Dragon Ball fans around the world know him as the English cast’s “Voice of Vegeta” but Christopher Sabat‘s repertoire extends far beyond the mighty prince of Saiyans. Within the world of Dragon Ball, he’s also voiced Piccolo, Shenron, Yamcha and more, and in the greater anime universe, he’s also the English voice of All Might in My Hero Academia along with literally hundreds of other credits. Now, with the arrival of a trio of classic Dragon Ball Z films coming to theaters thanks to Toei and Fathom Events, I had a chance to chat with Sabat about his iconic characters on the big and small screens.
If you want to see your favorite heroes and villains battle it out in a big way, you’ll want to first check out Dragon Ball Z – Broly: The Legendary Super Saiyan arriving in theaters on September 15th and 17th. Then, later this fall, a double feature of Dragon Ball Z – Bardock: The Father of Goku and Dragon Ball Z: Fusion Reborn will hit the screens on November 3rd and November 5th. Obviously Vegeta has a big part to play in all of these adventures, but he’ll also arrive in rare form when the new Dragon Ball Super: Broly movie blasts its way into U.S. theaters this January. There’s lots to talk about, so let’s get into it!
First, and most importantly, when are you and Sean Schemmel (voice of Goku) having a ‘Dragon Ball FighterZ’ rematch? (I almost felt bad for Sean after how badly you trounced him…)
Christopher Sabat: ::laughs:: Yeah, the first Super Saiyan Showdown was more of a massacre than a match. I almost felt bad, but then I figured Vegeta wouldn’t feel guilty about it. Sean and I certainly want to rematch (he does more than I do, clearly) and there have been definitely been talks about making it happen soon. There are a lot moving pieces to make something like that a reality, so I’m just waiting for the call from FUNimation to let me know it’s on.
What was your first reaction when you heard that a trio of classic Dragon Ball movies would be arriving on the big screen some 25 years later?
Sabat: Dragon Ball has been full over surprises over the last few years, with the two surprise theatrical releases, Dragon Ball Super and now the announcement of the newest Broly feature. So when I heard the three classic Broly movies were going to see the light of day, I wasn’t overly surprised. It’s shocking to me that I performed on these features so long ago. I’m terrible with math and even worse with dates but I must have done that voice work over 15 years ago. In the case of the classic Broly films I didn’t actually cast or direct them so I’m not as familiar with them as some of the other films. We had always hoped they’d end up in a theaters, so I’m extremely excited to see them on a big screen.
Among ‘Broly’, ‘Bardock’, and ‘Fusion’, do you have a favorite movie or arc for Vegeta?
Sabat: Broly, the Legendary Super Saiyan was my favorite of the three, for sure. I actually had a hand in adapting that script. It was my first attempt at anime writing and it admittedly it was my last. I decided after that script that I don’t have the right personality to sit by my computer for so long. I’m way too easily distracted. ::laughs:: I loved that in Broly The Legendary Super Saiyan, you get to see Vegeta in a conflicted, worried state. Vegeta had lost all courage, which is horrifying because it’s a very rare occurrence for him.
Will you be checking the movies out on the big screen, or do you avoid watching your own work?
Sabat: I usually don’t have time to sit down and watch everything I’ve been in because that would literally take longer than I have hours for in the day, but I actually love seeing anime in the theater. I saw Battle of Gods and Resurrection F about five times each and I loved it every single time. I have to admit, though, that I’m also very curious to see how my voice work from way back then holds up.
In your 20+ years of voice-acting, do you have one particular moment—either acting or interacting with fans—that stands out as a favorite?
Sabat: Wow, that’s a hard thing to narrow down. Seeing Battle of Gods in the theater for the first time gave be the biggest chills I’ve ever had in my acting career. Looking back on all the friends and colleagues I’ve made over the years has probably been the best thing, though.
What’s been the most rewarding transformation you’ve seen Vegeta go through over all these years? Is it his rising power levels, his mellowing out as a character, becoming a family man, or something else?
Sabat: I say this a lot, but my favorite Vegeta is Majin Vegeta. No question about it. I loved him deciding to give in to his evil side for a moment, kick Goku’s ass (well, at least his neck) and then sacrifice himself against Majin Buu. It’s the first time Vegeta is really humanized in the show and I think it’s why Vegeta is still a fan favorite.
I’m sure Dragon Ball keeps you busy, but you’ve got a lot of other plates spinning. What does your daily routine look like?
Sabat: I’d say my life is about 50% Dragon Ball and 50% everything else. I have some form a voiceover session almost every single day of my life, and when I’m not recording the studio I’m typically auditioning for other roles. Outside of that, I run a recording studio called Okratron 5000 which keeps me extremely busy managing our various projects. At any given time we’re typically working on two or three video game voiceover projects, so I spend a lot of time making sure our clients are being handled well and my engineers have everything they need to do the best job possible. And we are still in production on Dragon Ball Super which means I have to help with a lot of casting, scheduling, contracts, and a variety of other things before heading out the door for conventions, which recently have been happening at a rapid-fire pace.
How do you keep your character voices separate in your head? Do you do anything differently to prep for each one?
Sabat: When you first get any new voice, it takes a bit of time to settle into exactly what you want to do. But once it happens the director will usually hold on to a reference line, a line you think really personifies the character. Before each session they will usually play your reference line, at least until he gets ingrained in your head to the point where you don’t need it anymore. I’ve been doing the voices of my characters in Dragon Ball Z for so long that I really don’t need a reference. They are permanently etched into my brain, for better or worse. However, I still have to record in the specific order if I’m ever doing a lot of characters in the same episode. Usually I start with Yamcha, because he is the highest in my voice and the easiest on my vocal cords. Next, I record Piccolo, then Vegeta. Piccolo gets me as far from Yamcha’s voice as possible and gets my lower voice warmed up.
What can you tease about the new Broly movie coming to theaters this January and how is it different from anything that we’ve seen so far?
Sabat: I’m still in the dark about most of the details about the new film. I have seen the teaser trailer that they released at San Diego Comic Con and some of the images that have made their way on to Japanese publications. If you are not plugged in to the Dragon Ball Z community, you probably didn’t know that you were going to see Vegeta in his Red Hair God Mode, something you’ve never seen in the series before. And there are definitely some new characters that we will get to see as well as some old ones that you might’ve forgot about.
Did you get to record along with Vic Mignogna (voice of Broly) and the gang, or is that something you have to do solo?
Sabat: We haven’t started the recording process yet, I’m afraid. But it should be soon and I’m stoked to get started.
In addition to the Dragon Ball movies coming to theaters this weekend and then in November, you also have My Hero Academia: The Movie arriving this September as well. What else can you tease for fans in the months and years ahead? What else are you most looking forward to?
Sabat: Yeah, what a great month huh? My Hero Academia is such an amazing show and it’s something I love to promote whenever I meeting fans. The film was screened at Anime Expo, so many people know that the show takes a peek at a time in between seasons one and two. You get to see a little bit of All Might in his younger, unrefined hero days as well, which is really fun.
The thing I’m most worried about, and yet I know nothing about, is that All Might might actually die of the injury that’s been making him bleed form the mouth. If it happens, I will understand but I sure as heck won’t like it. At the same time, it will be nice to see Midoriya become the epic hero he is meant to be. I have been wondering though, whether he will have to change his voice when he’s in his hero form, like All Might. What would that sound like? I chuckle to imagine it.