Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero is the newest film in the long-running Dragon Ball franchise. It’s the series’ first fully 3D animated feature, and focuses on Piccolo and Gohan as they try to stop the return of the infamous Red Ribbon Army... along with two new androids!
We spoke with the English cast of the film about the production, their performances, the impact of the series, and much more. Let’s check out what they had to say!
Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero released on August 19, 2022 in the United States and is currently playing in select theaters around the country.
Interview with Zach Aguilar (Dr. Hedo), Jason Marnocha (Carmine), and Sean Schemmel (Goku)
Zach, Dr. Hedo wants to be heroic, but he ends up as a villain instead. What was it like to play a character with this kind of complicated loyalty?
Oh, it was so much fun! I’ve never really gotten a chance to play an eccentric, villainous character. He definitely doesn’t necessarily mean to – he’s really just focused on his research; that’s all he truly cares about. So, going into the role, I had to remember that he doesn’t necessarily have ill intent. He genuinely just kind of wants to be that mad scientist character. But yeah! I had a blast getting to record it in the booth. Chris Sabat, my director, kind of just let me go all over the place with it, and I was super happy with how it turned out.
Isn’t he the ultimate fanboy too, Zach, in that he wants to make “cool looking” heroes?
He is! He wants things to be his version of “cool”, like the Ginyu Force... doing all the little dabs (does a dab) and poses.
Yeah, it’s very Power Rangers, Ultraman, Kamen Rider a bit. Which is funny, because in an alternate universe maybe he would’ve made Dragon Ball style heroes!
Yeah, exactly! I think it’s refreshing that they gave a mad scientist character to a younger individual. Because he is only 24, so what his version of “cool” is – how he sees the world – is going to be entirely different to how someone like Dr. Gero would see the world and have his own ambitions.
And he seems to live on nothing but Oreos.
(laughs) His power source!
He should have an Oreo form – that’s his power up.
I need a t-shirt that has the Oreo logo, but says “Dr. Hedo” or something.
Yeah, it says Hedo instead of Oreo! Make the licensors all mad.
So for Jason, we have Carmine. He’s very subtly funny, with his lavishly produced videos and his perfectly coiffed hair, but his actual performance is more level. How did you imbue that with his funny traits?
I think it’s because he takes himself very seriously, which is quite a thing to do when you’re wearing a red suit and your hair is this tall and you have to put a dome over the driver’s seat of your car to even fit it in there. Taking yourself seriously with all of those circumstances is quite a feat. But he’ll just be very even keeled, and then something will happen and he’ll kind of chuckle at Magenta or he’ll throw out a “humph” at someone else. It was fun to have those little moments because it just adds a little pop of personality to this otherwise very blank, serious character. Those little pops of humor were one of the joys of recording this, for sure.
I feel like that was kind of the tone of the movie in general, that everything had this undercurrent of almost parody to it. It was very entertaining.
For Sean, then. Since you’ve played Goku for many years, do you feel as though your performance has changed over time with either the series’ writing or your own growth as a voice actor?
Yeah, I feel like with any voice actor, if you look at season 1 of The Simpsons or any other show, you’ll see them evolve over time. And I’ve had a lot of different strings pulling at me over the last 20+ years on the show. People ask me about the difference in Goku between Z and Super, and I personally don’t see a change as much as I see an emphasis on different parts of his personality. And that’s all from the writing that comes from Akira Toriyama and Shueisha and I’m interpreting what they write, as an actor. I think they’re leaning more into Goku’s goofy side and the fact that Goku wants to fight the strongest no matter what – he isn’t necessarily that altruistic, Superman-like hero in terms of saving the world.
But all of those things have been true about Goku since the get-go. And Super seemed to me to lean more into comedy, which is my favorite, so I really think they’re making some smart movies in terms of preserving what hardcore fans like and emphasizing some of the other aspects of the Dragon Ball universe such as humor and silliness.
Are you saying that you noticed [a difference in the performance] as well?
To an extent. It’s more that you’ve been working with the same character for so long that I would figure that it’s not the same performance in the same way as it used to be.
I mean, yeah! Here’s the weird thing about it: Goku, unlike any other character on the show, is the child-like character no matter what. Many of the other characters, in particular Piccolo and Vegeta, have grown and evolved. But he fundamentally stays the same, because if he grows into some proud Saiyan warrior, now you have two Vegetas on the show. [We need] that difference between Goku and Vegeta. Their relationship has grown into this friendly rivalry with Vegeta being the one wanting to meditate, and Goku’s like, “C’mon, let’s fight!”
Goku’s a very simple character who’s complicated to play. He doesn’t have a deep, brooding past like Vegeta; he’s just like, “Let’s fight! It’s fun!” no matter what. So, to play that over 20+ years and keep it fresh is a bit of a challenge, and to not get stale for me. Which it doesn’t, but on days where it does, there’s usually a scene where I’ll change that... such as screaming.
I’m sure you have much experience with screaming.
And then, for everyone, what would you consider to be the most rewarding part of your career?
For me, it’s when we go to the conventions and meet the kids and the fans. Because we’re in the booth by ourselves. It’s not like you’re a theater actor and you do your performance and hopefully they like it, and if they clap you bow, and if they don’t clap and throw tomatoes then you dodge. In this case, the love is overwhelming, and to see that gratification – particularly going over decades, where parents are like, “I named my kid Gohan and now they’re having kids and I’m going to show them this!” – it’s an intergenerational thing. The most gratifying thing is meeting everyone who watches it.
Yeah, oh my gosh, I 100% agree with what Sean said there. Going to the conventions, meeting people. Because when we work on a film, especially for an anime dub, people don’t realize that it’s just a team of maybe three or four people in the room. It’s me, the engineer, the director... and we’re recording individually, so we’re not even working directly with the other actors sometimes. We’ll run into each other in the studio, but that’s about it. But going to these conventions and meeting kids and their families... an entire family will cosplay something from a show and I’m like, “Oh my gosh, the gang’s all here!”
That’s the literal cutest thing ever.
Right? And it’s just so cool to see – it’s unreal when people come up to me. And I’m still newer in this industry and just getting my feet planted. It’s just surreal when people come up and say, “Hey, I had this really hard time in my life, and watching your scenes from your performance in this show helped get me through that.” That blows my mind because, for me, people such as Sean – who’s been doing this for so long – watching his scenes from Dragon Ball all the way back when is what got me through school. Watching Goku... that was the coolest thing for me. So to be that for somebody else is just... mindblowing.
Yeah, they nailed it. That’s exactly it. You often feel very contained in the working environment itself, so getting to pal around with people who enjoy the things you do is immensely gratifying, and very humbling. It’s just joy! And it’s great to be able to share that with folks.
Interview with Christopher Sabat (Piccolo/Vegeta, ADR Director) and Kyle Hebert (Gohan)
Chris, this is the first time in a long while that Piccolo has been able to show off his strength and intelligence to this extent. What particular parts of this were the most exciting for you to do?
Well, it’s most exciting that Piccolo actually got to do something, because he hasn’t had a major power up since he fused with Kami way back in the day. So the power up is mostly for the fans, and it’ll be amazing to see that happen, but what I really love about Piccolo is just to see his tactical elements. He’s always been the wise one – he’s always been the one that’s calm and collected for the most part, unless Gotenks is involved, but he’s always been the one to chill and think about what to do. And you can see him really struggling in this movie to come up with the best solution, because he can’t lean on the characters that he’s used to leaning on. It becomes very clear that this is a big problem. And you see him make the rounds, like, “Okay, we can try this!” and that doesn’t work. Or, “We can try this!” and there are none of those beans left, or whatever. So that’s a fun thing to watch.
And, of course, it’s always amazing to see how close he is with Gohan and his family. I love all of the implications that he’s become an integral part of not only Gohan’s life, but Pan’s life as well.
Yes, the humor that you see exuding from Piccolo is really, really great to see. Him trying to just keep up with technology...
Yeah, he holds his cell phone like a weirdo.
The aspect that I really love seeing in Piccolo is anytime he’s just trying to fit in, and it’s maybe awkward for him, but he wants to do it because he loves these characters so much.
I loved the juxtaposition of him sneaking into the military compound and using the excuse that he was sick to his stomach. And then that sort of carries through that film, where [soldiers will say], “Hey man, sorry about your tummy. I think you’ll be all right. You can make it!” And Piccolo just has to live with that lie! That embarrassing lie that he told. That was great.
I think it’s funny that the Red Ribbon Army soldiers just get along really well. They just care about each other a lot.
(laughs) Yes, except for their “short man syndrome” leader, whoever that guy is. “You shut up, number 79!” or whatever his name was.
...That wasn’t you, was it?
No, but it was somebody I brought in. We weren’t sure what voice he was going to do, but that’s the one he landed on.
Delightful – minor roles like that are very fun. So, for both of you, since you’ve played your respective characters for many years and they’ve changed over time, do you feel as though your performances have also changed?
They become more informed because I think, when actors spend more time with a role, it becomes its own living, breathing entity. Chris has actually said this in the past when we were doing Dragon Ball Z Kai, “You guys are so seasoned at these characters that the show almost directs itself.” And I think that was a great observation that we all feel like we eat and sleep and breathe these characters, no matter how long we spend away. We come back in some sort of form, whether it’s a game or a TV show or a movie, and we’re doing that dance across different forms of media and feeding the frenzy that the fandom has had for so many years. And it keeps us jazzed. It just builds and builds like power levels in the show – we’re always excited to see where it goes next.
Yeah, these dub actors have been working on this show for 20 years. Everyone knows their characters so well. And we’re super happy when something like this movie comes along where we’re able to actually use those skills. It’s so easy as a director – my only job is to make sure that everything sounds good together, but it’s only a matter of, “Hey, how can we take what you already know and just make this scene incredible?” And I think you’re going to find that the dub of this feature is remarkably good. We put a lot of thought into how everything is supposed to sound. I was sitting there – just like Piccolo with Gohan – in the control room, watching Kyle do these scenes that I was so excited for him to see. It was like bringing the whole family back together again to work on this film.
Yeah, good times, good times. It felt right. I knew it was a matter of time – not if, but when – we would see characters like Gohan and Piccolo get to come into the spotlight a little more often than they have in the past.
Because Goku and Vegeta are just... off doing whatever and can’t help.
They’re in space! In more than one way.
And since you were talking about directing people who have been with their characters for ages, there are also people in this film who are much newer to the industry or haven’t been in a Dragon Ball property before. Was that fun and interesting to direct different kinds of actors on the same project?
It’s really funny that I spent half of my career just trying to explain to actors what the heck Dragon Ball even was. Because when I started, I had to explain the whole story. Yes, they’re fighters, they’re from space, they can wish upon the Dragon Balls... I had to explain to every person what the heck it was, because the only people who really knew what Dragon Ball was were like... 6 and 7 years old. So any actor that would come in, you would have to have a long explanation. Now, I’m sitting in a session with Zeno [Robinson] going like, “Okay, so you know that –“ and he goes, “Chris, I watch this show. I’m a huge fan of this show. You don’t have to explain that to me.” And I’m like, “I know, but I feel like I should, maybe.”
So bringing people in and watching their excitement, you can tell. The only thing I have to battle with is calming them down a little bit because they’re a little nervous; they understand that it’s important. Zeno and Aleks Le happened to be recording on the same day, and they’re friends with one another. And Zeno’s like, “Can I just watch Aleks do his, since I’m here anyway?” I’m like, “Yeah, if you want to.” And they were sitting there talking about how they might want to change the other person’s line! So we’re going, “Okay. Zeno, do you want to jump back in there and change the line so it works better with the one that he just did?” We had a lot of collaboration. There was a desire on everybody’s part, new actors and old actors, to make sure that this film was incredible. Because we all know how important it is to fans of the show that it’s done right.
Also, because this movie is 3D instead of 2D, was it more difficult to match lip flaps at all?
No, there was no difficulty at all. It feels like the natural progression; this perfect blend of old school, nostalgic, hand drawn traditional 2D with the cutting-edge 3D that today’s generation is used to. And to see it – pardon the pun, but totally intended – fuse together, I think it’s natural, it’s gorgeous, and I hope they continue with this stylistic choice because it just looks so amazing.
It really didn’t feel that much different to me, honestly. And I’m being very sincere, as somebody who had to look very carefully at the mouth movements for this show. It didn’t feel as though they changed the style of the mouths. The characters’ mouths still moved in the same way that their mouths moved in previous films. You don’t see them make weird shapes. If you want to get granular, we can talk about exactly what the shapes of the Dragon Ball mouths are. And they really maintained that very well. No one made faces that wouldn’t look familiar to you. I really did feel like working on a Dragon Ball show, just with beautiful, bright, gorgeous animation with angles that weren’t possible and backgrounds that were never possible in some of the other iterations of the show. I was as apprehensive as everyone else when I heard that it was going to be a CGI film, but leave it to Toei to just take something and make it spectacular in a way that still stays true to the spirit of the show.
Plus, getting to see it done visually this way, this is the best excuse ever to get out of the house, into the theater – an IMAX theater if possible – wherever you’re at, for this grandiose visual and audio sensory experience in a theater packed with other fans. With the cheering and the applause and the laughter and all that. That’s something that just can’t be replicated streaming on your phone or whatnot.
I agree with you there. The film is larger than life, the villains are laaaarger than life. And it would be best experienced in the theater. And that’s why I love seeing the features. My favorite experiences in the entire history of working on Dragon Ball have been going to see these movies in the theater with other people, and hearing people cheer at the right times and laugh at the right times. I think it’s the best possible way to experience Dragon Ball.
Interview with Aleks Le (Gamma 1) and Zeno Robinson (Gamma 2)
So I’ve heard that you guys recorded your lines at the same time. How did that affect your performance?
For me, it’s always hard to play a serious character and figure out how to do it well enough to stand out in the context of the movie and, even prior to that, the audition space. So it was really great to hear Zeno’s performance and use that as kind of a springboard for what I’m going to do with mine. Having him be there, it was so convenient to have that reference literally on hand. Tracing it back to the audition process, we basically auditioned for the movie together. I would text him like, “Hey, did you do your thing yet?” And he’d be like, “No, did you do your thing?” And I’d be like, “You do your thing first so I can hear what you’re doing!” It was a crucial thing for me to understand their character dynamic. We didn’t get a lot of context for the movie prior to joining the cast, so all we had was each other and those lines.
And those audition lines! That’s all we got. Yeah, working with Aleks on the film, Aleks was there in the studio while I was recording and he got to sit in and listen to my session and I also got to sit in and listen to his session. Hearing him work in real time, hearing him figure out the character and place the voice, then settle into it... hearing his work and his artistry, soon ideas started to bubble within me about how I wanted to approach other lines I had already done with his character now that I had the perspective of what he was doing.
It’s a rarity in anime to record that closely with someone you’re in a scene with, especially given the way the process works, but having that helped me. I was like, “Oh, can I do this line like this now, now that I’m hearing him do it?” And then he would be like, “Oh, well since he did it that way, can I go back in there and do it this way?” I really think it helped even further solidify their bond, and solidify them too as distinct characters, even though they’re kind of supposed to be identical in certain ways, especially appearance-wise. Recording with Aleks there really helped bring that cohesion to their characters.
Do you have any specific examples of lines that you wanted to redo because of that?
Yeah, any time they were interacting, even in the comedy scenes where they’re just talking to each other. I feel like once Zeno heard what I was doing, he was like, “No wait, let me come back in!” Not only those, but especially the battle lines. We had a lot of battle setup lines, where we were basically fighting alongside each other. And I think it was important for both of us that we set up this teamwork, this dynamic. Not only off the battlefront, but in the battle as well.
If I recall correctly, I want to say there was one scene where both of our characters are yelling at the same time towards an enemy. They have this long, synchronized battle yell. I feel like I remember hearing you do yours, and being like, “Oh, can I do mine again so I can match the length of his scream so it sounds exactly the same?”
And then I was like, “Can I do mine again, but I need to drop my pitch so –”
(laughs) Yeah, so we don’t sound like the same guy! I think those tiny little specifics, especially in the realm of anime and dubbing, are what really elevate the quality of a dub.
Yeah, especially since the characters are twins to some extent. It makes sense that you would want them to be the same and yet also somewhat different from each other.
They also really want to be heroic, but they end up as villains by circumstance. What was it like for you to play these characters that had this kind of complicated loyalty to them?
For me, it’s always good to take a step back from being the audience and step into the mindset of the character. Because I know Dragon Ball, and I’ve known Dragon Ball all of my life. I know Piccolo and Gohan are heroic, I know that everybody has done so much to contribute to this earth. But I have to take a look at it from the Gammas’ viewpoint. They haven’t had the pleasure of watching Dragon Ball on DVD or Blu-Ray (laughs), so they have no context to their actions. But they do have a righteous sense of justice, and I feel like any “villain’s” intention is truly based on their upbringing or the context that they’ve received. They never really portray themselves as evil, or look at it through the lens of being villains. They just have a different viewpoint and different ideas. So it was definitely a lot of fun to turn my brain off about Dragon Ball like that.
I think, with these characters, they both have a very strong drive and passion for justice. That’s their compass, and that’s their leading, motivating factor in all of the things that they do. They’re so dedicated to that that, even when they’re “wrong”, they don’t think they are. And that’s where the conflict comes from. If you want to place yourself in the world of Dragon Ball, if you step back and look at it, you’ve got like seven aliens who have been on Earth... blowing things up, destroying cities. I think in Gamma 2’s first interaction with Piccolo, he’s seeing him as the Piccolo who kidnapped child Gohan and wanted world domination.
The only public information about the Piccolo family is the Demon King Piccolo who once terrorized Earth.
And that sounds evil, you know! So someone who turns yellow [referring to Super Saiyans] and has the capability to destroy the world... that sounds evil! I think they have their own perspective on who’s the real hero, and they’re just dedicated to enacting justice.
Even though the Red Ribbon Army is manipulating them to some extent, I definitely did feel like, “Yeah, I guess from the layperson’s perspective, it would be very difficult to live in a world like that.”
Even the video that Carmine plays of Trunks showing up and killing Frieza... that’s terrifying! What are these people doing on our planet killing each other??
And to end off, what do you both consider to be the most rewarding part of your career?
The most rewarding part, at the end of the day, is just getting into that room and hearing all of the work and passion that you put out there. And also hearing the fan response from people who have been affected by or inspired by your work. For me, meeting Chris Sabat – our director and the voice of Piccolo and Vegeta – for the first time was like, “Oh my god, I’m talking to my childhood hero!” These performances from Dragon Ball were what inspired me to pursue anime, not only as a fan, but as an actor as well. It’s so cool to see everything come together and to have this full circle moment, to also hear from fans that the work we’re doing is important. It’s crazy to even process or think about any of this.
Sometimes you don’t really realize your impact. You end up working in a bubble or a vacuum. Sometimes you feel like, “Where is all of this going? Who’s watching these things?” I get a lot of [fans saying], “This character is my comfort character,” or “Hearing your work through the pandemic was the only thing that got me through it.” And being able to tell these incredible stories that take place in worlds more fantastical than ours or that are a bit safer or more comforting than our world or are examples of what our world could be... Or just cool stuff that will never happen, but it’s cool to look at for the spectacle of it all, like Dragon Ball for example.
Being able to step into those worlds and live other lives and then to step out of them and hear that those lives I’ve lived have had a positive impact and have touched people emotionally and impacted their lives, I think that’s the most rewarding. To know that I’ve connected with someone – I’ve helped someone – through my art, that also helps me. That’s the biggest blessing of it all, I think.
We loved learning all of the ins and outs of this film’s dubbing process, as well as how the actors approached their characters. But what did you think of this interview? Are you excited to see Dragon Ball Super: Super Hero? Let us know in the comments, and thanks so much for reading!