Once thought lost to the waves of time, a group of fans has uncovered and made public recordings of the first-ever English produced dub of Dragon Ball, which was produced by Harmony Gold and featured numerous changes to the source material.
According to a 2000 issue of Animerica, prior to Funimation acquiring the rights to the Dragon Ball series, a studio named Harmony Gold produced a test dub for the series, allegedly dubbing approximately 5 episodes of the show as well as the films Dragon Ball: Curse of the Blood Rubies and Dragon Ball Mystical Adventure:
“It seems that Harmony Gold owned the distribution rights rights to Dragon Ball and Dr. Slump for a number of years in the 1980’s, and although no official source will say so, at least five episodes were dubbed by Harmony Gold as pilots for the series. The first and third movies were also dubbed and edited together to form a single, longer film which aired on serveral small stations around the country. The pilot episodes were apparently test-marketed on various independent networks. The response was so lackluster, however, that nothing more ever came of it, and Harmony Gold seems to have forgotten it ever happened. What was it like? Most of the names were changed: Goku was named Zero, Bulma was Lena, Oolong was Mao-Mao, Yamcha was Zedaki, etc. An opening theme that followed the original tune was produced…. Despite heavy editing, it was still an amusing, action-packed show.”
Following the decision to move forward with the Harmony Gold dub, the handful of episodes produced under the studio seemingly disappeared from record, with only short audio and video clips of the production floating around the internet.
That was until, on February 21st, a user by the name of Tom_Servo uploaded the complete first episode of the Harmony Gold dub of Dragon Ball to the Internet Archive:
Speaking with Bounding into Comics, Tom_Servo explained that he acquired the recording from “an individual on the Kazenshuu forums,” a widely popular Dragon Ball forum. The recording was copied from “a television broadcast” narrowed down by newspaper archives to have aired “in Detroit, MI between December 1989 and February 1990.”
“I acquired the full episode when an individual on the Kazenshuu forums, who wishes to remain anonymous, sent me a Dropbox link of a private VHSRip of the episode. I think it was recorded off of a television broadcast. Also, according to newspaper archives of the time, the only two stations to air the episode were WGPR 62 and WXON 20 in Detroit, MI between December 1989 and February 1990.”
While the discovery of one episode is alone monumental, Tom_Servo says his job is not yet over, as he notes that he is currently “in the process of getting more potential tapes of the HG dub as well from two individuals who also wish to remain anonymous.”