“Ma, remember when I was in elementary school and we rented tapes at Video City? Can you still remember about renting a VHS tape of Dragon Ball?”
…I don’t. Why’d you ask?
This is an actual conversation that I had with my mother recently and by recently, I meant minutes ago and this all stems back to a vague memory that I had back in the day.
Back in the waning days of the VHS (circa 2000-2004), stores like Video City, ACA Video and others still provide VHS tapes for people who haven’t yet acclimated themselves to the increasing popular VCD format (it took 5 years for DVDs to be popular here) and here I was, ready to rent some VHS tapes for me to enjoy, only to take a glimpse of a certain tape titled “Dragon Ball: The Movie”.
Me, being a giant Dragon Ball fan, rented this tape of course and I got excited to see what is this tape that I have now on my hands and see what’s inside it.
By the time I went home, I immediately popped the tape onto the VCR player my uncle let us borrow and lo and behold, the tape has fuzzy quality and I noticed something right away, the Regal Entertainment logo bursting through the screen and it got me thinking, this isn’t just some ordinary tape, it’s a tape from the 1980s.
After that, the film proper now starts playing and the first thing I noticed are, back then I thought was King Piccolo and his minions destroying the world and all, only to turn out to be the Dragon Balls glowing.
Now here’s the thing, I grew up with Dragon Ball during it’s second life at GMA 7 (“Merong fishball, meron ding basketball at may Dragon Ball?!” anyone?) wherein it was first dubbed in English during it’s first few episodes and then it got dubbed in Tagalog up until GT episode 64 so by this point, I am now more or less familiar about the world of Dragon Ball and saw a few of it’s movies on cable TV (it was the Solar TV dubs of Movies 10 and 11 which by then I didn’t know any better that these are Broly movies and they never dubbed Movie 8. Cheap bastards) and by this point, already exposed to what the Japanese kids of the early ’90s had, DBZ video games but this is something different.
At first, I thought this is something that was released during the show’s first run on RPN-9 which would be the first thing I tried to find on the Internet years later up until today and to my surprise, nobody knew about this.
Not even the number one modern DBZ fansite Kanzenshuu and it’s forums have the answer. Most Google searches for this movie only end up with the usual suspects, Dragon Ball Z movies 5,6,10, and 11 being dubbed by Creative Productions and Solar Entertainment Corporation, official distributors of Dragon Ball merchandise before GMA took over.
This is where I decided to do my research on the matter and so the first thing I did is to take a look at distributor of the tape, Regal Entertainment and just like what I expected, nothing came up. So the next best thing is to scour the Interwebz about the dubs of Dragon Ball/Z from various countries and most of the time, you’ll get are the oh-so-popular Funimation dubs and some other companies here and there (like Big Green and Speedy) and then our good ‘ol friends at Creative show up and it opened up a lot of history of the series in the Philippines.
Yes, this is real. You can click on the picture and learn more about this tape.
According to this article from the Manila Standard from August 1996, the owner of Creative Products Corp., William Co, learned about Dragon Ball Z from a trip in Thailand in 1992 when he saw a poster of it lying in the back seat of a friend’s car and was told that it was “Asia’s no.1 cartoon series” and so it began, he went to Toei’s Hong Kong distributor and thus the first 26 episodes of Dragon Ball Z was aired in 1993 at Sundays at 5:30 PM and then they suddenly aired the first part of the series, aptly titled Dragon Ball which focuses on Goku (or Gokou or Gokuh depending on your preference) and his adventures before the 23rd Tenkaichi Budokai.
With a hot property now on their hands thanks to DBZ’s ratings, Creative Products is now dead set into making this the next Voltes V by releasing the movies in Philippine theaters but that’s yet to come as their first plan to pop culture domination is to stage a musical. Yes. A Dragon Ball themed musical.
Something neither Funimation nor Toei, who is known for making Kamen Rider and Super Sentai stage shows, in their wildest dreams thought of making one.
It was shown to kids who were invited at the Folk Arts Theatre on June 22 and 23, 1996 at 7:00 PM (Manila Standard, June 19, 1996)The musical is focused on volumes 1 to, basing on the arc the TV series is in, 27 of the manga, it featured Gino Padilla as Son Goku reliving his adventures from being the child in Mt. Paozu to being the Super Saiyan of legend.
This is not only on the first and only stage show based on Dragon Ball that was ever produced, this also served as an introductory piece to what would become “The Greatest Rivals” feature length film. A month later, Dragon Ball Z: The Greatest Rivals premiered onto 30 Metro Manila theaters.
This “feature-length” film is actually two movies cobbled into one giant film. The movie contains the fifth movie:The Strongest Rivals and movie number six: Fight! 10 Billion Power Warriors. Movies that were released at the end of the Frieza arc, an arc that wasn’t being aired during that time on TV.
It’s kinda weird if you’re going to think about it because most of the backstory, especially with Coola, ties in with what happens during the Frieza arc, an arc that wasn’t aired on Philippine TV until 2002 (trust me, I saw the end of episode 95 while I was sitting on the dining table). Kinda weird isn’t it? It’s as if Studio 23 aired 10 episodes of Evangelion and then showed EoE without any context whatsoever but who cares about context when action is the name of the game?
Fast forward to 1998 and from Creative Products Corp, we move now to Solar Entertainment Corporation. That Solar Entertainment Corporation, who owns CNN Philippines, back before they started to own dead TV networks, they have a cable network of their own and not only did their stuff like Choujin Sentai Jetman (dubbed in English, not in Tagalog mind you) and two more Dragon Ball Z movies but this time they have a different set of voice actors….yay?
Just like the CPC release two years earlier, they are two movies cobbled into one film but unlike the CPC release, their release didn’t cut anything from the movie and there’s no Goku to be seen here (except on the front and back covers and on the CD itself) because this “movie” is actually 2/3 of the original series’ Broly Trilogy (because they didn’t bother dubbing Movie 8, y’know, the MOST IMPORTANT FILM IN THE TRILOGY) and boy the voices they used here are bad.
This isn’t neither the Nesty Ramirez/Jeff Utanes cast you grew to love and in some sense, the voices they used don’t fit the characters. At all. Especially Goten’s. You can watch both movies under this Archive.org link thanks to another uploader FumeiCom.
Now we got that history lesson out of the way, you might be wondering, where does this “lost tape” fit into any of this? This is where the “mystical adventure” begins. As we have seen here, Dragon Ball Z didn’t get aired here until 1993 and that would mean nobody picked up either Dragon Ball or Dragon Ball Z prior to that.
So does that mean Regal Entertainment has the license back then? Did they use their own voice cast? Did they use the original names? Did they just slapped in the Harmony Gold dub and called it a day? I don’t know for sure as the last time I watched that tape was more than 10 years ago and I can’t even remember what I did a few weeks ago.
I think the best thing I can say here would be that “I can remember watching it like it was yesterday” only that yesterday was so distant, you can’t remember it but you can remember the fact that I did watch that tape and I did rent it. Too bad the tape got jammed on the VCR and I might’ve got it damaged but it’s a good thing it came out in time to return it to the video store, only to never be seen again but as Kame Sennnin always said…
A little bit of an update: out of my sheer curiosity, I decided to give Gino Padilla a message on Facebook and it confirms that he did indeed took part on Creative’s Dragon Ball Z promotion back in the 90s and all I thought that this is just some hoax or as my favorite podcast co-host calls it: rumor and innuendo but this is legit.
A MAJOR UPDATE: Nessie from Twitter is currently in talks with someone who only not owns the same exact video tape of this version of Legend of Shenlong but a VCD copy as well. Knowing the Dragon Ball fandom, once the sale is finalized, this version will pop up on archive.org.
Special thanks to the aforementioned Nessie, ZeBenko, and FumeiCom for this update. This is really an unexpected update and I appreciate the comment.