On the Set: Dragonball Evolution
Interview with Mayes Rubeo

by Bamboo Dong, Apr 1st 2009

In the walkway leading up to the costume trailer, I passed by a massive backpack, filled with an assortment of random things. That was Master Roshi's backpack. Once I stepped inside, I immediately saw a huge rack full of costume prototypes for Goku. They ranged from exact carbon copies of the manga design, to designs that more closely resembled Goku's eventual outfit for the film. Every costume was put through a battery of tests. Not only did the director and the creative staff need to like it, but it also had to look great on camera. Some of the costumes weren't bright enough, or didn't have the right sheen. Others, like the manga-styled costume, didn't move properly, despite being created in a wide range of fabrics.

Other racks in the room held costumes for the other characters. Roshi's Hawaiian shirt was next to Piccolo's muscular black costume, which was next to Mai's svelte outfit. The place would've been a cosplayer's paradise.

We were fortunate to be able to speak with Mayes Rubeo, the costume designer.

This interview was a recorded, group interview with multiple news organizations. Credit for the questions is attributed in part to Comic Book Movies, Comics2Film, IESB, IGN, MovieWeb, SciFi.


What was the inspiration for Goku's costume?

Tradition. We tried to make it as close as possible to a Japanese gi. When the Japanese press was here, they were very pleased about the way it was finished.

What kind of fabric is that? The orange fabric?

It's actually a vintage fabric. We had to over-dye it to take it to a certain color. The one you're looking at is actually missing the orange patina. The one we're using is actually more orange than this, they're using it because they're shooting the scenes where the gi is being used tonight, so that's why.

How many of those did you have to make?

We made about 25. Five for the actor, 10 for stunt double. And about two for the photo double... Yeah, probably like 22, 25. And also for the archive vault. We preserve costumes for the future.

When you were adapting the character designs from the manga over to this movie, what kind of look or style were you trying to go for?

We went in so many directions. I can show you... we made 35 versions of it. And not all of them are here. This is just a portion of it. We will have every single shade of orange to camera test it, all kinds of fabric. From shantung to china silk to wool to bright cotton to canvas. It was a huge process, as you can see.

And at first you thought it was so easy, right?

Oh yeah. When I first got called for Dragon Ball, I had no idea what I was getting into. I thought, you know, after having worked with demented and creative directors, I thought this was going to be a piece of cake. *laughs* The first challenge is I didn't grow up with Dragon Ball. My cartoons were much different from this manga. And because I lived in a small village in Italy and I have no children and I'm a 45-year-old woman, I was so really out of the league of what Dragon Ball was. In the village that I live, there are many children. I decided to start my research with them. They were an incredible, incredible treasure for me because they explained every single character and the importance of the costumes, the dress code for Dragon Ball. What you shouldn't do for Goku, if you are in this stage of his saga. Everything. It was like philosophy. It was really more.

Did you watch the DVDs?

Oh, I have them all, yeah. I know the characters, I know what they wear, the different Saiyan levels, I know what happens in the Saiyan levels. And all of that is fun.

So the costumes are pretty respectful to that?

We try to be respectful to that. You know, one of the bases for the gi was an homage to Akira Toriyama, the author of the manga. That's why we went back to the essentials of what a gi is. We're also trying to accommodate the needs of our hero to a certain part of the movie, when he gets the gi on.

You were talking about all these different fabrics that you are using. Does it really matter what fabric you use, or is it a matter of just how it ends up looking?

It matters so much because the way it drapes, fabrics are so important. Especially when you are doing something so specific. People are looking, and they are looking with a magnifying lens, so you have to do it the right way. Down to the smallest stitch.

Can you compare the amount of creativity and imagination you had to use when developing the costumes, as opposed to other films you've worked on?

It was challenging because as I said, especially in the anime, it is so important, the dress code. That is why when I need a little bit more from that costume, I have to say, "No, no, we can't actually do that, because if you do, if you do an orange gi, that means he's in Super Saiyan number 3. We can't do that, this is not happening in this movie." So it was fun to do that. I got into it, you know. So somebody who grew up from Bambi and all those kind of cartoons, it's quite different.

Was it hard to try to modernize the costumes?

That was what we tried to do. That wasn't hard. A big thing is not only my input, but when you create a costume, you have that input from the script, from the context of what you are doing, the director, our studio house. We have important creative executives that we are constantly in a dialog with of how we are going to come out with the look of the movie. Production design, colors, even chatting with the actors.

How about the costumes for the other characters?

Most of my costumes are in the truck, but I can show you Piccolo. This is the most important guy, in terms of wanting more power. He has every resource in the world, minerals and gold and wealth, and he wants more. What he wants most of all, are the Dragonballs. And he wants them now. So we wanted to give him a regal look. You know, rich fabrics and an elegant look, but also keeping the interesting elements from the anime. In the anime, he had ripped arms. We try to give it more style, but we kept his face green. From the anime, he's actually very simple. You know, he actually just wears some kind of white tunic with a white turban. That is not very interesting. We weren't going to do that for the movie. I don't think he was going to work out in terms of visuals, you know. You want to show something. This one is nice. It has texture.

For Mai, we have dark colors, but she's a sexy, you know, evil woman. And she's out there to do the job for Piccolo. This is Master Roshi. In the anime, he always wears a Hawaiian shirt. He is sort of the Big Lebowski of them all, but without the interesting philosophy. He is the master of them all. I mean, he's really tough. We gave him long sleeves because he goes through so much in the movie that it was impossible to keep him in short sleeves. There are some things you have to do to accommodate stunts and stuff.

Bulma... something that we didn't do was Bulma with the pink or blue hair. We didn't do that. We chose to give the look just a little bit of some blue, long hair. She's a motorcycle girl, but she is also a scientist because she is the owner of Capsule Corporation, which is like the Bill Gates of the anime. But she is full of contradictions. We wanted hair that a real girl would wear, but that still showed some of her other side. With the movie, there is a lot of martial arts. In our movie, we have one important tournament, that is Toysen. And this is the outfit we made for Chi Chi. Where she picks Mai that is in disguise, we chose to use opposite colors, sort of like they do in a boxing match. And it worked out very well, because we shot it in a sort of cone-shaped arena. We had the problem of having so many extras, and what to do to make it look good. It turned out to be very simple, because we just chose colors that they were going to use. Just, "Okay, this many people are going to be red, blue, green, yellow," and when you look at the movie, you see that the rest of the audience looks like when you are looking at a comic book. We thought it was very interesting-looking, just for that scene.

Did you feel that with some characters, you could sort of be more imaginative and make changes, compared to other characters, who stayed more traditional?

Yes, especially because in our movie, we want to show that Goku dresses like any kid in the world. Actually, he's not from here; he's from another world, but he doesn't know. Another thing we did not do was in our movie, we didn't give him a tail. There are things that we changed a little bit that we knew wasn't going to work out for a movie.


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