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Trivia / Dragonball Evolution

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  • Ash Can Copy: Fox had sat on the rights to a Dragonball movie for seven years, unable to put a creative team together. As the 2008 Writer's Strike loomed on the horizon, they cobbled together a script and a modest budget, hoping to make the most of what they could with the time they had. Filming was so cheap they ended up filming in an abandoned blue jeans factory in Durango, Mexico.
    James Marsters: Yeah, they told me it was a $120 million picture and that Stephen Chow was producing. So I get to Durango and it's a $30 million picture and Stephen Chow was just on paper to fool us into getting down to Durango. Chow Yun-fat and I were cursing in the desert over this like, "SON OF A BITCH!"
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  • Box Office Bomb: Budget, $30 million. Box office, $9,362,785 (domestic), $57,497,699 (worldwide). Being panned by critics and especially fans over being so far removed from the source material as humanly possible, along with being released in April with poor marketing, severely damaged it's box-office numbers.
  • Converted Fanboy: James Marsters watched the anime to study his character. Afterwards, he started referring to the anime as "the coolest television cartoon in the last 50,000 years." He'd later voice the villain Zamasu in Dragon Ball Super and associated video games in 2017.
  • Cowboy BeBop at His Computer: A review of the film opened with the following informed lines.
    Another Japanese manga bites the dust with its cinematic adaptation: in this case, the "Dragonball Evolution" series.
  • Creator's Apathy: Ben Ramsey admitted in a 2016 apology letter to have gone into the film "as a businessman" and "not a fan" of Dragon Ball (whether this means he was a fan and just didn't care, or he was not a fan, period, isn't entirely clear).
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  • Creator Killer: After the poor reception of this film, James Wong hasn't directed a single film since and has been relegated to producing television shows instead.
  • Dawson Casting: Joon Park (Yamcha) is older than Emmy Rossum (Bulma) by 17 years.
  • Disowned Adaptation:
    • Akira Toriyama first showed what could be read as professionally polite disappointment over the film, stating that it should be taken as an "Alternate Universe" Dragon Ball. However, after the film was released and by the time of Dragon Ball Z: Battle of Gods, he had since clarified his stance: Despite offering advice to the crew on how to adapt the series, they had never listened to him, and thus the finished product was a disaster and something he could not see as anything Dragon Ball at all. Ironically enough, the film that Dragon Ball fans love to hate was ultimately responsible for getting Akira Toriyama, a notoriously apathetic creator, to actually care about the franchise he started. Had he not been so leery of other people's treatment of his work after Evolution, he might never have taken charge of Battle of Gods after seeing the initial Darker and Edgier script treatment, and neither Dragon Ball Z: Resurrection ‘F’ nor Dragon Ball Super would ever have existed.
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    • The English voice actors for the Dragon Ball anime series have also publicly denounced the film, accusing the filmmakers of having no knowledge of the source material whatsoever. Most notably, Christopher Sabat and Sean Schemmel spent almost three minutes poking fun at the movie at a convention, to the amusement of fans. Chris Rager (voice of Mr. Satan) also said the film felt like it gave him "ass rabies".
    • Despite returning to voice Piccolo for the Latin American Spanish dub of Evolution, Carlos Segundo was unimpressed with how his character was handled.
  • Executive Meddling: Many of the changes were presumably added in due to Fox's meddling, especially considering their track record in other films. We'll never know how much was dictated to be there, and how much the writers came up with themselves though. One of the particularly nasty changes they wanted? To make Piccolo a Bishounen. James Marsters would not have this and demanded he'd be like the original.
  • Fan Nickname: "Noku", "Ukog" and "Kaka-not" (courtesy of Abridged Vegeta) to distinguish Goku from his canon counterpart.
  • Genre-Killer: While Speed Racer the year before wasn't very successful, this is the film that everyone pinpoints as the reason why Western adaptations of anime and manga are generally expected to fail at the box office nowadays (so it was a pleasant surprise when Alita: Battle Angel became a modest box office success).
  • Money, Dear Boy: Ben Ramsey admitted as much and apologized to fans when reached by an interviewer. "So I’m not blaming anyone for Dragonball but myself," he said. "As a fanboy of other series, I know what it’s like to have something you love and anticipate be so disappointing."
  • Not Screened for Critics: Both American and Japanese. Didn't matter though, it was panned by them anyway.
  • Old Shame:
    • James Marsters has admitted that the final product wasn't very good.
    • Writer Ben Ramsey has apologized for the film, calling it a very painful creative point in his life.
  • Promoted Fanboy: Producer Stephen Chow is a big fan of Dragon Ball, and signed on to the film immediately. He was deeply interested in being the director, but decided to just serve as producer because he believed in directing only his own original stories.
  • Real-Life Relative: Carla Castañeda, the daughter of Goku's Latin American VA Mario Castañeda, provided the voice for Bulma in Evolution's Latin American Spanish dub.
  • Recursive Import: Believe it or not, the film did receive a Japanese release...which went as well as you would expect, but it does have the interesting note that Aya Hirano would later join the cast of the actual anime as the Kai voice of Dende and is the first time in a Japanese production where a male actor would voice Goku.
  • Role Reprise: In the Latin American Spanish dub, Mario Castañeda and Carlos Segundo reprise their respective roles as Goku and Piccolo.
  • Saved from Development Hell: Was reportedly stuck in this for a while. The movie was announced in 2002, the domain name "dragonballthemovie.com" had been registered by Fox back in 2003, but work didn't begin on it until 2007.
  • Short Run in Peru: Despite being an American movie, it was released in Japan a month before the United States.
  • Stillborn Franchise: Despite its obvious Sequel Hook, its reception among fans and critics as well as its box office intake assures that no sequels will be materializing anytime soon (ironically, its failure was the impetus to resurrect the source material).
  • Undermined by Reality: The protagonist must learn to be himself even though the movie constantly has to dumb down the source material by adding in numerous clichés to make it more acceptable for a Western audience.
  • What Could Have Been: Ben Ramsey's original script was apparently a much more faithful adaptation of the series. But once it was out of Ramsey's hands, changes were made.
    • In an ironic twist on the whole matter, there are some sources which say that Wong added in elements that made the film more like the comic than the initial script. Which means... somehow... it could have actually been worse.
      • The original script was found here and has alternate versions of the Namekians, Pilaf, Krillin, Puar, Suno, and Oolong, though it also adds a convoluted backstory involving an in-universe popular gaming franchise based on their real world battles with Piccolo.
    • Emmy Rossum was originally going to wear a short blue wig as Bulma, but it was ditched after a costume test as both she and the director hated how it looked. A pink wig was also said to have been tested.
    • While James Marsters was without a doubt one of the most praised things about the film, Ron Perlman was the original choice. He turned down the role because he was busy with Hellboy II: The Golden Army.
    • Piccolo was originally going to look more human. James Marsters, being a fan of the series (or more accurately, becoming one while studying his character), knew this wouldn't go over well with fans, so when the director left the set one day, he had make-up applied behind his back. Thankfully, the director went with it.
    • The Oozaru was originally going to look different. Early models show the Oozaru looking more like a mix between Groot and an Orc. However, in the final product, it looked more monkey-like, like in the series.
    • George Lucas was considered to direct this film back in 2002. Robert Rodriguez and Zack Snyder were also offered the job.
    • When the movie started development back in 2002, there were two polls for whom fans wanted to play Goku and Vegeta (with Jet Li winning as Goku and Jackie Chan as Vegeta). That implies that the movie was originally going to adapt the Saiyan Saga.
    • When the movie began filming, it was originally titled Dragon Ball Z. It was later changed to just Dragon Ball, presumably because this film loosely adapted the Piccolo arc from the Dragon Ball era. It was finally changed to Dragonball Evolution to signify that it was different from the source material.
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