Interview with John Burgmeier from the the North Texasn Online. This article appears for informational purposes only.
The following interview is from the "North Texan Online," an online magazine for the University of North Texas where many of FUNimation's employees have come from. It's quite unusual- in it, someone actually interviews one of FUNimation's script writers for DBZ. And the script writer is none other than FUNimation's head script writer, John Burgmeier. This is something many a fan (especially myself) have been curious about for years and in it he reveals quite a lot about the process of "Americanizing" DBZ, especially many of the earlier movies and episodes. And it ain't a pretty sight.
"Not a mama's boy"
Interviewed by: The North Texas Online
"She got a job being the voice of Frieza and suggested that I audition for a part," he says. "I never got a part, but I kept coming back. Since I was a familiar face I got a job pressing buttons."
Burgmeier began as an automated dialogue replacement engineer, a lengthy title for the guy who inserts the voices into the animation. Later he became one of the series' writers.
Burgmeier and several other writers Americanize the scripts through the dialogue.
"The series' storyline is already set up, but the finer touches of the characters are often lost in translation," says Burgmeier, who majored in English at UNT. "The translations are really rudimentary."
Burgmeier's mom ended her stint with FUNimation after Frieza's demise, so he didn't get a chance to write for her initially.
But like most blights on the universe, Frieza does make a comeback to battle Trunks - a heroic warrior from the future who comes to warn the series' heroes of their impending doom. It was also during this saga that Burgmeier really shined.
"I was really geared up for Trunks because we knew he would be incredibly popular," Burgmeier says. "But after I read the script I thought, 'I can't have my mom reading these corny lines,' so I reworked those episodes from front to back."
Due to the success of those episodes, Burgmeier was promoted to script supervisor.
The Trunks saga also marked the beginning of Burgmeier's voice-acting career. He became the voice of Tien, a three-eyed hero fighting by Goku's side, and voiced a few smaller parts such as a crony and a driving instructor.
He will also be in FUNimation's Dragon Ball, Blue Gender and Yu Yu Hakusho series.
"Yeah, I guess I owe it all to my mom," he says.
Comments added by The Great Saiyaman:
Wow. This is probably even more controversial than Steve Harmon's interview with Gen Fukunaga. However, I've gotten much better at these and, unlike last time, I'm going to cover everything that needs to be covered before focusing on the main and most controversial issue. Oh, and John- you should consider yourself very lucky that I like you for the good job you did on Movie 6. Were you anyone else (especially Christopher Neel) then reading this probably wouldn't be a very pretty sight for you. Now then, let's begin.
In FUNimation's early days on their own after ditching Saban and the Ocean cast, pretty much anyone applying for a job could easily get one from them... regardless of what their level of talent was. (Looks in the general direction of Bruce Faulconer and Mark Britten.)
Kurilin- "MOOONDOOO COOOOOL!" Goku- "HAMMER TIME!" Garlic Jr. "COME TO BIG DADDY GARLIC JR.!" The 4 Demon Monarchs- "We're the... SPICE BOYS!" Yamucha- "Wow, he's like da great Houdini or something!" Captain Ginyu- "Oh yeah, having the most powerful boss in the universe would definitely be the ultimate 401K!" Need I really say more? Besides, DBZ is NOT as loaded with Japanese pop references and allusions to what were then current events in that country as FUNimation ignorantly has believed for so long. It actually hardly has any. Speaking of which, after dubbing Season 4 Sean Schemmel once complained that the characters in Japanese DBZ probably frequently talked about "paying for the sins of our fathers," despite the fact that he had never seen any subtitled Japanese DBZ at the time. And the sad thing is, virtually all people at FUNimation shared his views and he actually said that to try and defend FUNimation.
Corny lines? No need for me to comment on why the lines he was given were so "corny," I'll get to that in a bit. However, I don't see how having Trunks joke about Freeza wanting to take Goku out on a date (especially after the miserable injuries Christopher Neel and Terry Klassen inflicted on the poor villain in Season 3) was "cooler" than simply having Trunks threaten Freeza's life.
Ah... no wonder John didn't butcher DBZ Movie 6's script to high hell- by that time his work on staying faithful to DB, Blue Gender and Yu Yu Hakusho had rubbed off on him. I should also point out that, although FUNimation wouldn't allow him to include any curse words he refused to put any pseudo swear words in the dub script of Movie 6. He actually has become a.... a....- fine, he's become a good script writer. Hmmph, never thought I'd see the day when I'd be saying something nice about one of FUNimation's DBZ script writers. However, some of his earlier work...
Well.... I think it finally makes sense now why exactly the scripts for DBZ have been so incredibly butchered, and why FUNimation is maintaining "continuity" with that practice for GT. Before I continue, let's take a look at what other FUNimation employees have also had to say about these "translated scripts."
Reporter Jimmy Fowler- "Along with the master Dragonball Z tapes from Toei, Ltd. come direct, often bizarrely obtuse English translations of the Japanese dialogue, which are turned into rhythmic English dialogue by script writers and veteran voice actors in Austin and Canada."
Conversation between Kaio of Planet Namek and head translator Steven J. Simmons-
Gen promises, "Don't worry, we'll take good care of your company's most beloved anime- I promise!" However, you have to take into account the fact that FUNimation had NO experience at all whatsoever in the anime business prior to doing this. That's why DB only got 5:00 am slots on Saturdays in a few cities, they were unable to negotiate anything better. Anyway, when they first began there was a problem- they needed translated scripts. And FUNimation was too cheap to hire someone to do them and Gen was too lazy to do them himself. So, Gen's uncle worked out some sort of deal with Toei to get THEM to pay for translating scripts.
Look at this way. Suppose Toei has 20 anime properties each being dubbed in 20 countries. What if the dubbing companies all said, "Toei, pay to have 400 different translations done for each us so we ourselves won't have to pay any money at all." Obviously anime dubbing companies are expected to have their own translations. Those that don't are considered very cheap and lowclass. Toei balked, but decided to hint VERY strongly at FUNimation that they didn't like doing this- so, they hired the cheapest most untalented Japanese to English translator/s they could find and produced translations via that method. Before thinking about bad Japanese to English translators, just remember that "All your base are belong to us" Zero Wing music video phenomenon. And even before that the Japanese were rather infamous among Americans for usually having "Engrish" translations and not getting our language right.
However, the message did not sink in FUNimation's head after the first 13 poorly translated scripts of DB or the 13 afterwards they wound up never using. (Since the initial poor ratings of DB made them decide that it was a "poor fit" for the American market, thus leading to the decision to skip 140 episodes straight into DBZ.) Nor did it sink in after Seasons 1, 2 and 3, which constitued a full 117/102 episodes. .... and it still didn't sink in until after Season 4 ended, at which point 194/179 episodes of the series had been dubbed. And do you know how much of the series it was that was based off script rewrites of poorly translated scripts? 61.5%. In other words, ALMOST TWO THIRDS OF ALL OF FUNIMATION'S DUB OF DRAGONBALL Z IS BASED OFF OF POORLY, INACCURATELY, CHEAPLY, INTENTIONALLY, MISTRANSLATED SCRIPTS! I even heard one person defend FUNimation by saying, "Hey, it's not their fault Japanese doesn't translate right! Goku says stuff like, 'Fly I do!' How the hell do you translated, 'Fly I do'?"
Steve wasn't hired until late 1999. The dubbing of Season 4 ended at some point in early 2000. His first work was the Freeza DVD's. The main reason FUNimation hired him was because they needed someone to provide accurate translations for the DVD's, and theirs were already way too inaccurate to use. Furthermore, they couldn't put in the English script in the Japanese version because that'd prevent them from tapping into the hardcore market since it'd piss off people. (And because the FUNimation version has tons of ventriloquist dialogue which would awkwardly pop up during many moments of silence.) I pointed this out to one person from FUNimation who was nice enough to respond to me. In regards to that issue, this person wrote- (note- slightly altered to protect the person's identity.)
"As you understand, a business's goal it to make money. The way I view it, the liberal translations and dialogue changes seen later in the show were done for consistency's sake. With Steven J. Simmons on board all along, would you have a more accurate translation all along? Absolutely. But that's no guarantee the writers wouldn't have still been ordered to Americanize the dialogue. "
I agree with that statement completely. However, had the script writers not had to re-write virtually EVERYTHING on the provided scripts just to produce something legibile, Seasons 1-4 wouldn't have been so disastrous. And the ones after that wouldn't have been AS altered, since at that time they were used to altering virtually everything in the scripts. (Like when Goten yelled "Kamekameha," which was a funny joke also used in Toriyama's manga, which wound up being ignorantly "corrected" by FUNimation's script writers to "Kamehameha.") And by the time Steve got hired, DBZ had become a hit and the people in charge decided that the over-the-top liberal changes were still necessary to keep the money flowing in.
It just completely and utterly sickens me that FUNimation stooped that low and cheated so many fans just to save themselves the cost of hiring an extra employee. Hell, they could have just bought about $500 worth of fansubs and had Christopher Neel copy those scripts verbatim and things would have turned out much better. Regardless, I think this pretty much blows away all of the dubbie fans's arguments which amount to, "I agree wit dat Psaros guy, sessons 1-3 sucked lotsa ass but Funi got a lott bettur in sesson 4 and the Cell saga totally rocked as did evryting after that did and was evn better than da Japanise version!"
Of all the mistakes FUNimation has ever made this has by far been the worst and most disgusting. As an ex-dubbie, I'm absolutely nauseated to discover this. However, I will say this- the fact DBZ that could survive in America despite this is not a testament to FUNimation's "skill" or "knowledge" but rather a testament to how great of an anime DBZ truly is.
I guess that's just about all that can be said about that. Yeah, this was FUNimation's "starter up anime" but I'll be damned if I buy that lame excuse and justify the many countless mistakes they've repeatedly made and still make to this day. I'd rather have seen Pioneer handle this right from the beginning (like what they did with the first 3 movies) rather than have to go through some 5th-rate anime company butchering the best anime of all time up to high-hell just because they were "still getting experience." I really wish I could say nice things about FUNimation without having to complain at them all the time but with crap like this it's exceedingly difficult to do. And them dubbing GT even worse isn't exactly helping matters any. Well, see you all next time.