On October 6, 2011, FUNimation streamed a live interview on YouTube to help promote the Blu-ray release of Dragon Ball Z on November 8.
The guests included Gen Fukunaga (Founder and CEO of FUNimation), Matt O’Hara (Manager of DVD, Blu-ray and video production), and Christopher Sabat (voice of Vegeta, Piccolo, Yamcha, and also the ADR Director behind the English voice cast).
During the interview Gen hints that he would love to have more Dragon Ball Z in the pipeline, and has been trying to collaborate with TOEI and Shueisha to make that happen!
What does this mean for the series, and for fans?
DBZ Blu-ray Interview Transcript
Q: Gen, can you tell us about Dragon Ball Z’s journey to the west.
Gen: Sure, well, it started back in the 90’s. Eventually we signed a deal and started FUNimation in 1994. But it took quite a while to negotiate the terms with TOEI because we were a startup, and it was such a big franchise overseas already by then. So they had told us we couldn’t have it at first. So it went through a long, arduous process of trying to convince them. My uncle, Nagafumi Hori helped a lot, to help bring that over. He works for TOEI on the live action side, he’s retired now, but he worked for TOEI there, and that helped as well.
[note that Nagafumi Hori was a producer at TOEI on the Tokusentai type series – shows similar to Power Rangers.]
Q: Dragon Ball Z has been in the United States for over 15 years now.
Gen: Yeah, I started the company when I was 10!
Q: What inspired you to really introduce Dragon Ball Z as a property in the United States? Were you a fan of it originally?
Gen: Yeah, well, I was a fan of anime in general. Especially [because] I lived in Japan in the eighth grade, which is perfect timing to get inundated with the great stuff that is over there. Got to see a lot of great shows. Nothing like it was in the U.S. at the time. Then when I was older I still didn’t see it in the U.S. It started that way. When I got to meet TOEI and I saw Dragon Ball Z it was kind of a no-brainer, in my opinion, “That’s the one title I want.” Of course, they said, “No, we have these other couple hundred titles, why don’t you pick one of these up, but not that one, that one’s too important.” But I was really persistent to get that particular title, because it was just so good.
Q: What do you think makes Dragon Ball Z so timeless as a property?
Gen: Like a lot of things in entertainment, it’s actually just back to the content. If you have really good storylines and great character development or endearing characters, that’s what drives good content. That is certainly the case with Dragon Ball Z. The content is excellent. The character development is excellent. The story lines and plots, and there are a lot of unique elements. Really, when you think back to the 90’s, there were a lot of innovative elements to that series that people have copied now over the years.
Q: In relation to the Blu-Ray, what can fans really expect out of the Blu-ray release coming up?
Gen: It’s the first time they’ve ever seen the film back to its original film footage. Honestly, when it was first brought over to the U.S., because anime wasn’t that big of a hit, how it was transferred over by the Japanese to ship us materials and make copies, it wasn’t top quality. They just transferred it over. There’s tape jitter, there’s tape cut marks, there’s scratches on the film, there’s a lot of things that were kind of issues, and really that’s the master we’ve been using for 17 years in the United States. But we actually got back in there, and through a big negotiation with TOEI got the original film, and we literally cleaned it up frame by frame by frame. Yeah. Got rid of all those imperfections. Color corrected it back to how the original production was when it was first shot. It looks just like the original original. That’s like, the ultimate.
Q: If you collected all seven dragon balls, what would your wish be?
Gen: I was hoping we could make more Dragon Ball Z! [laughter]. [We’re] trying to get TOEI and Shueisha to agree to all that!
Q: Believe me guys, we want it to happen as much as you guys want it to happen.
So What Do You Think?
Gen said, “I was hoping we could make more Dragon Ball Z! [laughter]. [We’re] trying to get TOEI and Shueisha to agree to all that.”
Since the series is over, what does Gen mean by “more Dragon Ball Z”? Does this mean that TOEI, Shueisha, and FUNimation are discussing the possibility of a new Dragon Ball series? Or does it simply mean more re-releases of the same usual content?
In the interview Gen says it with a slight pause, as if the negotiations are something he’s worked on for a while.
And the interviewer follows up and confirms that not only do the fans want “more Dragon Ball Z,” but so does FUNimation.
This isn’t a surprise considering that Dragon Ball is the series that made them super rich and successful.
What do you think? Will we see a new Dragon Ball series?
And for those who didn’t know exactly how FUNimation was started, or how they managed to secure the rights to Dragon Ball in the first place, this may have been an eye opener.
Essentially, Gen Fukunaga was able to secure the Dragon Ball license in the United States because of the influence of his uncle, Nagafumi Hori. Gen may have had his own strengths, but his uncle’s relationship with TOEI is what made it happen.
If you want to know more, I talk about this in a lot more detail in The Dao of Dragon Ball book.