Gen Fukunaga, the President of FUNimation Productions, is the man responsible for bringing Dragon Ball and Dragonball Z to the U.S. Back in the mid-90s, Fukunaga had a hard time getting the Dragon Ball anime shown on American TV, in spite of the fact that the series had proven to be a major hit everywhere it was shown from Japan, to Italy, France, and Spain. Although the increasingly infomercially-plagued world of syndication was not kind to Dragon Ball, Fukunaga persevered and eventually helped establish Dragon Ball on the Cartoon Network, where the series has played an enormous role in raising the visibility of anime in America. ICv2 caught up with Fukunaga recently and we asked him about Funimation's plans for the huge (500 episodes plus!) Dragon Ball saga.
How many of the 291 episodes of Dragonball Z have you prepared for American TV?
We have processed all but about the last 20 or so, but the last 53 we have worked on have not been aired yet. Though they will start airing on September 16 I believe.
What about the remaining episodes?
It's going to be done in two stages. First we will air the 53 shows, and then the last mini-saga that we haven't processed yet will probably be shown in the spring [of 2003].
Is it true that you are getting the home video rights back from Pioneer for the first series of Dragon Ball shows?
Eventually, I think we will get them back in 2004.
Are you going to redo those shows?
Yes, certainly for home video we will redo those. We are not sure that we are going to re-air those redone episodes, we may just sell them as videos. In fact there are like 15 missing episodes -- there is a significant number of episodes that were so heavily censored the first time around -- so when we do it this time we are going to pick up about 15 new episodes [of the original Dragon Ball series]. On top of the fact that all the redone Dragon Ball videos will be uncensored, there will be 15 new ones, they will all be uncut, and will have the Japanese soundtracks.
What is the situation with the third Dragon Ball series, Dragon Ball GT?
Nothing is set in stone, but our current plan is to start releasing the home videos in spring of next year (2003) and to put it on the Cartoon Network later, something like the summer of 2004. We are going to hold it off on the Cartoon Network and get it out on video first.
What's your reasoning behind that decision?
Our reasoning is that because Dragonball Z has been on TV for so long -- since 1998 on the Cartoon Network -- there are a lot of fans who haven't seen the whole thing -- in 1998 the Cartoon Network didn't reach nearly as many houses as it does now. When it started fewer people knew what DBZ was, so fewer were watching, of course, because nobody knew what it was then. Then too a whole new bunch of kids who weren't old enough to watch when the show started have grown into the show -- and so our strategy is catch everybody up by doing a no-repeat year, where we start with episode #1 and literally go an entire year without repeating an episode, five days a week, a new episode every day. So we go through the entire DBZ library and then, we go into Dragon Ball GT.
So this would be from say fall 2003 to fall 2004?Yes part of 2004 and then we would start Dragon Ball GT.