The Death of the Canadian Dub
Lately the idea of a Canadian voice cast tackling the world of anime hasn’t been all that big. There are a few reasons for that; a strong Canadian dollar, the current anime industry’s economics, and a lack of desire to get a dub to help ensure a show gets a broadcast up here.
Before we go into the why, we need to see how bad it really is. The three main cities in Canada that do the audio production for anime are (in the order of body of work) Vancouver, Calgary and Toronto. Of those three, the only one confirmed to be working on anime projects is Toronto with Beyblade: Metal Fusion and Bakugan: Gundalian Invaders.
The west coast took the largest of hits. Vancouver’s Ocean Productions (also known as Ocean Group and Ocean Studios) was one of the largest houses that once took most of the work in all of North America. Now, in 2010, the last dub they produced was for Viz, in the shojo title NANA. NANA’s first DVD set was released in September of last year. Ocean currently doesn’t have any announced projects. Previous Ocean dubs include InuYasha, Death Note and Black Lagoon. The Vancouver scene is the home to many acclaimed voice actors such as Brad Swaile and Scott McNiel.
Located in Calgary is Ocean’s sister studio, Blue Water. They’re the lesser used of the two and have historically only been hired to do low budget work. While their output has been cut back, they’re still active. Recent titles include HunterxHunter, Deltora Quest and Pretty Cure. Previous dubs include Zeta Gundam, G Gundam and the alternate English versions of Dragon Ball and Dragon Ball GT.
The Toronto voice acting scene is the least used of the three in Canada. You can list all the titles dubbed in the city on a single sheet of paper. Its claim to anime fame is the dub of Sailor Moon. Toronto is the least hit of the three. In fact, as the other two are losing work the Toronto scene grows. But there’s a saying that goes like this, “You can’t lose what you don’t have”. That saying is pretty accurate for Toronto anime voice work, as very little has been done there outside of the failed Toei USA/Geneon tag team plus some of Nelvana and DiC/Cookie Jar’s backlog. As I mentioned earlier, the only anime work being done in the city is Beyblade, and Bakugan. Which to be fair, is more than what the city was home to a few years back, though it’s important to note that both of those shows are Canada-Japan co-productions.
Now raises the question of why. Well, it all comes down to money: who’s got it, who doesn’t and how much.
The death of anime distributor Geneon Entertainment was a major loss for the Canadian voice acting community. Geneon, along with Viz and Bandai were the only major R1 companies that used Canadian talent. When Geneon, one of the largest anime distributors in North America went down, it shook the entire industry. They were one of the few companies that still dubbed everything they licensed. Their demise was a precursor for events to follow.
With Geneon dead came the realization that the North American anime industry was in a severe decline. Studios began to cut back heavily on the titles they picked up. This is especially true for Bandai Entertainment. Once a major force in the anime industry with a large variety of titles being released annually, to today. Bandai Entertainment is a company who can’t release a series without it being delayed multiple times. They have only a small handful of titles that are ongoing, and of that handful, few are receiving a dub.
Viz is an interesting company. They’ve paid for countless dubs, yet have only partially released them, or have never released them at all (Uncut Blue Dragon and Zoids: Genesis, I’m looking at you). The company has always prided itself as a manga company and never an anime studio, so it wasn’t a leader in quantity of products released. But now things are at an all-time low. Viz’s current lineup of ongoing series consists of just Bleach, Naruto and Pokemon (of which they distribute for Pokemon USA). None of those are dubbed in Canada. They do have InuYasha: The Final Act in the pipeline, which has a Canadian dub.
With the few companies that still outsource audio work (as Funimation and Sentai Filmworks do their voice acting in-house in Texas) releasing such meager amounts of content, price wars were bound to happe, and they did. Bang Zoom Entertainment, located just outside of Los Angeles, California, has reportedly slashed their recording costs by such a large margin that they’re receiving the bulk of the dub work now. That leaves the other big voice acting cities (Vancouver, Calgary and New York) to pick up the scraps. But why can’t Ocean and Blue Water be price competitive? Well, the loonie is preventing that.
Many of the Canadian dubs we’ve seen over the years were only produced because our dollar was so low that it allowed foreign companies to get their work done here cheaper than in the US. However, the loonie has soared due to the US dollar taking a beating, meaning the Canadian studios lost their price advantage. Now with American studios cutting production costs to record lows, there’s simply no real reason to send work up here. Especially since a Canadian dub no longer means a Canadian broadcast.
Ever wonder why Canada got an alternate dub of Dragon Ball, Z and GT? Well, those alternate dubs were all produced in Canada. Being that they were produced in Canada, they counted as Canadian content and would help fill in the CRTC’s mandate of Canadian programming. This would encourage broadcasters to pick up anime with a Canadian dub. Just think about it, what were some of the first older youth oriented anime series to air on YTV? Escaflowne, Gundam Wing, InuYasha and Gundam SEED. Guess where all those shows were dubbed at? Ocean Studios in Vancouver. In fact, most of the anime series YTV has aired over the years had their English audio work done in Canada. The problem is that YTV isn’t biting anymore (I’ll explain why YTV isn’t biting in the future). While I doubt many Canadian dubs were done solely with the intention of getting a Canadian broadcaster interested, it sure didn’t hurt. Getting on a TV channel means more exposure and more exposure means more fans and more DVDs sold.
Despite having written over 1000 words of doom and gloom, it’s not that bad for the actual voice acting talent. While anime work has decreased significantly, there’s been a much greater increase in foreign demand for Canadian animation, as well as an increase in video game work. That said, some of the more prolific Canadian voice actors have either opened an at home studio, or have moved to the US to get more roles. The anime industry in North America is on the cusp of a rebound, and eventually our dollar will go back to its normal power, so this will be a temporary downturn.