Episode - 12: Vegeta VS Shadow
“Wow. What a rip-off.”
That was all it took to cement voice actors as a recurring thing for Death Battle from then on.
Vegeta VS Shadow was an episode with a lot of “firsts.” It was the first to feature a Dragon Ball character, the first to feature a Sonic character, and the first to feature voice actors... but not just any actors! This was also our first collaboration episode, as we teamed up with the amazingly talented folks of Team Four Star!
This was sort of new territory for me. Of course, I’d hired and worked with actors plenty of times for my own film projects, but I’d never actually worked with voice actors, let alone voice actors who would have to record remotely. I vividly remember as I went through the script with Takahata101 and Lanipator, I was thinking “I have no idea what I’m doing, but I’m gonna pretend I do, anyway!”
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the secret to how you achieve your dreams. Or something like that.
We had met a few of the Team Four Star guys a couple times, but I believe this was the first time we worked together on a project. If you don’t know them, you’ll probably still recognize their flagship series; Dragon Ball Z Abridged. This show had been making the rounds across the web since 2008, and Nick Landis aka Lanipator’s Vegeta was already the most recognized unofficial voice for the character. I had one strategy for casting Vegeta; Lani or bust.
Luckily, Lani’s a really cool dude and agreed to not only voice Vegeta for this episode, but also a few cameos later on like in Goku VS Superman and whatever the hell this is. A few TFS members auditioned for Shadow, and Curtis aka Takahata101 wound up snatching up the role.
(By the way, shout out to Scott aka KaiserNeko for helping to organize all that. That man deserves so much credit for all the extra work he puts into everything.)
However, casting voice actors wasn’t so easy. I was actually told not to do it at all, to keep all Death Battle animations voiceless. We hadn't done it before, and I guess it seemed like an unnecessary addition to the man in charge. ScrewAttack had this stagnating philosophy back then which was generally against putting more money and effort into shows over time. I wasn't a fan of that. There's also always been a trend with sprite animations to keep all dialogue limited entirely to on-screen text and zero audio, which I really wanted to avoid.
There was only one reasonable solution… secretly reach out to TFS myself and cast them anyway!
I give you... Shadow the Hedgehog and Vegeta!
As for the episode, it’s easy to tell it suffers from the quick turnaround that was the norm at the time. It feels a little rushed and a lot of the numbers used to measure Vegeta and Shadow’s powers seem… off. I think they were more so vague estimates, and weren’t meant to hold much weight. The thing is, Death Battle was a different beast back then. The show didn’t really bother with calculations and was far more opinion based. The argument for Vegeta’s victory wasn’t because he could output a specific amount of power, was calc’d to be a higher speed than Shadow, or anything like that. No, the analysis recap at the end primarily covers how Vegeta has taken huge beatings and kept on fighting, so he should be able to outlast Super Shadow… and that’s it. Calculations, stat comparisons, and scaling didn’t become an important part of the Death Battle analytical process until much later.
It’s fine if you don’t agree with that approach. It’s a very different, unconstrained style. I definitely prefer the more scientific direction Death Battle has taken in recent years. Frankly, today's approach is way more time-consuming, so even if we had gone that route back then it may have only hurt Death Battle's production until we got a larger crew behind the show. That's just speculation, but either way, I hope you give our modern format a try before judging the series on these much older episodes.
To this day, I think teaming up with TFS was one of the best things we could've done. If you ever have the chance to work with them or even just meet them, do it. They’re a fantastic group of people who I can’t praise enough. Also, thanks to this episode I was able to start bringing aboard more and more actors, and I didn’t have to be sneaky about it anymore! Well, it would continue to be a struggle against ScrewAttack's production philosophies of the time until management changed during the Fullscreen buyout and Rooster Teeth merge, but at least I could finally be public about breaking the rules. Since Vegeta VS Shadow, the Death Battle franchise has featured around 100 different actors! Whoa momma!
That’ll be a wrap for now! I hope you had a wonderful weekend, and thanks for reading another daily entry on this Road to 100. Next time, we’re talking about one of the big ones… Mario VS Sonic.
-Ben B. Singer
P.S. What’s your favorite joke/line from a Death Battle with voice actors?
P.P.S. Go check out www.TeamFourStar.com!