Dragon Ball (found Harmony Gold English dub and cut of anime series; 1989)
Dragon Ball is a well-known Japanese anime production, originally a manga series serialized in Weekly Shonen Jump starting in 1984. The anime was produced from the mid to late 1980s.
Dragon Ball's English dub is well known for being produced by Texas-based studio FUNimation Entertainment (now known as simply FUNimation), which first released the series through BLT Studios in 1995. After that version flopped, FUNimation would later redub the series in 2001 with their Texas voice cast. This dub managed to adapt to all the episodes. AB Groupe and Blue Water studios also made an alternate English dub for the UK/Canada around this time.
However, before these dubs, there was another company that attempted to dub the series into English. A California-based television distribution company known as Harmony Gold USA licensed Dragon Ball in 1989 in an attempt to bring it to America. They had previously had success in 1985, via the release of Robotech (adapted from the three series Super Dimension Fortress Macross, Super Dimension Cavalry Southern Cross, and Genesis Climber Mospeada). Harmony Gold's attempt at Dragon Ball was produced after Carl Macek departed from the company and would be one of their last attempts at marketing anime in the United States.
The first broadcast of the Harmony Gold dub of Dragon Ball was a two-hour presentation, consisting of an edited version of the first and third movies edited together, on December 26th, 1989, between 1 and 3 PM on WGPR 62 in Detroit, MI. The movies would then air on December 28th, 1989, between 8 and 10 PM on WGBS 57 in Philadelphia, PA. WGBS described the movies: "Hero Zero and his friends search for seven magic dragon globes." Another newspaper describes them as "A group of heroic youngsters face evil forces when they attempt to locate seven mystical orbs." The movie was also dated to be from 1987, which would be incorrect, as the third movie (titled Mystical Adventure) hadn't been released in Japan at that time and wouldn't be until the following year.
Harmony Gold's dub of the actual series (consisting of the first five episodes of the production) premiered on January 1st, 1990, at 3 PM on WGPR 62. WGPR 62 aired a new episode every afternoon that week at 3 PM. The station then re-ran all five episodes (one each day) during the week of January 8th-12th, 1990, once again at 3 PM each day. The episodes then disappeared from Detroit airwaves until re-runs of the five episodes aired on WGPR 62 again during the week of February 5th-9th, 1990; this time, episodes aired at 3:30 PM. This set of telecasts was the last known broadcast of the Harmony Gold dub of Dragon Ball on any US television station.
There are people on the internet that claim to have seen the short-lived dub of the TV series, claiming many controversial scenes to be unedited from this dub. Unfortunately, no clips from it appear to exist, and the episodes have never seen the light of day since at least February 1990. It is thought that FUNimation may have the episodes in their library, as the materials may have been passed on to them when they acquired the license in 1995. However, FUNimation has only released its in-house 2001 dub of the series and nothing of the 1989 Harmony Gold dub. Both this title and The Magical World of Gigi were two Harmony Gold licenses that Carl Macek had passed on acquiring for his Streamline Pictures company, leaving their rights to eventually lapse.
Harmony Gold's TV movie and episodes were utilized as the source for an early Mexican-produced dub titled Zero y el Dragon Magico, which covered approximately 60 episodes. In an interview with a translator for the dub, he claims that Harmony Gold had translated the scripts that far and that there was difficulty with handling further adaptation. Due to budget issues, they left Harmony Gold's opening theme in English. The first five episodes of this dub also did not have the original audio masters, leaving the production team to have to insert original music into some moments in an attempt to try to cover up the English voice acting (although some of Barbara Goodson's yells as "Zero" can still be heard). However, in 2007, a Facebook page named "Zero y el Dragon (Dragon Ball)" was created, and by 2012, extremely low-quality VHS rips from three to five of the Harmony Gold-produced Spanish dubs were being uploaded. This Spanish dub left in the name changes, cuts, and eyecatch changes from the Harmony Gold English dub and aired between 1993 and 1997 in numerous Latin American markets.
The Mexican adaptation of the film retains a portion of the third movie that was believed to be lost from any English copies for many years, as well as being a part that had been excluded by FUNimation in their first dub of the third film: Emperor Pilaf, Shu, and Mai present a Dragon Radar to the Crane Hermit but are disposed of by Tao Pai Pai. The dubbed dialogue in the Mexican Harmony Gold version suggests that the characters were rewritten to have known King Gurumes (the villain from the first film) in order to tie both films' footage together. The initial English upload of the film lacked this part, as the person who had recorded it had initially stopped the tape while the film was being broadcast, unaware that it was a double-feature. This part would be discovered in a MySpleen upload sourced from a tape owned by retroccn in 2014.
A review on Usenet that appeared in 1995 claimed of seeing a test dub by FUNimation that used the Harmony Gold names (yet with some alterations, such as Oolong being named "Chester" and Pu'ar being named "Prudence"). The test dub was eventually found by Twitter user Tanooki Joe in May of 2019.
On March 1st, 2020, longtime anime fan Ryan Gavigan digitized his tapes of the first five episodes of the Harmony Gold dub recorded off of WGPR in Detroit. They were sent to Lost Media Wiki user Tom_Servo (aka bun39) and uploaded to the Internet Archive for preservation, resulting in all known material of the dub being found and publicly available. However, Gavigan's tape suffered from numerous gain problems, making the audio at times completely unusable for fan restoration or preservation. Two months later, in May of 2020, bun39 was offered a bootleg recording of all five episodes of the dub on a VHS tape. bun39 received and digitized the tape losslessly and uploaded the episodes to the Internet Archive, MySpleen, and nyaa.si.
- Facebook page for the Spanish dub by Harmony Gold.
- Archive.org link to all 5 episodes of the Harmony Gold English dub.
- Usenet posting from 1990, archived on Google Groups. Retrieved 25 Nov '13
- Translation of Interview, Kanzenshuu forum. Retrieved 25 Nov '13
- Usenet posting in 1995, Google groups archive. Retrieved 25 Nov '13
- Twitter feed about the test dub. Retrieved 11 Jul '19