- Cast: Justin Chatwin, Yun-Fat Chow, Emmy Rossum, Jamie Chung, James Marsters, Joon Park, Eriko Tamura, Randall Duk Kim, Ernie Hudson, Texas Battle, Megumi Seki, Ian Whyte, Richard Blake, Jon Valera, Rafael Valdez, Mike Wilson, Freddy Bouciegues, Shavon Kirksey, Julian Sedgwick, Luis Arrieta, Gabriela de la Garza, Rich E. Cordobes
- Director: James Wong
- Writer: Ben Ramsey
- Producer: Stephen Chow
- Co Producers: Rodney Liber, Rich Thorne
- Executive Producer: Tim Van Rellim
- Art Directions: Patricio M. Farrell, Marco Niro
- Casting: Carla Hool
- Costume Design: Mayes C. Rubeo
- D.O.P.: Robert McLachlan
- Editors: Matt Friedman, Chris G. Willingham
- Music: Brian Tyler
- Production Design: Bruton Jones
- Set Decoration: Roberto Bonelli
"Dragonball Evolution" is adapted from the manga created by Akira Toriyama; the work was also turned into a Japanese anime series that played all over the world. The story begins with Goku, who seeks out upon his adoptive grandfather Grandpa Gohan's dying request to find the great Master Roshi and gather all seven Dragon Balls. Of which he has one, in order to prevent the evil Lord Piccolo from succeeding in his desire to use the Dragon Balls to take over the world. And Goku's quest is to obtain the mystical Dragonballs before Piccolo does.
- Aspect Ratio: 2.35:1
- Filming Locations: Durango, Mexico
- MPAA Warning: Intense sequences of action/violence and brief mild language
- Production Budget: $100 million
- Production Companies: Dune Entertainment, Star Overseas, Twentieth Century Fox
- Production Schedule: November 2007 - March 2008
According to James Marsters, his role of Piccolo is a complex, Shakespearean one: "He used to be a force of good, but he was imprisoned, making him very angry, and then he escapes... The cool thing is anybody who's seen Dragon Ball knows that Lord Piccolo transforms into THE Piccolo, and that is a whole other ball of wax; heroic wouldn't be the wrong term, but it's a long journey."
It was suggested to give the entire cast special wigs of different colours, to keep the essence of the "Dragon Ball" animé, but James Wong vetoed this idea to make the film more realistic. However, Emmy Rossum had a blue streak dyed in her hair and Justin Chatwin had his hair touched to make it spiky so that their respective characters possessed a classic yet distinctive look.
James Kyson Lee auditioned for the role for Yamcha.
Ron Perlman was offered the role of Piccolo, but turned it down to work on Hellboy II: The Golden Army (2008) instead.
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 believes in directing only his own original stories.
The cities in the film have been designed to be futuristic, as seen in the cartoon, but there will also be Oriental and Aztec influences in the designs. This is due to the film being set in Asia but being shot in America and Mexico.
During the early days of filming pictures were released to a Mexican newspaper called "Record". In that paper a full run down of what Dragonball was to be about as well as information on its director James Wong were given. However the pictures labeled as "the Director" and "actors" were nothing more than simple extras, in fact the picture of the supposed director was that of a chubby, white, blond haired extra, a huge contrast to James Wong who is of course a slim, Asian man.
Stephen Chow, James Marsters and Jamie Chung are big fans of "Dragon Ball: Doragon bôru" (1986).
According to the film's make-up expert Ed French, it took four hours to apply the prosthetics to James Marsters to change him into Piccolo. At first it took 17 hours, but Marsters had difficulty breathing and Piccolo's look also seemed overdone, so some prosthetics were removed, thus shortening the time to 4 hours.
The film was mostly shot in an abandoned jeans factory in Durango, Mexico with blue and green screens.
Director James Wong personally asked Japanese pop musician Ayumi Hamasaki if she could compose and sing the film's theme song. Since Dragon Ball was created in Japan, he felt that the song should be by a Japanese singer and in Japanese. Wong was so impressed with Hamasaki's song "Rule" that he ensured that the song would appear for all international releases of the film.
James Marsters discussed the look of Piccolo during the Grand Slam 2008 convention. He said the producers wanted to make Piccolo "more beautiful" than James wanted him to be. Since the producers weren't around when filming started, James and the make up artist changed the character's look to make him ugly, which would reflect Piccolo's rage from being imprisoned for so long. James said, "It would be better to be fired than mess up Piccolo."
Tom Welling was considered for the role of Goku.
'Dragonball Evolution' was one of the films that Fox Studios owned the rights to for years but hadn't green-lit production for, but due to the Writer's Strike of 2007-2008 was finally pushed into production (this was also the case for The X Files: I Want to Believe (2008)).
Justin Chatwin considers it an honour to play Son Goku: "He is a very important and epic character. He is always seeing the positive side of things, does good things, and always tries to help and take care of the weak, not only pursuing his power. He is a dependable and loving man as well as a boy."
To prepare for his role as Son Goku, Justin Chatwin read all the Dragon Ball comics and "The Journey to the West," the Chinese literary classic which inspired the Dragon Ball saga; he practised martial arts and acrobatics; and to get into Goku's character (a likeable child-man), he told jokes to fellow cast members between filming breaks to increase the rapport between them/their characters.
Jamie Chung wanted to play Bulma and auditioned for the role, but she admitted that Emmy Rossum was the perfect choice for Bulma.
To prepare for her role as Bulma, Emmy Rossum watched "Dragon Ball: Doragon bôru" (1986) and read the "Dragon Ball" comics.
Joon Park admitted he didn't think he was going to get the role of Yamcha "because I'm god in Korea, but a shit in the US." He auditioned for the role in nothing but a hat and shorts, but as soon as director James Wong took a look at him Park landed the role.
"Dragon Ball" creator Akira Toriyama is a big fan of Jackie Chan and very much tried to cast him in the film as Master Roshi who at one point in the saga had taken the alias of Jackie Chun), but Chan was unavailable due to conflicts with other films.
Bulma is dressed in black and purple clothes; the very colours worn by her son Trunks in "Dragon Ball Z: Doragon bôru zetto" (1989).
While filming a fight between Son Goku and Mai, Eriko Tamura accidentally injured Justin Chatwin by striking his face a little harder than intended. She apologized over and over, but eventually they both laughed it off and went on filming; Chatwin claims that this incident enabled the fight to very powerful and intense, which fit the tone of the film.
When Bulma's capsule converts into a cycle, the famous sound from "Transformers" (1984) (another fan favourite alongside "Dragon Ball: Doragon bôru" (1986) in Japan) is heard.
Since Bulma and Yamcha develop a relationship, it was important for Emmy Rossum that she establish a good bond with Joon Park, so they spent a lot of time together getting to know each other; when Rossum learned Park was a musician, the two of them traded favourite songs between them to enjoy. Rossum learned two things: "Because everyone's taste in music is so personal, I've found music a very good way to get to know someone," and that Park loves classic rock.
The film's title was originally going to be simply "Dragonball" in homage to the title of the original series, but the word "Evolution" was added to show that this would be a more different and advanced version of the saga.
In "Dragon Ball: Doragon bôru" (1986), Goku was an 11-year-old, but in order to make the film's story more plausible and dramatic he was made a teenager. Any "Saiyan" characteristics will be seen in sequels.
The filmmakers decided to keep the number of characters in the film to an absolute minimum for a tighter story and better characterization. Therefore, sentient animals like Oolong and Puar were removed for realism, and fan-favourites like Tien and Krillin were removed for better focus on the core characters.
Goku is famous for wearing orange robes, but in the film he wears the traditional dark robes a martial arts student would wear in Japan, thus keeping some realism.
According to James Marsters, his characterisation of Lord Piccolo is based on loneliness and revenge: "Piccolo is floating in the air in the beautiful landscape, but he never even admires the landscape; he is only thinking or musing and staring at his feet. I think that is a characteristic of Piccolo more than anything else. Maybe it must be a characteristic for revenge. He hates himself and blames the people who trapped him; his desire is to kill not only them but their family, furthermore to destroy the city and the planet they live and protect. To get revenge is everything to him. Everything."
James Marsters considered a double role in the film as Kami the Earth Guardian (Piccolo's alternate persona). However, he felt Piccolo would be a more interesting and challenging character standing by himself.
Goku is seen in a poster wearing a sweatshirt with Japanese characters on them. These characters (actually the same one repeated over and over) are the Japanese character "kame", which means "turtle". This was the symbol any student of Master Roshi (who is also known as the Turtle Hermit) would wear.
To commemorate the North American release of the film, the TOEI Animation company will re-release "Dragon Ball Z: Doragon bôru zetto" (1989) on April 5 2009. However, the series was considerably revised: it was renamed "Dragon Ball Kai," has been compressed into a hundred episodes (DBZ was 200 episodes long), and utilises the latest animation/digital technology developed.
For the desert shots of a travelling Bulma to be perfect, Emmy Rossum had to ride the motorcycle in 4-foot sand drifts at a speed of 40 mph. It was an arduous experience ("40mph over bumpy sand dunes that is enough to make anyone a little queasy"), especially since filming would start at sunrise, and the bike would stall a few times and had to be dug out often; however, the cast and crew would assist in each other and put everyone at ease for filming to continue well.
Stephen Chow wanted Yuqi Zhang to play Chi-Chi.
Goku is instructed by Roshi to carry all of Roshi's luggage on his back, while keeping up with Bulma's vehicle. This is similar to an event in the "Dragon Ball" comics where Master Roshi instructs Goku and Krillin to train wearing 50-pound turtle shells on their backs.
Music composer Brian Tyler recorded the film's score with an 82-piece ensemble of the Hollywood Studio Symphony at 20th Century Fox's Newman Scoring Stage.