Cast & Crew of ‘Dragonball’ Explain Differences Between Cartoon and Movie

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dragonball header Cast & Crew of Dragonball Explain Differences Between Cartoon and Movie

[NOTE: THIS ARTICLE IS 100% SPOILER-FREE]

No matter the source material – be it a novel, comic book, graphic novel, TV show or cartoon – there is always going to be some complaints about the movie adaptation. Even if the changes are critical to making the adapted story work on-screen, fans of the source material get up in arms about simple, unimportant things like changed hair colors or age differences.

One such movie catching that flack right now is Dragonball, which is based on the ultra-popular anime series. In an interview with MTV News, the cast and crew of Dragonball have gone out of their way to try and justify any changes they may have been made from the original cartoon to the movie.

James Marsters (Buffy The Vampire Slayer), who plays Lord Piccolo in Dragonball, is a huge fan of the original cartoon but was adamant to remind fans that the letter “Z” that most people associate with coming after the word “Dragonball,” wasn’t introduced until about 150 episodes into the series. He also says that just because he isn’t the same Piccolo fans know and love for much of this first film, that doesn’t mean that in potential sequels (one of which is in the works already) he won’t become more reminiscent of the Piccolo fans expect.

Director James Wong explains many of the changes made by attributting them as “superficial necessities in pulling characters into the “real” world.” He also compares the project to the X-Men movies. For example, just because the character of Goku wears a bright orange costume in the cartoon, doesn’t mean it will work on-screen (I think he’s referring to Wolverine’s original yellow and black outfit compared to how he looked in the movies). Wong said that they, “shot so many test with so many different versions [of the costume], a hint to fans that the original costume(s) may make a brief appearance.

Justin Chatwin, who portrays Goku, has said that the biggest point of issue (for him, anyway) was to get  the character’s trademark spikey hairstyle right. According to Chatwin, it took forty cans of hairspray to get the right combination between the cartoon and the “real” world hairstyle. Co-star Emmy Rossum, who plays Bulma, also went through a few attempts using blue wigs before the filmmakers settled for using blue dye.

goku Cast & Crew of Dragonball Explain Differences Between Cartoon and Movie

In an overall sense, Wong has said that the major changes come from trying to capture the spirit and tone of the cartoon series. Wong said it was quite early on that they changed to a more family-friendly tone, forcing them to drop some of the more risque elements that were present in the cartoon.

However, the cast maintains that the most important elements of the characters are still very much in the movie, even if they appear to be completely different. For example, when it comes to Chow Yun-Fat’s Master Roshi:

“He kind of embodies the essence of Master Roshi,” explained Jaime Chung (Chi Chi), “Minus being perverted.”

Now, I am a firm believer in the fact that adaptation means that certain things absolutely have to be changed. Not just hair or eye color, but even something crucial like an accent or an attitude should be changed if it needs to be, in order for it to work better on the big-screen.

A prime example is Galactus from Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer. I am not going to say I liked what they did with Galactus – turning him into a storm cloud was a titanically dumb idea that was jaw-droppingly lame to witness in the movie theater. But at the same time, I can see why they changed it from what he originally is in the comic (again,  I’m not saying I like what they changed it to, just that I understand why they did it).

galactus1 Cast & Crew of Dragonball Explain Differences Between Cartoon and Movie

If they had faithfully translated Galactus from comic book page to the big-screen it would have looked bloody ridiculous. A giant man with a purple helmet, floating through the universe devouring planets? No one, not even the most experienced and skilled filmmakers in the world, could have made that look anything other than preposterous.

The same need for re-interpretation goes for any other movie adaptation, including Dragonball. The filmmakers hopefully had good reason for changing the things they did, otherwise why would they have changed them? Clearly there were certain things that just didn’t work, and they made the right decision to change them.

Whether Goku has an orange suit or a green suit; whether Piccolo has green skin or brown skin; whether this character has this hair color or that hair color… It doesn’t matter. Adaptation means exactly that: things need to be adapted, if the original concept doesn’t work on-screen, even if that adaptation means being “unfaithful” to the source material.

What are your thoughts on the changes the filmmakers have made to Dragonball? Do you agree that in any adaptation things have to be changed if they don’t work on-screen? Or are you one of the die-hard purists who believes that the source material is sacred and should never be mucked with?

Dragonball is scheduled to be released this Friday the 10th of April, 2009.

Source: MTV Splash Page

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  1. yes, I agree with the changes, that why I am looking forward to the movie. for years I always wondered what a live action db movie would look like if they did an actual translation and I came to the conclusion that it would look extremely stupid.

  2. thank you thank you thank you!!!! Finally someone speaks a little reason when it comes to these movies that have a fanbase outside of the movie material itself.
    I don’t always like certain adaptations but you are 100% correct that sometimes things just won’t translate well to a live action film

  3. Makes me wonder how they are going to translate Thor to film…

  4. I think they are full of crap, let me explain. I will go see this movie because I have waited all my life and I will tear no matter what, but this show is my favorite story of my life; ever. Do you understand what it means to a true fan? The creator of 300 or Lord of the Rings or Terminator Salvation or Transformers should have been the director – PERIOD! They should have started JUST as DBZ did – no exceptions. Goku should have been bigger, tougher, sleeker. There should be Vegeta and Krillin. They should have never started with Dragonball – no way. I say NO WAY. I don’t care what you guys think you were wrong and your lucky it isnt your money used to make this film. What a shame – you don’t ruin stories of greatness like this – you just dont.

  5. Its not the small aesthetic changes that bother fans its the sloppy job of a film 20th Century Fox made is the problem. Here let me elaborate.

    There is nothing good about this film. The best aspect of the film and its still very average is the score composed by Brian Tyler. The 86 minute running time, awkward pacing, horrible editing, sloppy and unnecessary plot holes within an already diluted watered down version of the King Piccolo arc (among other parts of Dragonball) written by Ramsey makes for an excruciating viewing.

    As you can see the DB:E section here at SHH is now a ghost town pretty much. A lot of people had hope (I was optimistically skeptical) , but once detrimental information started leaking (rushed,re-shoots, etc) and the trailers were a disappointment to most, and then the clips surfaced which only ended up confirming most of our fears of the actors screwing up the roles.

    So a combination of a rushed schedule, hiring a director like James Wong, Fox handling the franchise, hiring a two bit writer, and hiring a cast that didn’t seem prepared to take the roles and ended up giving tired and boring performances (because of the rushed scheduling most likely), along with a pathetic $45 million dollar budget for one of the most popular anime adaptations made for a horrible result named “Dragonball: Evolution”.

  6. Yeah, that’s a great idea Ken. Let’s start the movie with Goku already having mastered his powers, met and married his wife, had a son, and for some reason an alien prince is on his way to earth to kill him. You need to lay some kind of foundation for future events, and even though I’m not sure how DB will turn out I am sure that starting the story with DB instead of DBZ was the right move.

  7. @ Ken Jarvis

    I completely agree with you, I am a DBZ fan from way back and believe this movie looks pretty terrible. I want it to be good, i really do. I agree with Ross that not all aspects of the source material can be followed but what reason do they have for changing the fantastic story.I don’t care that piccolo looks different i actually really like the look they gave him. Just the action we have seen from the trailer look incredibly dodgey. I really can’t wait for the sequel because hopefully they do it right. Please don’t change Vegeta too much.

  8. exactly! i agree 100 percent with this article. The people who criticize this movie need to be more open-minded and accept that the adaptation can never be exactly like the cartoon or comic.

    Fantastic Four and X-Men are perfect examples. But they both were fairly successful films.

    I think that all the BS criticism of this film is bringing it down. if people just watched it with an open mind we would all be fine. I am lookin forward to the release this week in the US.

    BTW, i have been a DBZ fan since the early 2000s, ever since the shows were played on Cartoon Network. A lot of the stuff in this movie is wrong, but i will give the cast and crew an open-minded and fair chance and will appreciate the movie in the end. i look forward to the sequels to follow this movie hopefully.

  9. For YEARS since I was very young I had always dreamed up that epic day when Goku would be brought to the Big Screen. When I heard that it was to be released in ’09 I was exstatic but then people started telling me about all the things that they weren’t true to and I began to loose hope in it. So yesterday I took a chance and went to watch it.

    I must say that I thoroughly enjoyed it. I don’t understand what all the hullabaloo is about?
    I understand why certain elements were changed because if they were kept the EXACT way they were then the film would have looked like the sailor moon live action movie. I’m glad that they used graphics and effects for the bad guys and not costumes and make-up.

    But I think certain elements could have been kept closer to the anime. Like Goku in school, Mai in general (did not like her), the absence of Krillin and Kami house, how the Kamehameha is performed and how it is revealed to Goku that he’s an alien.

    I would have liked for them to be truer to those elements in particular and perhaps some of the fighting/flying effects could have been polished a bit more that way they didn’t look like they were held by overly-exaggerated wires.

    I also think that since it wasn’t exactly clear in the trailer that people should understand that certain characters were excluded because of the time-frame that they had the story span.

    I think that people shouldn’t just shy away from the film because of critics. I don’t care what critics say because quite frankly most of their opinions are the exact opposite of my thoughts.
    But the one thing I wanna know about the movie is: the Piccolo that we see in the movie is described as King Piccolo. Is this Z-fighter Piccolo’s father that Goku was supposed to beat when he was really young…or is he the one that Goku is supposed to defeat in the tournament when he’s 18 before he’s married to Chi-Chi?

  10. The changes are dumb, and the only people defending them are on the take.

  11. Also, it’s total bs to be arguing that you can’t be more authentic to the source material after all the recent successful comic book movies which were in fact faithful to the source material. Even Watchmen generally got it right, and will probably at least break even, while this turkey’s going to die like Chun Li a month ago.

  12. The superfluous aethestic differences are not the problem. Those things have to be changed.

    It’s the fact that they’ve butchered the story to a point that its almost unrecognizable. X-Men worked because even though several character’s backstories were changed, and the movie followed a new story, the characters still acted and felt that their respective characters.

    With Dragonball, they’ve changed not only the physical appearances, but every single character’s backstory, as well as the main story arc, AND they made almost no attempt to make the characters act like their anime/manga counterparts (the worst offenders being Goku and Bulma, although I’ll admit I thought Chatwin did a good job with what he was given).

    In order for an adaptation to be successful, it has to keep SOMETHING from the original source material other than the character’s names. This movie did not.

  13. I’m still excited for this movie adaption. After organic web shooters, a cloud galactus, non bodybuilder type Venom, and a 6’3 wolverine, I’m prepared for anything. I’m also interested in this as an alternative or what if? universe. I’ll be watching it as a fan, but also as a different take to the mythology. Kind of like Marvel’s Ultimate comic book series.

  14. @ Josh R

    I completely agree with you… if your a “hardcore fan” you wouldn’t really be bothered by the hair or costumes… but the the story itself… now i was introduced to dragonball when i was 5 and that was in 1988 (yes its that old!!!) and i’ve loved it ever since… but if they would have wanted to do this right they would have started the movie with a brief intro of who goku is and some of the other characters… then i would have gone directly to just before the second tournament. Where he fought lord piccolo’s son… now they could do this for the sequel… but i would have done that for the first. Plus i would have concentrated mainly on the choreography of the fighting… because in dragonball… not dragonball z.. they actually fought alot more then they used there ki. But maybe thats just me… “Die hard 4″ was pg-13… and it had alot of action… why can’t this one…?

  15. I think most of the changes they made were unnecessary. The only reason I’m not really really furious is that I didn’t expect that movie to be like the manga, but when I knew Krilin wasn’t on that movie, Mutenroshi wasn’t a pervert and I saw the hairstyle of Bulma, I was really furious. They shouldn’t have done this movie.

  16. Haha, this is the first time I’ve read of what they did to Galactus in the second FF movie. Yet again, I disagree with you Ross, they could have and should have stuck with Galactus as he is typically depicted. The movie was panned anyhow, might as well have done it for the fanboys/girls.

    Also, I’ve just read that Straczynski, author of the Silver Surfer spin-off screenplay, has commented that Galactus in his cloud form was merely a disguise. Also from wiki, “Director Tim Story claimed he made Galactus a cloud so that the future Silver Surfer spin-off film would have a chance to be unique and introduce the character as he normally appears” (cited from the DVD’s audio commentary).

  17. Ok, but the issue is not the color of the clothes or the skin, but the way they “adapted” the plot… it is not adaptaded, it is trashed. Now it is a typical US comedy, not an epic story. Besides, it is not action packed, and they did a very bad job adapting the fights.

  18. I love that. The uniform they can lose, but hey, got to make sure the hair is right!

    As some have already pointed out, it isn’t these superficial changes that matter.

    The Dragonball fans love had a young Goku who grew up in the wild who didn’t know what a girl was and who solved problems by flying headbutting them.

    This movie is Dragonball in name only. It isn’t about mistaking it for DragonballZ or complaining about the look. It is the lack of the spirit, which is what they claim to have kept.

    Goku doesn’t have a destiny to save the world. He just does it. It’s that simple.

  19. Well said, I agree with you Ross. The differences addressed by the cast members, however, are only miner changes. I couldn’t care less if Goku’s outfit is orange or Bulma’s hair is actually blue. The changes and differences to the story appear to be major. I agree with most people here, from what I’ve seen they did a poor job with this adaptation. Hopefully it’ll do terrible in the box office, and it’ll be remade properly in the future. Kind of like the Incredible Hulk.

  20. TO BE TOTALLY HONEST, YES CHANGES HAD TO BE MADE, BUT IN ALL SERIOUSNESS, ITS A MOVIE THAT IF DONE MORE LIKE THE CARTOON WOULD BE EPIC.ZACK SNYDER DID 300..IT APPEALED TO FANS AND APPEALED TO THE GENERAL PUBLIC,,HE KEPT THE LOOK AND FEEL THE SAME AND CHANGED A FEW BUT STILL STAYED TRUE TO THE GRAPHIC NOVEL, BUT ALSO WORKED WITH ITS CREATOR TO GET IT RIGHT.ORANGE SUIT,GREEN SKIN, NO KRILLIN, HIGHSCHOOL GOKU-YES CHANGE A FEW THINGS BUT TO ME IT SEEMS THEY CHANGED WAY TO MANY THINGS,WAY TO MANY.TRUE FANS HATE THIS FILM-ITS A SLAP IN THE FACE, JUST LIKE STREETFIGHTER MOVIES.TO MAKE A SEQUEL TO THE MOVIE IS JUST DRIVING THE NAIL EVEN DEEPER AND POURING SALT INTO THE WOUND.YOU SHOULD HAVE LET THE WACHOWSKI BROTHERS DO DRAGONBALL,AT LEAST THEY HONOR THE MANGA MORE CLOSELY.

  21. @arrell

    I think Galactus would have looked ridiculous in a live action movie as a guy bigger than a planet.

    But that’s just me. :-)

    Vic

  22. @vic Holtreman
    all right, they could change your cloths but “the guy bigger than a planet” must be a bigger than a planet ! Like a good (but lets stop talking FF)

    come back to Dragonball:evolution
    “After wath the movie”, all of you come back to talk about the “goku vs piccolo fight on the movie”.

  23. Fix: Like a GOOD (but lets stop talking FF)

  24. The fact is this movie just sucks. Flat out. It’s a shame because I had hopes for it. I’m not a diehard fan, but a fan nevertheless and all those superficial comments from the actors and the studio about the changes being made are just that: Superficial.

    The plot was too drastically changed to retain much semblance to the original. If you’re not going to stick to at least 85% of the original format it makes no sense making the movie.

    They would have been better off making a full length anime.

  25. HEY GALACTUS WAS A CLOUD..THAT WAS STUPID, BUT A GIANT GUY WOULD BE STUPIDER? I PREFER SEEING THE GIANT, IT WONT WORK IT WONT WORK, DUDE I WOULD MAKE IT WORK.

  26. Hey Gunsmith –

    Stop yelling.

    Hit the caplocks button dude.

  27. How about the cast and crew explain why this flick sucks so bad and FAILS. Before you even start bashing YES I HAVE SEEN THIS FILM

  28. I agree with a few changes in the adeptation version of Dragon ball. I am 240 pound bodybuilder with a Goku super sain level one tatoo from the Freeza series and I beilive Justin Chatwin is going to have to get to @ least 210 to 220 to make all the DBZ fans happy. We fell in love with the war’s the Z fighters have fault and it would be crazy for the film to have 3 min fight sceans. I will see this move and love it no matter how bad or great it may be.

  29. Justin Chatwin should never have been Goku in the first place. Him putting on 200lbs will only make him FAIL harder than he already has in this flick. Sometimes fans kill me turning a blind eye to truth. I think u will recant that love it if it still bad statement after you see how awful this flick is. Adaptations were made for the worse here.

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