Prior to the series’ acquisition by 4Kids Entertainment, an English dub was first recorded by the Singaporean dubbing company Odex in 2003, and was produced by Animax. Though Odex tried to license it for TV, the deal fell through after 26 episodes, the dub was released on VCD in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia. Odex’s dub was translated independently and had no ties to any other form of translation. This dub is relatively unknown due to it being limited to those countries.The dub had an extremely limited voice cast of initially 6 regular voice actors for the first season, then increased to 8 for the second. However many voice actors left between the two Seasons, characters such as Nami had three different voices through the Odex dub of the series. The common complaint leveled against the dub is the poor recording standards, poor editing and wooden acting. Odex’s dub only ran for 104 episodes, at which point Odex was unable to further license the series from Toei Animation.As Toei Animation was scouting for an English dubbing company to produce an English dub for the series in 2004, there was stiff competition as to who would gain the rights. Test dubs were produced by FUNimation Entertainment (featuring Eric Vale as Luffy,
Andrew Chandler as Zoro and Christopher Sabat as Helmeppo) and Ocean Productions (featuring Andrew Francis as Luffy, Samuel Vincent as Zoro and Chantal Strand as Apis) along with Blue Water Studios. FUNimation was so confident they’d be given the rights, they registered the domain name for One Piece prior to anything being solidified.On June 4, 2004, 4Kids Entertainment announced that they had acquired the television distribution and merchandising license for One Piece in the US, Canada, UK, Australia, South Africa and New Zealand. 4Kids won the license in a package deal with Tokyo Mew Mew, a show they were actually intent on dubbing, with no prior knowledge to the shows content. When they found that the show was not for their intended audience, the company pretty much had to do what they could do with the series until they had an opportunity to legally drop the license.
4Kids’ dub of One Piece is infamous for its mandated edits for content and length, reducing the first 143 episodes down to 104. Many, if not all, of the changes made were mandatory for the series to be suitable for broadcast in a children’s timeslot. One of the more notable changes was the digital replacement of Sanji’s cigarette with a lollipop. There were various character names changes, most notably changing Roronoa Zoro to “Zolo”. 4Kids toned down many of the series’ more emotionally intense scenes, also toning down violence and other extreme situations, including writing out the deaths of characters, sometimes unintentionally making it even worse. A lot of dialogue was altered to include humor, often pun-based, even during scenes that were entirely serious in the Japanese version. Several episodes were also removed, including ones which would turn out to be important later on in the series. The original music score was replaced by a new in-house score composed by Jeff Silverman, along with a new opening theme, the infamous “One Piece Rap”. However, 4Kids originally created an English version of the first opening theme, “We Are!”, sung byRussell Velázquez. This theme only previewed at a con sometime in 2004.4Kids’ dub premiered in the United States on September 18, 2004 on the Fox network as part of the weekend programming block Fox Box, and would later air on Toonami in April 2005. Reception of their dub was overwhelmingly negative, being universally panned by fans of the original Japanese version for their alterations to the series.