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NYCC 2008: "One Piece" Offers Pieces of Eight for the Fans

FUNimation’s One Piece panel was held in a jam-packed room of fans, revealing both the size and the intensity of the One Piece fanbase. Panelist Mike McFarland opened up to audience questions immediately as his colleague Justin Cook ran back to get screening materials and a working DVD player for the room. Unsurprisingly, the very first question fielded was to ask when One Piece was coming back to air. Unfortunately, McFarland had to report that he didn’t know himself because FUNimation works with Toei to provide a dub, and Toei works directly with Cartoon Network to schedule it. As a result, they’re just not privy to scheduling decisions. However, he felt that it was just a temporary schedule shuffle, but that if the fanbase is disappointed about it, they ought to send (polite) e-mails and letters to Cartoon Network to ask when it’s coming back. He also added that similar scheduling snafus plagued Cartoon Network’s airing of Fullmetal Alchemist, but the show aired eventually there as well.

(l to r) Justin Cook and Mike McFarland

When asked about how to become a voice actor, McFarland quickly ran down a list of assets to have, such as an acting background, prior knowledge about anime products if you want to do anime voice overs, improvisational acting skills, and formal voice and diction training. However, he added that the make or break factor for the deal is that you needed to live within less than an hour of the studio. He rattled off New York City, Houston, Dallas, Vancouver, Los Angeles, and possibly North Carolina as places where the major voice dubbing work is done today.

Cook returned in time for the next question about why the decision was made to go back and redub all the episodes of One Piece starting from episode 1. After joking, “I don’t sleep, man,” McFarland said that they just wanted to do right by the fans of the series, and that the heavy workload was managed by running 2 shifts a day and recording on weekends. Cook also added that they had introduced more studios to record in and handle extra episodes, to which McFarland added that he looks over everything no matter who is directing an episode to ensure consistency and quality.

Several questions about the dub were asked in succession. The opening and closing titles will have both English and Japanese versions on the DVDs, and all songs will be dubbed as well, similar to what was done for Yu Yu Hakusho. They felt that the translation was far more faithful to the original Japanese (as was the restoration of lethal weaponry among the Straw Hat crew), and that they tried to restrict their liberties to places where a pun or a cultural reference wouldn’t fly. McFarland did say that such puns and references would go untranslated in the subtitles, although explanations of them wouldn’t be provided in the show. However, he didn’t rule out the idea of a special feature on the DVDs to explain some of the language puns or jokes.

Fighting move names will be straight translations, although characters like Zoro and Sanji will alternate between shouting the English name of his move and the original Japanese. They are also dispensing with the fabricated move names of the original dub, opting for straight translations of the techniques. They did say that all the dub actors changed because they were asked to make a fresh start on the series, and that included the actors. They sent off auditions to Toei, who then went and cast the individual actors for the show (which includes Kent Williams as Klahadore/Captain Kuro and Brett Weaver as Morgan). The pair said that they do intend to dub all 350 current episodes, but would only say, “if it’s One Piece, we’re looking at doing it,” in response to a question about the OVAs and the movies.

The last question from the audience was how long it took to dub a scene on One Piece. Mike said that One Piece’s animation presented a particular challenge because of the very different and kind of weird mouth shapes, so the question isn’t whether dialogue will deviate from lip movements, but how much deviance is allowable in the dub soundtrack. He guessed that most lines took 1 to 4 takes to do properly, and noted that Colleen Clinkenbeard is exceptionally good at redubbing, mentally working out where pauses and sounds need to go to match the on-screen lip movements as closely as possible. Cook added that there are harder scenes which took 20-25 takes to get a line right.

The panel closed with a screening of Episode 4 of the show, since many in the audience had already seen the debut of the redubbed episodes 1-3 last night at the con. The reaction from the audience was universally positive, so One Piece fans can be rest assured that the series redub is in good hands.

(Return to Toon Zone’s New York Comic Con 2008 Complete Coverage)

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