Without 101 Dalmatians, We Might Not Have Dragon Ball Z

As a child of the 1990s, I was fortunate to grow up watching some of the absolute greatest animated shows in history, like "Hey Arnold!," "Arthur," and "The Animaniacs." My love of animation is truly lifelong, and thanks to my dad's lifelong love of the "Speed Racer" series, it was encouraged that I watch more than just American-made animation. Fortunately, I was just the right age for the arrival of two of the best anime of all time, "Sailor Moon" and "Dragon Ball Z." Produced by Toei Animation ("One Piece," "Yu-Gi-Oh!"), "Dragon Ball Z" is the sequel show to the "Dragon Ball" anime series from 1986, adapting the latter 325 chapters of Akira Toriyama's "Dragon Ball" manga series.

"Dragon Ball Z" centers on the adventures of adult Goku, as he and his companions defend the earth against villainous aliens like Vegeta and Frieza, androids like Cell, and magical creatures like Majin Buu. It's a simple story, really, one that tells viewers that as long as you're a strong enough alien, the only thing stopping you from accomplishing the impossible is your own motivation. This is obviously a reductive way of describing "Dragon Ball Z," but trying to condense the lore of hundreds of episodes into a neat little package is ridiculous. Just watch "Dragon Ball Z" and enjoy the madness for yourself! 

"Dragon Ball Z" is known for its hyper-masculine art style and "Super Saiyan" moments, but Toriyama says he owes his success to something a bit softer: the 1961 Walt Disney animated movie, "101 Dalmatians."

It's all about positive reinforcement

Some absolute hero out on the internet transcribed an interview with Akira Toriyama from a 1995 piece in "Daizenshuu Vol. 6: Movies & TV Special," and put it up on *checks notes* Angelfire (Google that one, Gen Z) for the world to enjoy. In it, Toriyama talks about his humble beginnings, claiming the first thing he ever drew that he felt proud of was a horse, noting that he felt "the joints were drawn well." No wonder Toriyama is such a legend, because there's a running gag among many animators and illustrators that drawing horses is difficult. "When we were little, since there weren't many forms of entertainment as there are today, everyone drew," Toriyama said. "When I was in elementary school, we all copied manga and anime drawings."

He said that since all of the kids his age would draw, at first everyone's skill level was about the same. However, the creativity would shift as the kids grew older, but Toriyama kept drawing. "Eventually, I began drawing original pictures of my friends' faces, and it was then that I began to feel that 'drawing pictures is fun.'" 

It all changed however when Toriyama drew a picture from the film "101 Dalmatians" as part of a competition, and won a prize. He says the moment made him feel "ecstatic," and gave him the positive reinforcement to follow his dreams as an artist. The angular appearance of the dogs and humans in "101 Dalmatians" was a new style for Walt Disney Animation, and as odd as it sounds, it makes complete sense that Toriyama would see inspiration in the style — his own art feels like the next step in the evolution on angular characters. Just with a lot more punching and fireballs.