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Toei Animation produced an anime series based on the manga chapters, also titled Dragon Ball. The series premiered in Japan on Fuji Television on February 26, 1986 and ran until April 12, 1989, lasting 153 episodes.
Harmony Gold USA licensed the series for an English-language release in the United States in 1989. In their voice dub of the series, Harmony Gold renamed almost all of the characters; for example, Goku was renamed "Zero." This dub version was test-marketed in several cities, but was cancelled before it could be broadcast to the general public.
In 1995, Funimation Entertainment acquired the license for the distribution of Dragon Ball in the U.S., as well as its sequel seriesDragon Ball Z. Funimation contracted BLT Productions to create an English voice track for the first anime at their Canada-based ADRstudio and the dubbed episodes were edited for content. Thirteen episodes aired in first-run syndication during the fall of 1995 before Funimation cancelled the project due to low ratings and decided to shift their focus on the more action-oriented Dragon Ball Z. Vidmark Entertainment (later known as Trimark Pictures) purchased the home video distribution rights for these dubbed episodes sometime after. In March 2001, following the success of Dragon Ball Z on Cartoon Network, Funimation announced the return of Dragon Ball to American television, featuring a new English audio track produced at their own Texas-based ADR studio, as well as slightly less editing, and left the original background music intact unlike their dubs of the two sequel series. The re-dubbed episodes aired on Cartoon Network from August 20, 2001 to December 1, 2003. Funimation also broadcast the series on Colours TV and their own Funimation Channel starting in 2006.
Funimation began releasing their in-house dub to Region 1 DVD box sets in March 2003. Each box set, spanning an entire saga of the series, included the English dub track and the original Japanese audio track with optional English subtitles. However, they were unable to release the first thirteen episodes at the time, due to Lionsgate Entertainment holding the distribution rights to their original dub of the same episodes, having acquired them from Trimark after the company became defunct. After Lionsgate's license to the first thirteen episodes expired in 2009, Funimation remastered and re-released the complete Dragon Ball series to DVD in five individual season box sets, with the first set released on September 15, 2009 and the final set released on July 27, 2010
Dragon Ball Z Kai
In February 2009, Toei Animation announced that it would begin broadcasting a revised version of Dragon Ball Z as part of the series' 20th anniversary celebrations. The series premiered on Fuji TV in Japan on April 5, 2009, under the name Dragon Ball Kai (ドラゴンボール改(カイ) Doragon Bōru Kai , lit. "Dragon Ball Revised"), with the episodes remastered for HDTV, featuring updated opening and ending sequences, and a rerecording of the vocal tracks by most of the original cast. The footage was also re-edited to more closely follow the manga, resulting in a faster-moving story, and damaged frames removed. As such, it is a new version of Dragon Ball Zcreated from the original footage.
On March 9, 2011, Toei announced that due to Kenji Yamamoto's score for Dragon Ball Kai infringing on the rights of an unknown third party, the score for remaining episodes and replays of previous episodes would be replaced. Later reports from Toei claimed that with the exception of the series' opening and closing songs, as well as eyecatch music, Yamamoto's score was replaced with Shunsuke Kikuchi's original score from Dragon Ball Z. This change in background music would eventually affect all episodes of the series' English dub in the U.S. The series concluded with the finale of the Cell arc as opposed to including the Majin Boo arc. It was originally planned to run 98 episodes, however due to the Tōhoku offshore earthquake and tsunami, the final episode of Dragon Ball Kai was not aired and the series ended on its 97th episode in Japan on March 27, 2011.
Like all other Dragon Ball-based anime, Funimation licensed Dragon Ball Kai for an English-language release in the U.S., under the titleDragon Ball Z Kai. The series was broadcast on Nicktoons from May 24, 2010 to January 1, 2012. In addition to Nicktoons, the series also began airing on The CW's Saturday-morning programming block, Toonzai, on August 14, 2010 and continues to air on Toonzai's successor, Vortexx, which began on August 25, 2012. Both the Nicktoons and Toonzai/Vortexx airings have been edited for content, though the Toonzai/Vortexx version is censored even more so than Nicktoons', most likely due to The CW being a broadcast network. In addition to the TV airings, Funimation has also released bilingual Region 1 DVD and Blu-ray box sets of the show. These box sets contain the original Japanese audio track with English subtitles, as well as the uncut version of the English dub, which does not contain any of the edits made for the TV airings.
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Dragon Ball Z
With the ending of Dragon Ball, Toei Animation quickly released a second anime series, Dragon Ball Z (ドラゴンボールZ(ゼット) Doragon Bōru Zetto , commonly abbreviated as DBZ). Picking up a few years after the series first left off, Dragon Ball Z is adapted from the final twenty-six volumes of the manga series on Weekly Shōnen Jump from 1989–1995, it premiered in Japan on Fuji Television on April 26, 1989, taking over its predecessor's time slot, and ran for 291 episodes until its conclusion on January 31, 1996.
Following their short-lived dub of Dragon Ball in 1995, Funimation began production on an English-language release of Dragon Ball Z. They collaborated with Saban Entertainment to finance and distribute the series to television, sub-licensed home video distribution to Pioneer Entertainment (later known as Geneon Universal Entertainment), contracted Ocean Productions to dub the anime into English, and hired Shuki Levy to compose an alternate musical score. This dub of Dragon Ball Z was heavily edited for content, as well as length; reducing the first 67 episodes into 53. The series premiered in the U.S. on September 13, 1996 in first-run syndication, but also struggled to find a substantial audience during its run and was ultimately cancelled after two seasons. On August 31, 1998, however, these cancelled dubbed episodes began airing on Cartoon Network's weekday-afternoon programming block, Toonami, where the series received much more popularity. With new success, Funimation continued production on the series by themselves, now with less editing due to fewer restrictions on cable programing. However, they could no longer afford the services of either the Ocean voice cast or Shuki Levy's music without Saban's financial assistance, resulting in the creation of their own in-house ADR studio and a new musical score composed by Bruce Faulconer. Dragon Ball Z was now in full production in the U.S. and the new dub of the series was broadcast on Cartoon Network from September 13, 1999 to April 7, 2003. In 2004, Geneon's distribution rights to the first 53/67 episodes of Dragon Ball Z expired, allowing Funimation to re-dub them with their in-house ADR studio and restore the removed content. These re-dubbed episodes aired on Cartoon Network during the summer of 2005.
In 2006, Funimation remastered the episodes cropped to 16:9 widescreen format and then began re-releasing the series to Region 1 DVD in nine individual season box sets, with the first set released on February 6, 2007 and the final set released on May 19, 2009. These sets were notable for including the option of hearing Funimation's in-house dub alongside the original Japanese music, an option that had previously not been available. Other options included hearing the in-house dub with the American soundtrack composed by Bruce Faulconer and Nathan Johnson, and a third option included watching the original Japanese version, with the original Japanese soundtrack and English subtitles. In July 2009, Funimation announced that they would be re-releasing Dragon Ball Z in a new seven-volume DVD set called the "Dragon Boxes." Based on the original series masters with frame-by-frame restoration, the first set was released on November 10, 2009 and the final set was released on October 11, 2011. Unlike the season box sets, Funimation's "Dragon Box" release is presented in the original 4:3 fullscreen format.
Funimation and Toei released a statement in January 2011 confirming that they would stream Dragon Ball Z within 30 minutes before their simulcast of One Piece. Dragon Ball Z is now being streamed on Hulu, containing the English dub with the Japanese music and uncut footage, as well as subtitled Japanese episodes.
In July 2011, Funimation announced plans to release Dragon Ball Z in Blu-ray format. Dragon Ball Z Level 1.1, containing the first 17 episodes, was released on November 8, 2011. However, on January 26, 2012, Funimation suspended the release of the third Blu-ray volume of Dragon Ball Z, as well as production of the rest of the Blu-ray releases, citing concerns over restoring the original film material frame by frame.
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Dragon Ball GT
Produced by Toei Animation, Dragon Ball GT (ドラゴンボールGT(ジーティー) Doragon Bōru Jī Tī , G(rand) T(our)) premiered on Fuji TV on February 2, 1996, and ran until November 19, 1997. Unlike the first two series, it was not based on the original Dragon Ballmanga. The series lasted 64 episodes. In Dragon Ball GT, Goku is transformed back into a child by the Black Star Dragon Balls and is forced to travel across the galaxy to retrieve them in order to transform back into an adult.
Following the success of both Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z on Cartoon Network, Funimation licensed Dragon Ball GT for distribution in the U.S. as well. Funimation's dub of the series aired on Cartoon Network from November 14, 2003 to April 16, 2005. The television broadcast initially skipped the first sixteen episodes of the series. Instead, Funimation created a composition episode entitled "A Grand Problem," which used scenes from the skipped episodes to summarize the story. The skipped episodes, advertised as "The Lost Episodes," were later aired after the remaining episodes of the series had been broadcast.
Funimation later released their dub to bilingual Region 1 DVD in two season box sets, with the first set released on December 9, 2008 and the final set released on February 10, 2009, which also featured the Dragon Ball GT TV special, A Hero's Legacy. In a similar fashion to their DVD releases for Dragon Ball Z, the DVD box sets have the option of hearing the English dub alongside the original Japanese music, and the rap song used for the TV airing of the show (nicknamed by fans "Step Into the Grand Tour") has been replaced by English-dubbed versions of the original Japanese opening and ending songs. Funimation later released a "Complete Series" box set of Dragon Ball GT (using the same discs as the two season sets, but with different packaging) on September 21, 2010.