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Akira Toriyama with his pet cat, Koge (1987)

Ocean Group logo

The Ocean Group dubs (usually referred to by fans as the Saban dub, Westwood dub, Pioneer dub, BLT dub or simply the Ocean dub) were a series of English dubs for the Dragon Ball anime series by Canadian dubbing studio The Ocean Group, made in association with various companies and covering various parts of the franchise.

The Ocean dub originated as an early English dub of Dragon Ball produced by BLT Productions and Funimation for syndication. Funimation and Ocean later dubbed Dragon Ball's sequel, Dragon Ball Z. This dub, which was distributed by Saban Entertainment, was also shown in syndication. It later aired on Cartoon Network. These episodes, which were recorded at InterPacific Productions Inc. in Vancouver, were heavily edited for content by Saban, and covered the first 67 uncut episodes of the series, reducing them to 53. The third movie was also dubbed in this form as an episode of the series, while the first three DBZ movies were given uncut dubs using the same voice cast in association with Pioneer (including a redub of the third film).

Years later, Canadian broadcasting standards resulted in AB Groupe teaming up with Westwood Media Productions to produce an alternate English dub of the second half of the series with Ocean Studios once again providing the voice track. This production was also shown in the UK, where AB Groupe also held broadcasting rights, while the Funimation dub continued to be shown in the US, Australia, and New Zealand.

English dubs of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball GT were also created by AB Groupe. However, the voices were recorded at Blue Water Studios in Calgary, Alberta by Chinook Animation (Ocean's budget studio) as opposed to the Vancouver cast, and were also shown in Canada and the UK instead of the Funimation dubs.


The BLT dub (1995)

FUNimation Productions acquired certain rights to the wildly popular Japanese television series Dragon Ball and its sequel, Dragon Ball Z, in 1995. At the time, FUNimation was a relatively new company (founded in 1994) and did not have the financial wherewithal to produce a dub entirely on their own, and instead collaborated with other production companies. They immediately began work on an English dub for Dragon Ball and completed the first 13 episodes of the series in the same year, and the series was shown in syndication. This dub had slight censorship, although not to the extent of the later Saban/FUNimation-produced Ocean dub. It was dubbed by BLT Productions at Dick & Roger's Sound Studio in Vancouver, featuring various freelance voice actors from the Ocean Group who would later dub Dragon Ball Z. Peter Berring's replacement score was used. Seagull Entertainment handled distribution for the show.[1] They also dubbed and edited the first Dragon Ball movie for home video release. The network ratings for Dragon Ball were very poor due to Seagull Entertainment being unable to get the show a good time slot,[1] so FUNimation cancelled work on Dragon Ball and opted to focus on the more action-oriented Dragon Ball Z instead in hope of better ratings. They concluded that Dragon Ball was "not a good fit for the US market."[1]

The Saban dub (1996-1998)

After Dragon Ball was put on indefinite hold, work on Dragon Ball Z commenced in 1996. This time, FUNimation collaborated with Saban Entertainment to handle distribution and directly with the Ocean Group for the dubbing. FUNimation drew from the same Vancouver voice over talent pool from Dragon Ball for this dub of DBZ, and the same voice actors appeared in both shows (albeit some in different roles). The first episode, "The Arrival of Raditz", premiered in the U.S. on September 13, 1996. Ocean dubbed the first 53 episodes (first two seasons, covering the first 67 uncut episodes), and the show was aired in syndication, mainly on local WB and UPN affiliate networks. The third DBZ movie was also split up into three episodes, and was dubbed and edited in the same way as the other episodes.

The nearly-formed Saban Entertainment logo

This dub is often referred to by fans as the Ocean dub or Saban dub, despite Funimation producing the show and being in charge of the creative process. It featured an original musical score by Ron Wasserman (of Power Rangers fame).[2] He described the score as "the darkest, heaviest [thing], like drones and building sounds."[2] FUNimation were the ones who decided to replace the original Japanese score, so they could earn royalties every time the music was used.[3] Another reason was because the Japanese score had many silent moments, which is not common in Western animation.[3]

A promotional poster which features Goku (far right), along with other Saban characters from Power Rangers, Beetleborgs, X-Men, Samurai Pizza Cats, Eagle Riders, Masked Rider, Sweet Valley High, The Mouse and the Monster, The Why-Why Family and Saban's Adventures of Oliver Twist.

Saban managed to secure the show better morning time slots. At first, the show aired as part of a morning block of Saban-produced shows, alongside Samurai Pizza Cats, Eagle Riders and Saban's Adventures of Oliver Twist. The improved exposure from Saban meant that the first season of 26 episodes was a success, so FUNimation contracted the Ocean Group to dub another season of episodes.[1] During its second season, the show was airing twice every week in its own hour-long block, due to the ratings success of the first season.[4] Saban Entertainment (distributor of the series and its major financier) and FUNimation (the series' rights holder) eventually parted ways in early 1998, effectively ending this incarnation of Dragon Ball Z. Saban at the time were leaving the syndication business to instead focus on producing original material for the Fox Kids block, thus leaving the FUNimation produced Dragon Ball Z surplus to requirements. After 56 episodes and two seasons worth of dubbed episodes, Dragon Ball Z's English dub abruptly ended production, with the last dubbed episode "Goku... Super Saiyan?", airing on May 23, 1998. An Ocean dub preview for "Ginyu Assault" was produced, but would become the first episode dubbed by the Funimation Studios cast a year later.

In a 1997 interview, FUNimation producer Barry Watson said it cost approximately 30,000 dollars to dub an episode of Dragon Ball Z at the time, in part due to the heavy amounts of edits that were required to get the show onto syndicated television. This means that in total it cost around 2 million dollars to dub the first two seasons of Dragon Ball Z in this heavily censored style.[5]

The Pioneer dub (1997-1998)

FUNimation then teamed up with Pioneer Entertainment (now known as NBCUniversal Entertainment Japan) to produce English dubs of the first three DBZ movies (Dead Zone, The World's Strongest and The Tree of Might) with Ocean Studios reprising their duties from the Saban co-production. These English dubs were released to VHS and DVD and were critically acclaimed by older fans due to being uncut, staying closer to the Japanese scripts and keeping the original Japanese score. The performance of Peter Kelamis in particular was praised due to his likeness to Goku's female Japanese voice actor Masako Nozawa. FUNimation eventually phased out or replaced these releases with their own in-house dubs of the first three movies during the mid-2000s.

The Westwood dub (2000-2002)

The series' target audience was eventually found when the first two seasons aired on Cartoon Network's Toonami programming block during the summer of 1998. Ratings were very positive and the series found new life, thus warranting the series' English dub to continue. By this point, FUNimation decided to continue dubbing the project in Texas with non-union actors, due to not being able to afford the Vancouver actors without Saban's financing. From episode 54 onward (the beginning of season 3, midway through uncut Episode 67), FUNimation began using their in-house talent, based in Ft. Worth, Texas, to dub the rest of the series. Until these new episodes were recorded and produced, re-runs of the Ocean dubbed Saiyan and Namek sagas ran indefinitely for months. Ocean Studios continued to assist FUNimation with scripting and editing. Bruce Faulconer and his team's new score replaced the Saban score due to FUNimation not liking the music and not having the money needed for the Saban team to continue producing new music for the series.[3] Initially many fans accustomed to the Saban dub criticized the FUNimation dub of the third season due to the voice acting and music being of a noticeably lower quality level, due to FUNimation's shoe-string budget. The most common complaint was the new voice actors, who were originally asked to imitate the former Ocean Group actors. The third season FUNimation dub did however manage to receive some praise due to the phasing out of most censorship (which was due to Saban no longer being involved with the show).

Vegeta's Ocean voice actor Brian Drummond

Piccolo's Ocean voice actor Scott McNeil

Despite this, European right holders AB Groupe contacted Westwood Media (the parent company of Ocean) to make an alternate English dub, produced using mostly the same Vancouver actors previously utilized by FUNimation. This production was originally intended for the Netherlands and UK's local versions of Toonami, however, it eventually also started appearing on Canada's YTV. Continuing to distribute the FUNimation dub would have been the more expensive option for Toonami UK and YTV. The FUNimation dub continued to be distributed in Australia and New Zealand, since Oceania license holder Madman Entertainment had no connection to AB Groupe.

Dubbing of this version commenced in the summer of 2000, starting at episode 108 (equivalent to the uncut 123), and ended in December 2002, finishing at episode 276 (equivalent to 291 uncut); thus, completing the second half of the series. Episodes 108-276 (123-291 uncut) of the international dub were voice-recorded at various Vancouver studios with Ocean Studios providing the post production. The episodes used an alternate music soundtrack in an effort to make the dub provide as much "Canadian content" as possible. Unlike the original 1996-1998 Ocean dub of Dragon Ball Z, this dub did not feature Shuki Levy's music. The soundtrack featured a new theme song and some original music pieces from Tom Keenlyside with John Mitchell and David Iris, though most of the background music was recycled material from other productions Ocean had connections with, most notably the 1994-1995 Ruby-Spears Mega Man cartoon and the 1999-2001 English dub of the Monster Rancher anime. In addition, the episodes were lightly edited for content in order to meet broadcast standards. Because Ocean Studios was still helping with scripting and digital editing of the FUNimation dub, the same script used in the FUNimation dub was also used for this dub with some light revisions, and also used various graphics originally created for the FUNimation dub. The Westwood dub of DBZ is also notable for being very rushed in production, which resulted in many of the key voice actors leaving the show midway through the run, the voice director not being consistent, and the voiceover performances themselves showing a noticeable decline in quality from the original Saban/FUNimation co-production.

The United States (CN:USA) and Canada (YTV) received the Saban/Ocean dub from episodes 1-53 (1-67 uncut). From episode 54 onward, both received the FUNimation dub. Though the Westwood dub began at episode 108 (an equivalent of episode 123 uncut) specifically due to demands of Canadian broadcasting laws, Canada began receiving the Westwood/Ocean dub from episode 168 (equivalent to uncut episode 183) onwards. The United Kingdom (CN:UK then CNX) and the Netherlands (CN:NL then Yorin) received the early Saban/Ocean dub from episodes 1-53, the FUNimation dub for episodes 54-107, and then the full Westwood/Ocean dub for episodes 108-276.

Reruns of the first 53 episodes with Saban's English dub, as well as the first three films, continued to be broadcast in the US until they were "replaced" with FUNimation's uncut redubs in 2005.

Related dubs

Main article: Blue Water dub Once production of Dragon Ball Z was complete, AB Groupe and Westwood began work on the series' sequel, Dragon Ball GT despite the fact that FUNimation had not begun production on their dub of the series. Like Dragon Ball Z, the Ocean Group was also contacted to provide a voice track for this dub using their Vancouver studios. However, Westwood revised their plans, with voice production moving to Ocean's budget studio, Blue Water Studios (AKA Chinook Animation), in Calgary, Alberta, Canada instead to save money. The Blue Water dub of Dragon Ball GT, like the Ocean dub of DBZ, was edited for content. However, the script had no connection to the FUNimation dub (except for the character names). This dub was broadcast in the same territories as the Westwood dub of DBZ.

With the success of the Blue Water dub of Dragon Ball GT, Westwood contacted them again to create a dub of the original Dragon Ball series despite the fact that the first 13 episodes had already been dubbed in Vancouver in 1994. The Blue Water dub of DB was similar to that of DBGT in that it was edited for content and did not use FUNimation's English script (with the exception of character names). The dub also made use of AB Groupe's opening title sequence for the French dub of the series (but with an English singer) and a translation of the lyrics (though the UK broadcast featured a completely different opening). This dub was broadcast in Canada and the UK after the Blue Water dub of Dragon Ball GT completed its run.

Home video

A DVD single featuring episodes from the Ocean/Saban dub

The 53 episodes of the early Ocean/Saban dub were released on VHS and DVD (distributed by Pioneer Entertainment in the late 1990s & early 2000s). Pioneer's license lapsed in 2004, and VHS/DVD sets featuring the Ocean dub of episodes 1-53 were out of print until 2013. These sets have since been replaced by FUNimation's "Uncut" re-dubbings of Seasons 1 and 2. These re-dubs feature FUNimation's in-house actors as well as the 14 episodes worth of content missing in the initial Ocean dubbing of the Saiyan and Namek sagas. The Ocean dub of episodes 108-276 have not, and will likely never be, released for English language DVD viewing. It's worth noting that FUNimation Entertainment does not own the North American rights to 108-276 of the Ocean Dub, as it is instead owned by AB Groupe. In addition, the FUNimation dub is on DVD in the UK and Canada in place of the Ocean dubs.

The 2013 Ocean dub box set "Dragon Ball Z: Rock the Dragon Edition"

FUNimation/Pioneer's English dubs of the first three movies using the Ocean Group have all been released to VHS and DVD, which are now out of print and have all been replaced in circulation by FUNimation's later redubbings of the movies. However, FUNimation did release a collector's DVD box set in August 2013 titled "Rock the Dragon Edition" with the original 53 Saban edited episodes and the 3 movies for the nostalgia market. It should be noted that this DVD set features the home video debut of Movie 3's original edited Ocean dub, as the uncut Ocean dub of Movie 3 was previously the only version released to home video by Pioneer.

In addition, the 13 episodes (and first movie) of Dragon Ball that FUNimation had originally dubbed with the Vancouver talent pool in 1995 was also released to VHS in 1996 by KidMark (a division of VidMark, a subsidiary of Trimark), and was later released in a DVD boxset in 2000. Just as Trimark's license was planned to expire in 2004, Lionsgate purchased the company, and the license for these episodes and feature of Dragon Ball were transferred to them and extended further. As a result, FUNimation was unable to release their in-house English dub of the first 13 episodes of Dragon Ball until the first season box set release in 2009 (as Lionsgate's rights to those episodes had expired by that time). The first Dragon Ball movie was also re-dubbed by FUNimation's in-house studio and released to DVD uncut in 2010.

Editing and censoring

An example of censorship in the original FUNimation dub. Like many censorship edits in the early FUNimation dub, this edit utilized digital paint techniques by FUNimation.

The Saban/Ocean/FUNimation collaboration of the initial 53 episodes (the first 67 uncut episodes of the series) was heavily censored and edited. 14 episodes worth of content was cut from this English release. Any references to death, scenes of excessive violence, or other content deemed offensive by Saban was completely censored or edited out. However, in the first four episodes, the word "kill" is used, and both "kill" and "die" are used by Bulma in episode 30, as well as Vegeta's usage of the word "perish" in episode 23. Also, characters like Raditz, Goku, Dodoria, etc. are still killed, though the term "sent to the next dimension" is used often to describe it. For instance, whenever Nappa destroys a building or city, he complains about it being evacuated, when Nappa destroys one of the planes, one of the drivers says "They blew up the cargo robot!", and another time, Tien says "Look! I can see their parachutes! They're okay..." Or during the scene when Frieza and his henchmen are interrogating one of the Namek elders, Dende and his younger Namekian brother attempt to run away, causing Dodoria to immediately jump in front of Dende and say "Your brother might have escaped, but not you!", when originally in the uncut version, Dodoria shot an energy blast at the younger Namekian killing him instantly right before jumping in front of Dende. Contrary to popular belief, Ocean had nothing to do with this censoring, which was instead insisted by Saban and implemented by FUNimation's paint editors and script writers.

The next dimension

The "next dimension" is a term used throughout the initial 53 episodes to refer to death.[6][7] The term made its debut in Gohan's Metamorphosis, and is often used by Vegeta in tense situations.

When the partnership between Saban and FUNimation broke up in 1998, references to death began to be inserted into scripts. The term was used sparingly throughout the Freeza saga in FUNimation's in-house dub (perhaps for consistency with the prior 53 episodes) before being abandoned completely.

Character usage


Released music

The following Shuki Levy tracks from the Saban dub were commercially released on the 1997 album Dragon Ball Z: Original USA Television Soundtrack:

Music from Peter Berring's score for the 1995 BLT Dragon Ball dub was also commercially released on the 1995 album Dragon Ball: Original USA TV Soundtrack Recording.

Unreleased music

None of the recycled Ruby-Spears Mega Man/Monster Rancher music from the Westwood dub has ever been commercially released under the Dragon Ball Z brand name.

Dragon Ball Z Kai

On Episode 26 of radio show and podcast "Voice Print with Trevor Devall", Kirby Morrow (Westwood Studios' Goku from episodes 160-276) revealed that a Canadian dub of Dragon Ball Z Kai was in the works. He did not mention the name of the company behind the production, however, he stated that casting had already begun with him having already been ruled out for the role of Goku. In his words, he was deemed to sound "too cool" for the character indicating that, perhaps, a more conscious effort was being put forward in maintaining the authenticity of the series. According to Morrow, the television version of the FUNimation dub for Dragon Ball Z Kai was only slated to be distributed in America, therefore, the new dub being produced in Canada was being created to serve the Canadian and European markets (in a fashion similar to the Westwood dub of Dragon Ball Z episodes 108-276). On Episode 28 of the same show, Paul Dobson (Zarbon in the 1996 FUNimation/Ocean collaboration) confirmed that Ocean Studios was, in fact, the company behind the Canadian production of Kai. Dobson also stated that "there's been word of re-casting [and] there's been word of holding onto members of the cast as the way that they were." FUNimation voice actors Christopher Sabat (also voice director) and Sean Schemmel had previously hinted at a Canadian re-versioning of the series.

Lee Tockar had confirmed that he would be voicing Frieza in the EuroCanadian English dub of Kai, and Scott McNeil confirmed at an anime convention that he would be returning to the series. Trevor Devall said in an interview with EverFree Radio that he would do voices for the series.[8]

Dragon Ball Z Kai was picked up for broadcast in the UK on Kix! in early 2013,[9][10][11] however, they instead used their own edit of the FUNimation dub, rather than using Ocean's dub.

The current official status of this dub is unknown. Since 2013, several actors from Ocean have suggested that the entire Cell and Saiyan/Frieza arcs have already been dubbed, and a theme song for the dub has leaked online.[12] As such, some have speculated that legal issues or lack of interest from broadcasters may be preventing the dub from being released to the public.[13] McNeil has argued that the reason the dub has never aired is that, "It was deemed to be too awesome."

Miscellaneous facts

  • When the Ocean Group returned to dub the series, they began at episode 108 and not where they initially left off, at episode 53. This was for purposes of staying in step with FUNimation's dub which was also at episode 108 at the time. As a result, no Ocean dub exists for the Captain Ginyu, Frieza, or Garlic Jr. sagas, as well as the majority of the Trunks saga. A fan petition, created in 2003, was made in an effort to get the Ocean cast to dub episodes #54-107.
  • Ian James Corlett stopped voicing Goku after episode 37 "Secrets Revealed" (although his final recorded performance was in the edited Tree of Might three-part episode). This was because there was a dispute over how much money he was making, and not, as some have said, because of non-professional conduct during and after some recordings.[14]
  • Several actors from the episode Saban/Ocean dub returned for the Westwood/Ocean dub. However, by the end of the series, many had left:
    • Peter Kelamis stopped voicing Goku during the Cell Saga (his final episode was 144 [159 uncut]). Kirby Morrow was Kelamis' replacement and the final voice of Goku for the Ocean dub. He began work on episode 145 [160 uncut] and stayed through to the end of the series (episode 276 [291 uncut]).
    • Maggie Blue O'Hara stopped voicing Bulma during the Buu Saga (her final episode was 245 [260 uncut]). France Perras was O'Hara's replacement and the final voice of Bulma for the Ocean dub. She began work on episode 254 [269 uncut] and stayed through to the end of the series (episode 276 [291 uncut]).
    • Saffron Henderson, who voiced young Gohan from the very beginning, had to leave the series due to her wedding conflicting with her allotted work schedule for the series. Her final episode was 150 [165 uncut].
  • Peter Kelamis and Scott McNeil were both born in Australia during the 1960s, with the two later moving to Canada.
  • Production values for the Westwood dub seemed to increase significantly in the Fusion and Kid Buu Sagas. Casting by Inter Pacific Productions Inc. was far better, the quality of voice work from the actors improved, audio effects to assist the actors were incorporated to a greater extent, and new musical tracks began to appear in greater numbers. It is assumed that a more relaxed production schedule for these sagas was responsible for this jump in quality, but in reality, it was the increased hands-on creative of Ocean and its Network partners that made significant improvements. However, the original Saban and Pioneer productions are usually deemed the highlights of the Ocean dubs, voice acting-wise.
  • Interestingly enough, the international Westwood version still has the closed captions for the FUNimation dub whenever dialogue is changed. For instance, in Kibito Kai's flashback where Kid Buu nearly kills Bibidi, in the FUNimation version, Bibidi says "I'm the one who created you, you stupid idiot!" But in the Ocean version, he says "I'm the one who created you, you ungrateful fool!" However, the closed captions say "stupid idiot" instead of "ungrateful fool".
  • In the Westwood dub, the words "kill", "death", "die", or "dead" are never used at first (except for a time during the tournament when Krillin uses a figure of speech), being replaced (sometimes ridiculously) from their use in the FUNimation dub with "hurt", "leave", "destroy", or "gone". However, in Episode 236 [251 uncut], Gotenks is Born, Piccolo uses the word "kill" and Buu uses the word "die" and "dead" twice. From here, the fear of using these words permanently vanished, though admittedly this may be because the word "Kill" appears in an episode title two episodes later. Despite this, however, Gohan's retort to Super Buu later on ("Fight you? No, I'm gonna kill you.") is changed to "Fight you? Ha! I'm gonna destroy you."
  • In the credits of the Westwood dub, a 1997 copyright date can be seen at the end, despite the fact that the dub was airing in the early 2000s timeframe, and presumably recorded then. Coincidentally, FUNImation's in-house dub of season 3 also had a 1997 copyright date, despite airing on Toonami in 1999. This however can be attributed to FUNimation using an updated version of the Saban dub's Rock the Dragon credits, which had a 1997 copyright date for the early Namek episodes and The Tree of Might three-parter.
  • The episode titles used in the Westwood dub for Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball Z were the same as the ones FUNimation used. Dragon Ball GT however, uses an English translation of the Japanese titles, since FUNimation had not yet created their English dub of the series. For the Westwood dub of DBZ, even the font and lettering from the FUNimation dub was kept for the title cards (since Ocean was assisting FUNimation with such editing). The Blue Water dubs of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball GT did not feature the title card sequences at all, due to the episodes being sourced from prints used for the French dub which also lacked such cards. The episode titles were instead shown during the beginning of the episode itself.
  • In addition to recycling Ruby Spears Mega Man and English Monster Rancher music, the Westwood dub also used an instrumental version of the theme for an unreleased 1995 dub of the Magic Knight Rayearth anime as background music in several episodes.[15]
  • Ocean's syndicated 1995 English version of Dragon Ball (produced jointly by FUNimation and BLT Productions) is the only dub of the franchise associated with FUNimation to have never at any point aired on Cartoon Network's Toonami.
  • Despite sharing scripts with the FUNimation dub, there are notable inconsistencies with name pronunciation between the two dubs. In the later Westwood dub of the Android and Buu Sagas:
    • Dr. Gero is pronounced "Gyro" as opposed to FUNimation's "Juro".
    • Videl is pronounced "Veedel" (with a hard 'V').
    • Marron is pronounced "Mar-ron" as opposed to FUNimation's "Marin".
  • Brian Drummond, the voice of Vegeta in the Ocean Group dub, would later voice Duplicate Vegeta in the Funimation dub of Dragon Ball Super; marking the first occasion that an Ocean Group voice actor participated in the Funimation in-house dub.
  • Ocean also made changes to the sound effects tracks of the series, usually adding sound effects where there were none in the Japanese version, or replacing them with more "modern" effects. Once FUNimation took over, this practice mostly stopped, although the Westwood dub continued to add additional effects. Despite this, the effects track of the 1995 Dragon Ball dub is unaltered.
  • In the Ocean/Saban dub of the Namek Saga, Zarbon was given an Australian accent and Jeice a British accent. When FUNimaton took over dubbing, they instead gave Jeice the Australian accent, and removed Zarbon's accent all together.
  • The 1995 Dragon Ball dub actually has no involvement from Ocean whatsoever and is only called the Ocean dub because it was done in Vancouver and shares the same voice actors.

See also