According to the film's make-up expert, Ed French, it took four hours to apply the prosthetics to James Marsters to change him into Piccolo. At first, it took seventeen hours, but Marsters had difficulty breathing and Piccolo's look also seemed overdone, so some prosthetics were removed, thus shortening the time to four hours.
James Marsters discussed the look of Piccolo during the Grand Slam 2008 convention. He said the producers wanted to make Piccolo "more beautiful" than Marsters wanted him to be. Since the producers were not around when filming started, Marsters and the make-up artist changed the character's look to make him ugly, which would reflect Piccolo's rage from being imprisoned for so long. He said, "It would be better to be fired than mess up Piccolo."
Tom Welling, best known for his role as Clark Kent/Superman on the TV series Smallville (2001), was considered for the role of Goku. James Marsters, who played Piccolo in the film, had played his nemesis Milton Fine/Brainiac on that show.
Voice actor Christopher Sabat, who voiced the characters Piccolo and Shenron in Dragon Ball (1995), is credited as the voice of the Eternal Dragon Shenron in this film, even though his voice is not heard at all.
To prepare for his role as Son Goku, Justin Chatwin read all the Dragon Ball manga and "The Journey to the West," the Chinese literary classic which inspired the Dragonball saga; he practiced martial arts and acrobatics, and to get into Goku's character (a likeable child-man), he told jokes to fellow cast members between filming breaks to increase the rapport between them/their characters.
Goku is seen in a poster wearing a sweatshirt with Japanese characters on them. These characters (actually the same one repeated over and over) are the Japanese character "kame," which means "turtle." This was the symbol any student of Master Roshi (who is also known as the Turtle Hermit) would wear.
Since Bulma and Yamcha develop a relationship, it was important for Emmy Rossum that she establish a good bond with Joon Park, so they spent a lot of time together getting to know each other; when Rossum learned Park was a musician, the two of them traded favorite songs between them to enjoy. Rossum learned two things--"Because everyone's taste in music is so personal, I've found music a very good way to get to know someone," and that Park loves classic rock.
Dragonball: Evolution (2009) was one of the films that Fox Studios owned the rights to for years but had not green-lit production for. However, due to the Writer's Strike of 2007-2008, it was finally pushed into production (this was also the case for The X Files: I Want to Believe (2008)).
The filmmakers decided to keep the number of characters in the film to an absolute minimum for a tighter story and better characterization. Therefore, sentient animals like Oolong and Puar were removed for realism, and fan-favourites like Tien and Krillin were removed for better focus on the core characters.
Goku is instructed by Roshi to carry all of Roshi's luggage on his back, while keeping up with Bulma's vehicle. This is similar to an event in the "Dragon Ball" manga where Master Roshi instructs Goku and Krillin to train, wearing fifty-pound turtle shells on their backs.
According to James Marsters, his role of Piccolo is a complex, Shakespearean one: "He used to be a force of good, but he was imprisoned, making him very angry, and then he escapes...The cool thing is anybody who's seen Dragon Ball knows that Lord Piccolo transforms into THE Piccolo, and that is a whole other ball of wax; heroic wouldn't be the wrong term, but it's a long journey."
Joon Park admitted he did not think he was going to get the role of Yamcha, and joked, "Because I'm god in Korea, but a shit in the U.S." He auditioned for the role in nothing but shorts and a hat, but as soon as director James Wong took a look at him, Park landed the role.
In Dragon Ball: Doragon bôru (1986), Goku was a 12-year-old at the beginning of the story and 15 when he fought King Piccolo, but in this movie, Dragonball: Evolution (2009), he was made to be 18. He also does not have a tail in the film.
Justin Chatwin considered it an honor to play Son Goku, saying, "He is a very important and epic character. He is always seeing the positive side of things, does good things, and always tries to help and take care of the weak, not only pursuing his power. He is a dependable and loving man, as well as a boy." However, when Mexican media reporters approached him about the film during production, Chatwin quietly and nervously praised the film's take on the famous franchise.
During the early days of filming, pictures were released to a Mexican newspaper called "Record." In that paper, a full rundown of what Dragonball was to be about, as well as information on its director, James Wong, were given. However, the pictures labeled as "the Director" and "actors" were nothing more than simple extras. In fact, the picture of the supposed director was that of a chubby, white, blond haired extra, a huge contrast to James Wong, who is, of course, a slim, Asian man.
It was suggested to give the entire cast special wigs of different colors, to keep the essence of the "Dragon Ball" anime, but James Wong vetoed this idea to make the film more realistic. However, Emmy Rossum had a blue streak dyed in her hair and Justin Chatwin had his hair touched to make it spiky so that their respective characters possessed a classic yet distinctive look.
While filming a fight between Son Goku and Mai, Eriko Tamura accidentally injured Justin Chatwin by striking his face a little harder than intended. She apologized over and over, but eventually, they both laughed it off and went on filming. Chatwin claims that this incident enabled the fight to be very powerful and intense, which fit the tone of the film.
Japanese voice artists Hisao Egawa and Mami Koyama voiced Yamcha and the Narrator in the Japanese dub of the film (the Narrator is exclusive to the Japanese version). Egawa and Koyama have also worked in the Dragon Ball cartoons.
According to Yun-Fat Chow, he wore contact lenses during his performance as Roshi in preparation for the (at the time announced) sequel, where his appearance would be bald and bespectacled, a more classic appearance of Roshi.
According to James Marsters, his characterisation of Lord Piccolo is based on loneliness and revenge: "Piccolo is floating in the air in the beautiful landscape, but he never even admires the landscape; he is only thinking or musing and staring at his feet. I think that is a characteristic of Piccolo more than anything else. Maybe it must be a characteristic for revenge. He hates himself and blames the people who trapped him; his desire is to kill not only them but their family, furthermore to destroy the city and the planet they live and protect. To get revenge is everything to him. Everything."
For the desert shots of a traveling Bulma to be perfect, Emmy Rossum had to ride the motorcycle in four-foot sand drifts at a speed of 40 mph. It was an arduous experience ("40mph over bumpy sand dunes is enough to make anyone a little queasy"), especially since filming would start at sunrise, and the bike would stall a few times and had to be dug out often. However, the cast and crew would assist each other and put everyone at ease for filming to continue well.
The number "seven" is used many times throughout the film. There are seven Dragon Balls, there are seven stones in the middle of Gohan's yard, there are seven candles on Goku's birthday cake, Goku aligns seven stones on his grandfather's tombstone, seven mystics are required to cast the Mafuba, there are seven rocks in Roshi's house, Gohan cooks seven chicken feet for Goku's birthday, and in the epilogue, there are seven candles that are lit over the bed Piccolo is resting in.
Director James Wong personally asked Japanese pop musician Ayumi Hamasaki if she could compose and sing the film's theme song. Since "Dragon Ball" was created in Japan, he felt that the song should be by a Japanese singer and in Japanese. Wong was so impressed with Hamasaki's song "Rule" that he ensured that it would appear for all international releases of the film.
Chi-Chi fights at the "Toisan Tournament of Champions," and the temple is also apparently located in Toisan. In real life, Toisan is a coastal-level city in Guangdong Province, China, well-known for being the hometown of a large number of Chinese-Americans. Celebrities of Toisan include: politicians Adrienne Clarkson and Hiram Fong, cinematographer James Wong Howe, and actors Donnie Yen and James Hong.
Producer Stephen Chow is a big fan of Dragon Ball, and signed on to the film immediately. He was deeply interested in being the director, but decided to just serve as producer because he believed in directing only his own original stories.
The cities in the film were designed to be futuristic, as seen in the cartoon, but there was also Oriental and Aztec influences in the designs. This was due to the fact that the film was set in Asia, but it was shot in the United States and Mexico.
The film's title was originally going to be simply "Dragonball," in homage to the title of the original series, but the word "Evolution" was added to show that this would be a more different and advanced version of the saga.
The trivia items below may give away important plot points.
Goku has been compared to Superman, and is indeed known as the Japanese counterpart of Superman. The film contains certain allusions to Superman (1978): a planet is seen exploding with a greenish glow; Goku, a college student, keeps his abilities a secret; Goku's grandfather inspires him shortly before he passes away, like Jonathan Kent; a supporting character in both films is killed and resurrected (Lois Lane; Master Roshi).
In the "Dragon Ball" saga, Goku transforms into Oozaru (a giant monstrous ape) whenever a full moon rises, similar to a werewolf situation. In this film, Oozaru is an alternate personality who appears when an eclipse occurs.