With Transformers Prime Beast Hunters returning our favorite robots to our living rooms this evening, it’s only fitting that we get to share with you a recent Q&A that we got to do with Megatron himself, the legendary Frank Welker, about cartoons, Transformers, working with Peter Cullen, how he approaches the character, and more. Don’t forget to check out the premier of season 3 of Transformers Prime tonight on The Hub at 6:30 p.m. CST/7:30 p.m. EST. Enjoy!
The chemistry between you and Peter Cullen is legendary. Can you talk about how that has grown from back on Transformers Generation 1 up through Transformers Prime?
Peter and I met during the making of a show called “Mighty Man and Yuck.” I was a dog that was so ugly he had to keep his dog house over his head. Peter was, “Mighty Man” cut from stone, with good looks and had of course had the perfect pipes for it. Peter looked at me and said, “Type casting huh?” From that moment on we have been trying to get the better of one another and have become great friends and respectful fans of each other’s work. Not only is Peter funny and incredibly talented, he has a wonderful boyish side and youthful work manner. We giggle a lot like kids during sessions. However, now with the real “new kids:” Tania, Andy, Josh, and Sumalee on Transformer Prime…Peter and I watch in amazement at the newer generation. We still very much enjoy working with each other and I marvel at his powerful Optimus Prime…to this day I am not sure where that fabulous voice comes from.
Many lists place you as one of the most successful actors in Hollywood based on your sheer number of voice jobs. Are you grateful for the relative anonymity that comes with being a voice over artists, or have you sometimes craved the attention that other successful actors such as Tom Hanks attract?
When I first started in the biz, I wanted to be a star…star not an actor…there is a difference which I was soon to learn. When I realized this, “know thy self,” I realized that I had better get to work and maybe…just maybe the star thing would be a result of that hard work. I did standup comedy and my share of on camera rolls both in TV and film. The standup comedy gave me a taste of the celebrity that I wanted with a lot of appearances on the talks shows of the day and it was fun. Then I found my nitch in the voice area, and as you pointed out anonymity rules, I was ready for it. I stopped wanting to be a star, except when I met chicks, or was looking for a good table, or a discount at a golf shop, and then just settled in to wanting to be successful and work. Well, I certainly got the work…I have not stopped since an on camera commercial in college. I have been very lucky with this superannuated career that has included dabbling in everything from standup, plays, commercials, films, television shows, writing to producing. Probably most important thing in all this is knowing I have some folks that know and like my work and I continue hoping to garner respect from my peers.
As long-time Transformers fans, we’ve noticed a big change in your approach to Transformers Prime Megatron, as compared with your other works as the leader of the Decepticons. What has given you the inspiration in your portrayal as Megatron in Transformers Prime compared to the other times you’ve voiced the character?
In the G1 shows, Megatron and all the characters had to cut through a lot of noise and action with a story that had to start and finish in roughly twenty minutes. I needed a hard driving sound that was still unique. I found that the voice I used worked nicely. In the Transformer Prime shows…with the CGI subtleties and close ups where you can see mouth movements plus in HD there was much more opportunity to bring a more natural range while still keeping the G1 DNA. Also, the shows now have a story line that crosses from one episode to the next… I don’t have to be nearly as big all the time but must continue to be bad and more. The last few things I have done with “Megs” voice some lower and more menacing tones….but I still love to crank him up and over the top when need be. It is fun having more latitude and range with the big guy!
Are there any other characters you’ve played in the past that you’d love to get a chance to play again?
I did Soundwave in the second feature, but not in TP. In the series they decided not to give him a voice…at least not yet. I think the fans might get a kick out of bringing him back with the G1 sound…I think that could work really great if we used a little human sound but still made it G1. If they asked I am sure my arm would not have to move far before I would say yes to doing any of my old characters!!!
Besides Peter Cullen, who has been your favorite voice actor to work with and why?
Great question but can’t answer that…too many great friends and talent. Let’s just say I love being in the room with: Peter of course…Maurice LaMarche, Tom Kenny, Jim Cummings, Tress McNeil, Gray Delisle, Kevin M Richardson, Jeff Bennett, Rob Paulson, Greg Berger, Nolan North, Neil Ross, stop me before you run out of ink. And the reason, they are all huge talents and such fun to be with…it’s like being back in the school yard and they are all on my team…oh, and we have the ball.
Thank you Mr. Welker for your time, and thank you to all our fans for continuing to support JustUs Geeks!