so cool, and I took to that. So I left FUNimation and started a studio in Dallas called OkraTron 5000, and it’s now 10 years old.
I’ve been working closely with FUNimation since I left. A lot of the guys who still work at FUNimation, one of the heads of the production department was my studio engineer. Justin Cook. The voice of Yusuke, Raditz, and Super Buu. Just imagine that Super Buu is the head of production at FUNimation. Let that sink in.
Justin: We thought Dragon Ball Z was over, but it came back to us in 2009 with Dragon Ball Kai.
Seán: Yeah, and then Akira Toriyama came out of retirement, of sorts, and said he’s going to make another movie, and we’re like, ‘Okaaaay.’ And then he does it again with the latest movie.
*Justin plays a trailer for Dragon Ball Z Kai.
Justin: Something to note about Dragon Ball Z Kai is that this brought Dragon Ball Z back to a new generation.
Seán: True. But what’s interesting about it is that the original Dragon Ball Z dub by FUNimation, they were trying to do so much to make it palatable to everyone, and anime wasn’t popular at the time, but anime had become more popular to the point that they felt confident that they could release something pure and true to the original form. Which I’m a fan of, as a purist.
I had a moment when recording Kai, and I worked on Dragon Ball Z, and I understood that it was popular, but I didn’t understand why it was SO popular. I couldn’t boil it all down to explosions and fighting. ‘Yeah, monster trucks are exciting, but not everybody loves them. So why is Dragon Ball Z more popular than monster trucks?’ So I tried to do the math and I figured out that in Kai, when we had some of the raw Japanese translation, it was like, as an actor, ‘Ohh, NOW I get why this is so deep.’ In recent months I’ve discovered, that people often ask me:
‘What’s your favorite story arc?’ It’s not this saga or that saga, it’s the entire Goku–Vegeta relationship.
Which you don’t understand completely unless you watch Kai because it’s explored more deeply because it’s closer to the original Japanese translation. And I was a much better actor by the time we recorded Kai (Chris: Yes.).
I like the original DBZ because it’s nostalgic and good, but as an actor and story guy, I prefer Kai.
Chris: We learned a lot about the series by doing Kai.
Seán: Ohhh, that’s why he hates so and so. I get it.
Chris: Goku fights because he kind of gets turned on by it.
Seán: There are a couple of lines where it seems like a weird turn on.
Goku’s like, “I’m getting excited!” And think about it, he only has two kids, and he’s never at home, and he doesn’t like to spend time with Chichi. So, I don’t know, haha.
At the end of Resurrection of ‘F,’ which I got to watch with Masako Nozawa next to me, she’s amazing, I got to ask her, “Hey, where’s Chichi during Resurrection of ‘F’?,’ because you don’t get to see her much in the movie. She says in rough English (in Japanese accent), “She’s at home.”
It was so cute, I didn’t press it for a further the translation.
Justin: Then we start releasing the Bluray productions in 2013. So more Dragon Ball Z, nonstop. I’ve been at the company for 7 years, and there’s been a lot of Dragon Ball Z in my life. I grew up watching it, joined the martial arts because of it, and am here at this panel for 25 years of Dragon Ball Z, and I grew up watching these guys, now I’m working at FUNimation, and now here. It’s a weird lifecycle. It’s been in almost every aspect of my life. But the biggest thing for me personally was the red carpet theatrical premiere of Battle of Gods. We did this premiere last year, and at the time it was the biggest red carpet event we had ever thrown.
*Justin plays the red carpet premiere video of Battle of Gods
Justin: Then we had a Dragon Ball Z after party, we bowled, there was a guy making balloon animals.
Chris: I don’t remember anything of that night. So I guess I had a really good time.
Justin: And now we’re back again.
Seán: We thought Battle of Gods was it, but Japan decided, ‘We’re going to do it again.’ Okay then.
Justin: Right, with Resurrection of ‘F’ coming up this year. We just came back from the world premiere.
Chris: It was amazing!
Seán: Was it at the Chinese Theater?
Chris: No, they wouldn’t go there. It was at the Egyptian Theater.
Justin: That is now the biggest event we’ve ever had from a red carpet perspective. It was crazy.
Seán: The voice of Goku was there. Toei was there, Shueisha was there. It was unbelievable. We had a dinner, and I remember, it was unprecedented. The Japanese were unaware of how big it was here. I remember having dinner and they were telling the translator how impressed they were, and I told Masako and the executives, because of this room and rooms like it, “That’s the tip of the iceberg guys. You think that was big? It’s like a super-giant spirit bomb!” and they were like ‘Ooooh,’ very impressed by that.
What was shocking to me, is that I think it’s unprecedented in FUNimation’s history and anime dub history, is that they brought the cast together and had a world premiere in America before the premiere in Japan. That says a lot about your fandom and support. They were so impressed by Battle of Gods that they decided to do it in America, because you guys came out to see it. They showed up because of you guys, and that’s damned impressive. Never happened before in anime history. Truly fantastic.
*The audience applauds.
Seán: You got Japan’s attention. So they were happy, we were happy to make them happy, so it was a big happy fest.
Chris: And we got to see it 2 weeks ago. And you didn’t. Oh my god it’s so good.
Seán: Most of the time you do a blockbuster film and the sequel sucks, but not this one.
Chris: It’s like a yin and yang with Battle of Gods. It would be awesome to watch them as a double feature. It takes over where the other one left off. If you left Battle of Gods thinking, ‘Man, I wish it had this, and this, and this,’ well it’s got 10 of those things.
Seán: You guys are used to consuming media like we all are, and there’s all this bullshit and hype. But I don’t hype, and I’m really honest about my art. I can’t express enough how much I love this movie and how surprised I was by it. I couldn’t believe that anything could be better than Battle of Gods. It was the best work we’ve ever done. But some of the animation, the CGI, it’s more seamless, the fight scenes are beautiful, the story is great, the comedy is awesome. There are no lost jokes, where a Japanese audience gets it but an American audience won’t. I can’t say enough good things about it. I was afraid that it was going to suck, because it’s rare to do two movies in a row with the same guy and have the sequel be better. You guys are going to have a great time this summer, and I mean that from the bottom of my heart. It’s going to be awesome.
Justin: One of the things I remember is that the fight scenes are so particular. Comparing it to Battle of Gods, where you have the one big fight scene.
Chris: They pulled away from a lot of the martial arts in Battle of Gods, but in this one they focused on that.
Seán: You can see the camera rotating around in 3D, and even in the crowd shots you can see the guys swarming in one by one. And I spoke with the animation director and he told me he fought for that scene. So the fact I noticed it made him happy. Little details like that are all over the place, and it’s great.
*Justin plays a clip of the battle between Goku and Beerus in Battle of Gods, with the behind the scenes recording. Huge applause.
Seán: Wow, I’m a complete maniac.
Out of control.
Chris: You just figured that out?
Justin: One of the things that happened with Battle of Gods is Super Saiyan God mode. It broke the cap of Super Saiyan levels. Now with Resurrection of ‘F’ it’s getting even higher. New forms and new powers. Pretty ridiculous. “Over 9,000!” is nowhere even close to where we’re at now.
Chris: The Scouter is broke, we’ll never know.
Justin: Dragon Ball Z being such a popular phenomenon, we worked with Mega64 to create this trailer, basically because they’re funny. This is an example of how ridiculous Dragon Ball Z could get, maybe, in the future.
*Plays a clip of their Mega64 spoof trailer. Lots of laughter from the audience.
Justin: In setting up Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection of ‘F,’ everybody is getting kicked up a notch. Includin this guy.
*Shows golden Freeza. Plays a clip of the trailer.
So Freeza gets his hold gold form there, and it’s super awesome.
And something we haven’t confirmed until now… Chris, do you want to do the honors?
Chris: We’ve been lucky enough to secure the extremely talented Christopher Ayres to play Freeza. He was the voice of Freeza in Kai, and the games, and he’s the embodiment of the evil that Freeza is.
Seán: Not personally, but in his acting.
Justin: This makes Freeza even more sinister than before. And we’ve talked about this before. He doesn’t use words like saying, “I’m going to kill you.” He writes it off almost as a business plan, the way he takes care of his enemies. We’re excited to be able to do all of this again. The theatrical release will be this summer.
Seán: And just to clarify something. Linda Young is the original Freeza, she’s freaking amazing, she’s the Freeza you all remember, and she’s incredible and we absolutely adore her. *Applause*
The only problem is that when Kai came out, we had to read Freeza at a different pace than we used to. Whether you guys knew or not, the original Dragon Ball Z in English, we talked a lot more than in the Japanese version. Every time their back was turned, we let the characters talk well over into those off segments. Now Freeza has to fit all of those crazy wicked lines into a shorter period of time. The lines are quick, sinister, and fast, and unfortunately, Linda wasn’t able to speak that fast. And Chris, this is his specialty.
It was a tough decision to go with Chris over Linda, but we feel that Chris will be the best thing for this feature, and I think you’ll enjoy his work on it.
Seán: It’s gonna’ be awesome. I am confident.
Justin: Alright, let’s give these guys a round of applause for their time on this panel.
Justin: We do have time for some Q & A.
Question and Answer
*Audience member’s line up to a mic in the center of the room.
Q: If you were given a chance to come up with an idea for a Dragon Ball short, what would you do?
Seán: There’s rumors all over the Internet about a new series, and I always thought if there were going to be a new series, I like the idea of a new generation of fighters, not trying to find the dragon balls, but trying to find Goku wherever he is. He’s the new Master Roshi, and what would Goku be like as an old man, and how would he train the younger generation? He lives in a tiny house, and they go on a long quest. That’d be an interesting story.
Chris: I’d like it to be a romantic comedy between Vegeta and Bulma. Or a reality show. (in Vegeta’s voice) “No! You do the dishes!” “Fine, okay, okay.”
Q: Do you guys have a favorite scene or interaction between Goku and Vegeta? And can you act it out?
Seán: If I can remember it. One of my favorite scenes is when Vegeta tricks Goku during the Majin Saga and knocks him out from behind, after Goku convinces him not to do this Majin thing, and clocks him in the back of the head and takes off.
Chris: I’ve been saying that for years. That’s my favorite part.
Seán: Why do you have to steal it from me?
Chris: No no no, that’s okay, I think you just realized their relationship was important recently.
Seán: I did, yeah, a few weeks ago.
Chris: That’s always been my favorite part. The Majin Vegeta stuff and the epic fight between him and Goku.
*They re-enact the fight in a playful manner.
Q: I’ve been watching since 3rd grade, and it went all the way to GT, and I remember, ‘This is it.’ Then we saw Battle of Gods in theaters. Thank you for helping me become who I am.
Vegeta and Goku are the most iconic roles in all of anime right now. Since you were one of the first ones to voice act, do you get a lot of calls from new voice actors bugging you for advice?
Seán: On several occasions I’ve been asked to teach voice acting classes, and I haven’t wrapped my head around how to do it. I taught music lessons for 7 years, but haven’t figured out how to do voice acting lessons yet. Especially since moving to LA. I’ve been thinking about it, and might start doing it. Chris, didn’t you tell me once that after we moved away and this new generation moved in, that we’re the old guard.
Chris: Yeah, we’re the old, dusty ones. I go into FUNimation sometimes and the new actors are not expecting me, and they go, “Ohhh, heeeey, Chris!” and they get flustered. *talking gibberish*
Seán: I met Ian Sinclair a while ago, and he walked behind me at my table, thanking me for the work I did, and I didn’t understand it, thinking he was being a bit too complimentary as a fellow actor. Kind of geeking out.
Chris: A lot of the new actors coming up are your age (the audience’s age), and they grew up watching Dragon Ball Z. Xenoverse has 20 new characters, and in the past I had to explain the techniques to each of the actors that came in, but now they know each of the attacks already and say they’re excited to come in and read the lines.
Q: Thank you for voicing the anime that got me into anime. When Freeza’s new form was first revealed in Resurrection of ‘F,’ what were your honest reactions?
Seán: I thought it was like a really sweet Lexus. I really like it. A sweet machine.
Chris: An Apple watch.
Seán: Freeza, Resurrection of ‘F’,’ designed by Apple.
Chris: I avoided all the pictures I could, including the preliminary screener copy that was given to me before the premiere in the theater because I wanted to experience it that way. I almost gave it to Seán, but I said, ‘No, let’s watch it the way it was supposed to be seen.’
Q: What are your thoughts and feelings on how you impacted many kid’s lives and most of us in here today? Watching you is how I learned to speak English.
Seán: YOU’RE WELCOME. NICE JOOOB.
Q: So when I saw Dragon Ball Z in Battle of Gods in theaters as a teenager, I cried tears of joy.
Chris: We all did. Seriously. I saw it 5 times in the theater and felt emotional all 5 times.
Seán: Same here.
Q: So can you explain about how you feel about this impact on us?
Seán: I’m putting two and two together that you happen to talk at a really rapid speed pattern similar to me, and you’re saying that you learned to speak English from me. ‘Is that because of me?’
We feel like we’re just the guys who bring the characters to life. It’s really Akira Toriyama’s character designs and the story written by him. But we have to make those things be alive with our emotions and pitches. We have to feel it in order for you to feel it.
I always wanted my voice, the intensity, clarity, and emotion, to match the animation, particularly in the fight scenes, and I always felt like I was just reaching the surface, and I wanted to go further.
But Chris was right, we cried every time we saw it in the theaters. But it’s true what I said earlier about the kid’s brains are growing and their neural networks are infused with my voice and what I’m doing.
Q: Maybe that’s why I speak like you.
Chris: ‘I’m feeling so Kamehameha right now!’
That’s not what that means dude.
Seán: It’s one of those things where you can say, “If I die tomorrow, I’m done, I’m good. I came to earth as a human being and left something that’s forever.” It’s the greatest feeling in the world. I’m going to cry now.
Q: As a fan, and I’m sure you’ve had these thoughts too, I’ve always wanted to see fights that don’t occur in the series. Have you ever wondered what it would be like if Vegeta and Piccolo ever fought, because they have similar character paths.
Chris: You’re blowing my mind here. They never fought in the Freeza Saga? That’s probably why I have a voice today.
Justin: That’s what Dragon Ball Xenoverse is for. You can pit the characters against eachother or make your own characters.
Seán: Some of those crazy characters are hysterical. I would want Goku to fight Gregory or something ridiculous like that.
Chris: I would want Puer and Chaozu to get really angry at one another.
Q: Did you guys grow up watching cartoons like we did?
Seán: Yes. We are from America.
Q: Haha. Did you ever think, ‘Man, I wish I could grow up and be on that show?’
Seán: I never aspired to be a voice actor. I was going to be a professional French horn player, which I was. But when I got into the booth for the first time I felt like I had come home because I had spent my whole childhood turning down the volume on TV and making up voices on black and white television. Doing impersonations all the time. I was fascinated by Rich Little, Robin Williams, Michael Winslow, and how they could change their voices. I remember watching Scooby Doo, Speed Buggy, Super Friends and the Wonder Twins, Batman and stuff, which I got to voice for iPad. But when I got to play a guest starring role on Scooby Doo, I didn’t realize that my childhood dream would be to work with Frank Welker, and I started balling, and I had to hold it together in my session. There were 7 of us in the recording room, and every time he did the Scooby voice I started to cry and had a hard time holding it together.
So I don’t think of roles in that way, thinking I’d like to be that guy someday. Although I do regret not being able to play Vegeta, because he’s a way funner character to play than Goku. Chris can be a total dick at cons and everybody loves him. He’s like, “I won’t sign it!” “Oh I love it! Tell me I’m an asshole!” “You’re an asshole!” “Oh, yeah, I love it!” I don’t get to do that, they expect me to be nice, and when I’m not, they think I’m a jerk.
Chris: I didn’t realize as a kid that there were people doing voices on cartoons as I watched them. We didn’t have a YouTube to go to see extra features and such.
Seán: We had 5 channels.
Chris: Yeah, although we were lucky and had a cable box you could click, click, click, to get to other channels. I never knew that acting was a dream of mind, but I knew I wanted to do something with my voice. I went to opera school, always recording things, hooking things together. So I didn’t always aspire to be an actor, but I’m happy that I get to own a studio, be a producer, play on a bunch of stuff, and do fun audio things, so my dreams have all come true for that reason.
Q: You guys turned out to be so cool in real life. That’s awesome. You’ve gotten to be these characters for so long, did you get to improv in the studio, or were you stuck to the scripts?
Seán: We usually don’t get to improvise, but I’ve gotten to know the character so well that I know it better than some writers, especially when they’re new, and I say, “Goku wouldn’t do this, he’s not selfish. We gotta’ change this line.” Then Chris will double check it, and he’ll usually agree with me and the writer will defer to me. That’s rare, because you usually have to defer to the director. As far as improv, there are hours and hours of outtakes in an archive that will be released when my contract expires.
Chris: You could also say that all of the sound effects you see in these shows are improv’d. There’s no script that says what we’re supposed to do. You just watch it. Sorry, I’ve never been in a fist fight my entire life, but I feel like I know what it’s supposed to sound like.
Seán: When I first got on the show I had this idea I was going to do a different sound effect for each fight react, but I didn’t realize there were going to be 8 million of them. So that was a dumb idea. But that was a great question.
Q: You guys are one of the biggest role models that inspired me to be who I am today. What is your favorite moment in DBZ?
Seán: There are so many.
Chris: The moment I heard there was a new movie out. I’m serious. I’ve never felt so amazing in my life.
Seán: I would agree with that. My favorite moment is Battle of Gods. It’s my favorite thing of DBZ to date.
Justin: And we haven’t even got to record Resurrection of ‘F,’ yet, so there are many more moments to come.
Chris: Yeah, and after that, it’s the driving school episode.
*Seán and Chris stand up to wave goodbye.
Chris: FINAL FLAAASH!!