Sean Schemmel and Chris Sabat might not be household names, but if you are a millennial or the parent of a child born circa mid 90s, you most likely have heard their distinct growls coming from your TV over the past two decades. These two men have been the voice actors for Goku and Vegeta respectively ever since Funimation took over the localization rights for the hit anime, Dragon Ball Z.
Sabat also plays the role of Piccolo, who we all know is a better villain turned hero than Vegeta.
The two recently sat down for a reddit AMA interview and discussed the early days of the dubbing of the show and how it has changed over time. Both men claim that they absorbed the show at the same rate as the fans did with the Internet not being so huge or spoiler heavy back in the late 90s. Neither of them knew the story beyond the next few episodes, so neither felt secure in their jobs for very long.
Nowadays, being a fan is different because of the vast amounts of information available and how we absorb entertainment so differently. You kids don’t have to worry about the Frieza Saga resetting to episode 1 anymore! You can just go fire up your Hulus and your Netflixes and choose the pace at which you watch the show. When I was a teenager, 5:00 PM everyday! It was that or bust, you missed an episode and would be lost come the following weekday with no way to go back.
Both men also got really emotionally invested in their characters, probably more so than the fans did because of how attached they are to the voices.
I guess it would be appropriate to describe these guys as being around since the “early days,” but they were not the first actors to play the parts. Both Schemmel and Sabat took over the roles of their characters in 1998 once the Funimation dub kicked in halfway through the Frieza Saga in episode 54. Fans will forever debate the superiority of the Ocean and Funimation dubs, but these two guys were definitely the standouts of Funimation’s approach.
The earlier actors for Goku and Vegeta brought a bit of a different approach to the characters, with Goku more of a hapless wimp hiding his power and Vegeta more of a cackling maniac. I think those voices served well earlier in the show back when it was a little more innocent, but once that feeling wore off and the show became a bit more gritty, not to mention the harder drawn lines with the animation, Sabat’s deep tough guy Vegeta and Schemmel’s no-nonsense Goku are the way to go.
It’s a fascinating interview, especially if you’ve been around since the days of Toonami. I know I have! Rock the Dragon, baby!