For the third part of our Dragon Ball Super: Broly premiere roundtable interviews, we got to speak next with Chris Sabat, best known for voicing Vegeta and Piccolo, to ask regarding his thoughts on the upcoming film as well as the franchise as a whole.
Due to time constraints, we were joined with another reporter, Yukiko Sumi from the Weekly LaLaLa, and for the benefit of both our viewers and with her permission, I have also included her questions and answers from this roundtable session as well.
Daniel: Hey, guys. I’m Daniel Limjoco (@AnimeSavior) from ToonamiFaithful.com and @ToonamiNews, and I’m with Chris Sabat, the voice of Vegeta, Piccolo, Yamcha and many other characters from the Dragon Ball series, as well as the likes of All Might from My Hero Academia, Kyouma from Dimension W, and Zoro from One Piece, among over 9000 other roles.
It’s been almost 2 decades since DBZ first aired on Toonami and around the same time since you started voicing Vegeta and Piccolo. Looking back to the days when you first got cast, did you expect that this franchise (and by extension, your career) would be the way it is today?
Chris: Not in a million years. I had no idea that the show was going to go beyond the next year. I remember back in the earliest days, we didn’t even have much of a great internet to deal with, so we only had dial-up internet at best. There was no fan sites or anything like that. I wasn’t even aware of how globally accepted Dragon Ball was until I worked with the company for a little while. I am still amazed every time there is new series or a new game. It’s like it’s never going away. It’s very likely that I will be doing this role for the rest of my life. And if they ever try and take it away from me, I will strangle them.
Daniel: I’ve been listening to you voicing Vegeta since I was a kid, and I’m still finding it crazy that I’m in this press room getting to talk with you.
Chris: That’s my favorite thing. Meeting people your age knowing that my voice was getting into their brain matter when they were just children. And I can just say “I’m the prince of all Saiyans!” and it resonates in your brain in a special way, because you were so used to it when you were a child.
Do you think American and Japanese anime fans are different?
Chris: It’s hard to say. I used to think that they were very different. But as I’ve matured in this industry, it seems I would say that when anime first arrived in America, for the most part in a mass scale, like Dragon Ball in the late 90’s, it was a different thing. Because in the late 90’s, the mindset for Americans was “cartoons are for children and not for adults.” But now it’s intercepting to where we are releasing anime that’s only been out in Japan for like a week and sometimes simultaneously, and I feel like Japanese fandom and American fandom are converging into one large anime fandom that is very similar. I’m still learning what it’s like to be a fan of anime, and the more I learn, the more I realize how similar that fandom is all over the world.
Ever since Space Dandy aired on Toonami in 2014, Funimation has upped the amount of simuldubs they have produced, which has culminated to Broly premiering dubbed in US theaters a month after it premieres in Japan, a very fast turnaround compared to the English dubs of many other anime films. Can you give us an idea of how close this time crunch is and the level of difficulty compared to a film or show that might have several months or even years of breathing room to dub?
Chris: We’ll I can tell you as a director of shows, including the Dragon Ball Super: Broly movie and the Dragon Ball Z series, it’s nice to have the whole show at once because you know all the characters and you know where they’re going. In the case of these simuldubs, sometimes you’re only a couple weeks behind the original and you don’t know what the whole plan for the whole series is so you may not know what characters you are going to need down the line or if a character you cast a certain actor to may end up being a different character later on that you think: “Oh, another actor might have been better at this.” You just don’t always know. But as an actor, I actually find it really fun to work on a show week after week because when they have the whole show, they just bring you in for like 4 hours or 6 hours and you just get through a lot of it. You don’t feel like you’re actually working on a modern show, you feel like you’re just grinding through the recording of it. Whereas when they bring you in week-after-week, you really feel more connected to the show. You come in, you do your thing, and you see that immediate feedback online, like in the next week. Which is pretty fun.
What message do you believe this movie has?
Chris: I think it is a pretty mature film. Because there are some serious historical elements that I think Dragon Ball fans will really enjoy. Some of it covers material that we’ve already seen in other movies like Bardock. But I do feel that one thing that kids or anybody will learn from this movie, it’s that Bardock, Goku’s father, had a different heart than you imagined he would have. And it makes you wonder that maybe Goku was meant to be a good person, not because he fell on his head as a child, but maybe because he was given that feeling or he was given that power of goodness from his father. I don’t want to spoil it, but normally these Saiyans have been portrayed as these warriors that just go out and fight and eat their enemies and destroy, but Bardock has an amazing line in the film, and I don’t know if I should tell you what that is or not because I don’t want to spoil that for you at all. […] But he does say a profound statement about destroying versus saving, that I think people will take something very interesting away from him. I don’t know if there’s a real message in the movie that’s really what you’re really going to learn from it, this movie is more of an experience and a history lesson more than anything else.
From what you have seen, what are your impressions of the film and what should fans expect going into Broly?
Chris: Fans should expect this movie to be everything that they wanted from the last two movies (Battle of Gods and Resurrection F) that they didn’t get in those last two movies. If there was complaints that there wasn’t enough fighting in the previous movies, they will get the best fighting that they have seen in a Dragon Ball film. It’s absolutely gorgeous. Very very stunning. You’re going to get some canonical elements that you are expecting to see, Gogeta being one of them. But you’re going to get a story told by the creator exactly the way he wanted to tell it, which it’s pretty cool.
Daniel: Seeing all the trailers, I’m already hyped.
Chris: Oh, it’s so hype. You can see the trailers all day but you won’t understand until you see the film how powerful and emotional it is. By the end of the movie, it’s so much that I feel like some people will leave the theater in a daze because they’re so much happening, and there’s so much fighting that it almost becomes like overstimulation, if that makes sense.
Any advices for young people who want to become a voice actor?
Chris: My best advice is that when I started in this business 20 years ago, you kind of almost had to know someone in order to get into the business or you had to have a lucky break. But I think that while there’s still a lot of luck needed, I think how the universe works now is you need to be in control of your own destiny. Like if you want to be a voice actor, you can be a voice actor. If you can record lines and put them on the internet, you can. We have all the technology to record ourselves at home so you can practice doing exactly what you want to do. You can buy equipment at the store that can sound almost as good as a recording studio. So I think the people who are finding success in the entertainment business these days are the people who are creating things. Creating their own stories and their own characters and collaborating with their friends to do these things. Even if it’s not perfect, go out and make a movie with your friends, figure out how to do it. You can learn on YouTube on how to make a movie. You can’t sit around and wait for lucky things to happen, you just have to be smart enough to realize a lucky thing is happening to you, but be prepared when that time comes.
Beyond Broly, where would you like to see for Vegeta, Piccolo, and the Dragon Ball franchise go in general next? What’s on your personal wish list?
Chris: I want Vegeta to find out that Beerus is the one that told Frieza to destroy Planet Vegeta. And I want to see Vegeta and Beerus legitimately fight one another over it. I want Vegeta to be a destroyer. I also want Vegeta and Yamcha to live in an apartment together. That would be really funny.
What does it mean to be a part of the Dragon Ball franchise?
Chris: It’s the biggest honor a person can have [as an anime voice actor], to be in a show like this, that continues to surprise us, that continues to give us new things. We are so lucky to have been a part of a show for 20 years. I’m happy to have been part of a show that’s introduced so many people to anime over the years, that kids in the United States in the late 90’s that didn’t know that animation [like this] came from Japan. But [by being fans of Dragon Ball] now they watch [other shows] like Yu Yu Hakusho, they watch Kiddy Grade, they watch Lupin, they watch Attack on Titan, they watch My Hero Academia, all those people whom I’m happy to have been a part of the wave of anime production that started this whole trend of anime’s popularity in the US. It’s been an honor and I hope I get to do this part forever.
Compared to Goku, Vegeta hasn’t gotten as much respect as many of his fans say he deserves, and there are many who are rooting for Vegeta to have his time to shine. Do you think there could be a day Vegeta could surpass Goku?
Chris: I think they actually establish that for a brief moment in Resurrection F when Beerus hit Bulma, that Vegeta was for a brief moment in time stronger than Goku. They commented on that at the end of the movie. However, will Vegeta have his moment to be better than Goku? I always joke that the minute that happens, the planet will blow up and the show will be over. Akira Toriyama loves messing with Vegeta. I sometimes wonder if Vegeta is based off a bully that bullied Akira Toriyama when he was younger or something, and that Toriyama just loves to tease Vegeta into never having the spotlight. But I think something better has happened to Vegeta than winning. Vegeta has become a great person and that is more important I think to me than ever being better than Goku. I think the great thing about Vegeta and Goku is that they make each other better. Without Goku, Vegeta could never be better. Like they have to train with someone stronger. So I feel like he got something better than beating Goku. I think he has the better personality and character development and the better story than Goku has.
How did you get started in becoming a voice actor?
Chris: I was friends with someone who asked if I was interested in going to work at Funimation, because I did a lot of voice work and reading stuff back in the late 90’s. And someone asked if I was interested in coming up to Funimation to be a casting director. And that’s where it all started. My whole career started because I knew someone who told me “You should go and audition for this Japanese cartoon”, and I didn’t know what it was. Turns out it was Dragon Ball. It was the coolest thing that ever happened and I’m so glad that I did it.
One of Goku’s and Vegeta’s goals in life is to continuously become stronger, as we are introduced to characters who have become increasingly stronger than the enemies before. In the Super Era we’ve been introduced to Gods like Beerus and your character Whis, and Gods of Gods like Zeno. Not surprisingly, not all characters have been able to keep up (Krillin for instance). Do you think the level of powerful enemies could continue to grow as the series continues on?
Chris: Man, I have no idea where I think it can go from here. But I’m sure there are other universes that exist and there’s others in the Dragon Ball universe they have already mentioned, they can become more powerful. But I have no idea how they can make these characters any more powerful than they are. I would be happy if they just started doing episodes that were just about Vegeta and Bulma trying to raise Trunks. I would like to see episodes where Videl as an older woman and Gohan has died from natural causes, and she keeps wishing him back with the Dragon Balls over and over again, because a lot of these characters like Gohan and Goten have never experienced a loss because they always are aware that the Dragon Balls can bring people back. So I would like to see what’s it’s like for them to experience a character die, not wish them back, and being okay with it.
Chris: We’ll thank you so much, it was fun.
Daniel: Same here, so on behalf of the Toonami Faithful, Toonami News, and DBZ fans everywhere, thanks for talking with me and to everyone, look forward to Dragon Ball Super: Broly premiering in select theaters on January 16 and keep watching Dragon Ball Super every Saturday Night on Toonami.
Chris: Absolutely. I’ll talk to you again soon.
Images and screenshots are courtesy of Funimation.
Coming soon, more interviews from the Broly Premiere, including Sonny Strait and Sean Schemmel, and Vic Mignogna. If you missed them, check out my previous interviews with Ian Sinclair and Monica Rial.
What are your thoughts of this interview? Let us know what you think at the comments below or directly on our social media.