INTERVIEW: Dragon Ball’s Chris Sabat and Sonny Strait Reflect on the Series

This year marks the 30th anniversary of Dragon Ball's American debut. Since Kameha Con opens its annual DFW convention today as well, we thought we would have a chat with some of Texas's favorite voice actors. Chris Sabot (the voice of Vegeta/Piccolo) and Sonny Strait (the voice of Krillin/Bardock) sat down to talk about their experience with the show over the past few decades.

 

Krillin is probably the most underrated character in the entire Dragon Ball series. Here is your chance to let the world know why he is more than just the Sense Bean guy.

(Sonny) Yeah, I mean there's no doubt that he is underrated as a character. He's the definition of courage because courage is not being without fear. Courage is being afraid, but doing what you have to do anyway. He’s the character that will rush in. For instance, take the fight with Majin Buu. He knew that he was going to die, but he needed to buy his friends his family a few more seconds to get indoors. He's just a good and courageous little guy.


You each voice several characters in the Dragon Ball series and obviously have attachments to them, but which character do you think most closely resembles you?

(Sonny) Which one do I think resembles Chris the most? Probably Krillin.

(Chris) Yeah, Krillin probably resembles me because I am bald.

(Sonny) But, I think your personality more resembles that of Bubbles the Monkey. That seems to be your spirit animal.

(Chris) Yes! That's my spirit animal! My wife says I'm more like The Eternal Dragon. I show up, only last a few minutes, grant a couple wishes, and go.

(Sonny) Are we talking about you or your sex life?

(Chris)Yeah.

(Sonny) Who would I be? I think I'm a lot like Krillin. I'm very much a family man and I've got a daughter that I raised. My wife is also a robot, so it's pretty much just like him really.

(Chris) If I'm being serious, the character I probably relate the most to is Mr. Satan because he just tries his hardest. There are all these magical people around him that can do all these really cool things. He’s arguably one of the best humans, but he just can't figure out why everyone is so d*mn good around him.

Then, he gets to show up and take all of the credit.

(Chris) All of us in this business, we are all Mr. Satan.

(Sonny) Yes!

 

You have each been involved in the show for over twenty years now. Throughout all of the sagas, which do you find to be your favorite story arc?

(Chris) I just answered this question a few hours ago on a private jet. I did my Dragon Ball 30th year anniversary thing on a on a private jet.

(Sonny) Seriously? A private jet? Did you join the Mile-High Club to celebrate the 30thanniversary?

(Chris) Yeah man, just like the dragon would.

(Chris) I think the series peaked with Majin Vegeta and Goku fighting with one another, but my personal favorite part of the series was the android saga. Sonny, Sean and I were all there from the beginning. As one of the directors, it was really hard to find new people because Funimation was doing something that hadn't been done before. There were no other places dubbing anime in Dallas, so it was hard to find people. But, right around the time we got to the Android saga is when we found some really talented people. We managed to bring in some really great people like Kent Williams, Laura Bailey, Meredith McCoy, Eric Vale, and Damian Clarke. That's really when the actor pool blossomed into what it has become today; we just got so many strong new actors in.

(Sonny) You're right. The quality of the show really picked up at that point.

(Chris) It was probably the first round of characters that we got to cast on our own. A lot of the show, up until that point, had already been pre-cast because of the Canadian version. This was the first time we got to cast actors that weren’t in the Canadian version.

(Sonny) The Android saga was my favorite too. That’s when Krillin, to me, solidified as a character because that's when you found out that he was in love with Android 18. It was there that I realized that this guy was just a sucker for love.

 

Chris, you voice a character that most people would consider to be an egotistic jerk. Why are people so drawn to Vegeta?

(Chris) The show has a lame hero character. I think people grew up with Goku and knew he was the hero, mostly because they were told that he was the hero. Vegeta is the real hero because he had to become a better person. He chose to be a better person, and I really respect that a lot about the character. He really grew whereas Goku just got excited about a new person to fight. Vegeta had to become a human and learn how to. He is just a far more rounded character.

(Sonny) Yeah. When people ask who my favorite character is in the entire series, I always tell them Vegeta. I love redemption stories, and that is definitely a redemption tale. He definitely grows the most. If you think about what the protagonist is, he's generally the character that grows the most and that is Vegeta.

 

When Goku goes full Super Saiyan 3, he gets this awesome Sonic the Hedgehog hair style. Then, we finally see Vegeta go SS3 and all he gets is a noticeably receding hairline and slightly longer hair. What gives?

(Chris) Why? Because, Vegeta gets screwed every time. I have this theory that Vegeta is based on someoneAkira Toriyama was bullied by High school, and it's his revenge story. No matter what, Vegeta never gets the ultimate victory. He’s the better character, but that's all he has going for. So yeah, in the movie he got screwed again. People always ask me, “Is Vegeta ever going to be stronger than Goku and finally get a victory?” I say, “Yes, then immediately the world will explode, Vegeta will die, and the show will be over.” That is just the way it goes for that guy.

(Sonny) I have a hard time feeling sorry for you. Krillin always loses, even when he wins. He did this really cool move in Super and beats someone that beat Android 18, which is amazing because she could beat Super Saiyans. As soon as he kicks his a**, he gets his a** kicked.

(Chris) Yep. They need a motivation to upset Goku so he can show up at the last minute and take the cake.

(Sonny) It’s really such a cool bromance between those two. I think it has really taken off since the movies.

 

Speaking of transformations, it there ever any chance that we will get to see a new version of Krillin? I know he is human, but there are tons of characters throughout the series that have transformed and aren't Saiyans. 

(Sonny) I think he goes through a minor transformation where he grows a nose later, but I think that is just a rumor.

That sounds like the pinnacle of the next movie.

(Sonny) Yeah, “Krillin Grows A Nose”.

 

After all of this time I am sure that you can both get into character pretty easily now. Did you ever have any lines or songs that you'd use to get into character?

(Sonny) For me, I used to have to clear my throat and that would get me into the Krillin voice, but now I don’t have to do that. It’s just part of us now.

(Chris)It's so funny, but after all these years I think I actually know everybody's warm up lines. It's really funny to do to everyone's hook lines, like yours. [clears throat and gets does an impressive Krillin impression] Sean Shemmel’s is kind of like, “No, no, I'm sorry. Look I gotta let you go. I'm on the phone right now. Look I got to get into a session.” That's how he works his way into Super Saiyan 3.

(Sonny) Is he talking to his agent?

(Chris) Yeah, usually. Let's see, with Vegeta I usually had to do a half scream [insert Vegeta’s power up yell] and I’ve got it. Piccolo is just like, “Oh yeah” [in a Marvin Gay tone].

 

I saw you at a convention last year and people were lined up all over the place to see you. The Majin Vegeta Funko Pop had just come out and the crowds were insane. Why was the Majin Vegeta Funko such a big deal?

(Chris) I think people agree that Majin was one of the best forms of Vegeta and the Funko Pop culture is at a peak right now. When I go to conventions, that's 90 percent of what I sign. Every time there's a new pop out I’m like, “Oh yeah, I just made money.” The Majin Vegeta thing that was sort of a fluke; I'm not sure how I ever was allowed to do that. It was one of those things where I caught someone at the right place and time. They let me do it because I begged them.

(Sonny) I bet that cost you a small fortune.

(Chris) Yeah, but I knew people would want it, and it worked out. I made my money back on it, so it’s cool. Funko people are interesting people. At least you got to see it at a casual convention. Where did you see me by the way?

I believe it was at Dallas Fan Days last year.

(Chris) Yes! That was the first time after New York Comic Con that I actually sold it. New York Comic Con was crazy man. People spit on each other because they get so angry about getting toys. I've never seen people so rabid for an object before. It was nuts.

Yeah, I am not going to complain about having to miss out on the whole getting spit on thing.

(Chris) Nah, we’re in Texas man. We don’t spit on people.

(Sonny) Yeah, we spit on the ground!

 

The show has been around for about three decades now. Why do you think Dragon Ball has lasted this long?

(Sonny) Personally, I think it's because it's not like any other anime or cartoon. It really is a unique thing in the industry.

(Chris) It is first showed up at a time where there was nothing quite like it in America. What's interesting is that it still looks unique and you can always pick out Dragon Ball characters. You always know that it's Dragon Ball. If you go to Anime Expo you can see all the different booths and they all look similar, except for Dragon Ball. It has a unique, signature style and it definitely stands out. It's also a sign of the times. It predated a lot of the type of content that we're used to seeing now, the really long running shows that have continuous plots from episode to episode. Whereas before that, everything was sort of episodic. The kids watching that were really into it, and they were the last generate generation of kids to have to run home to watch something.

(Sonny) They made cartoons that were episodic, but there were also no consequences for actions. You started at square one again on the next cartoon whereas, in this show, you know that everything happening is going to have a consequence. It's kind of like a really good soap opera.

(Chris) The only consequence that doesn't matter in Dragon Ball is death.

(Sonny) True, but if somebody dies you’ve got to deal with that. The show has to come back and deal with it somehow. But you're right, there is no consequence for death.

You are probably the expert on that since Killin holds the record for most deaths throughout the series.

(Sonny) Yeah four times to be exact. Well, six if you count Bardock.

 

Speaking of Bardock, what was it like transitioning from Krillin to a Saiyan?

(Sonny) I liked it. Throughout the video games over all these years Bardock has a line that keeps recurring. He says, “I'm going to change the future.” And by God if he did! He changes the future with his last movie. It's like he got the fantasy life that he wished he had in the original movie. He's happily married and he knows about his kids. He's still a Saiyan, still tough and everything. He’s just not the prick that he was in the first movie.

 

In regards to video games, I heard that someone put a whooping on Sean Schemmel in Dragon Ball Fighterz.

(Chris) Yes! I put a hard whooping on him. Honestly, I kind of had an upper hand in this. He never got his copy of the game. Granted, I don't I don't feel too bad about this. He's Sean Schemmel, the voice of Goku. He has plenty of power and could get a copy of a game if he wanted to. Bandai sent me a copy of the game and, out of a courtesy, I sent him a copy. Apparently, the only address I had for him was his accountant’s address and his account thought it was a gift or something. So, he never really got a chance to practice on it. Boy, I beat him really bad. We're actually about to do another one here in a few weeks.

(Sonny) Oh yeah, I'm going to be emceeing it. I guess I'd better familiarize myself with the game.

(Chris) Oh, that's awesome! I've heard that some of the other actors are going to be there. I think that's great.

(Sonny) I have no idea how this game is played. I have to least watch it so I know what the hell you guys are doing.

(Chris) It's very hard. If there's anyone who actually knows how to play the game, they will automatically be so much better. You'll have a fun time. I think you'll just be able to color commentary on it.

 

Final question. If you had collected all seven Dragon Balls, what would you wish for?

(Chris) I used to say more Dragon Ball episodes, but we got that. Although, I wouldn't mind asking for it again because they haven't announced any new Dragon Ball Super. I also used to say female Saiyans, but we got those now too.

(Sonny) If I had the power to wish for anything, I would wish for another 20 years of this as well. This has been a crazy, fun ride. It gave us life and careers, not necessarily in that order. When we started out 20 years ago, you were a kid and I think that I just became an adult. I think I just had my bar mitzvah that week, so we didn't have really have a grasp of how big of deal this was. Creative people just handed this amazing property to us, but we had no experience in this kind of area. It's amazing that we have grown over 20 years in this field. This field gave us a life.

(Chris) It really did. We started this during a time when there was really no internet, so to speak. There were no fan dubs, you couldn't go online to find YouTube clips of things, or even search Wikipedia. We just had to figure this stuff out on our own. We were sort of working in a vacuum. There aren’t too many Japanese stores to go to in Dallas where you could learn or meet people that knew the show. It was definitely a challenge back then.

(Sonny) But at the same time, it was amazing. It's so weird to think back to that time.We grew so fast within four years. Now we have an industry.

(Chris) Back then, none of us would have expected that we would've been working on this for even a year.There alwayst happened to be more of it, but we just didn't know how much. After a while, we stopped questioning it. I remember a certain point where I was like, “Wow! I've been doing this for like two years now…”

(Sonny) It’s funny; I said it would last two years when I first started as well. I thought, “This is a fad and it'll be over in two years. Just enjoy it while you can.”

(Chris) If I could wish for the dragon, I guess I’d wish that Akira Toriyama, Masako Nozawa, and Ryo Horikawa (the creator, the original voice of Vegeta, and the voice of Goku) live another 50 years and are able to continue to do their voices.

(Sonny) That way we can keep chasing them.

(Chris) Exactly.

 

This weekend you can find both actors, along with an impressive list of other DB actors, at Kameha Con in the Irving Convention Center. They will both be appearing the entire weekend for discussions, photo ops, and autographs. You can find tickets and more information on their site at www.kamehacon.com