Register  |   Log In  |  
Sign up to our weekly newsletter    
Search   
Empire Magazine and iPad
Follow Me on Pinterest YouTube Tumblr
Empire
Trending On Empire
The Future Of Film
The 100 Greatest Video Games
Robin Williams: The Big Interview
Kevin Feige:
My Movie Life

The Marvel supremo's pick of the flicks
Subscribe: Get 6 Issues For £15
Get Empire magazine today and save money!
Empire Blogs
Empire States

Back to all blogs Comment Now

Transformers: The Ride-3D - Peter Cullen & Frank Welker

Posted on Tuesday July 30, 2013, 16:58 by Owen Williams in Empire States
Transformers: The Ride-3D - Peter Cullen & Frank Welker

As you might have seen in the current Empire, I was invited by Universal last month to the red-carpet opening of the impressive new Transformers ride at their Orlando, Florida resort. There were jet planes, people in crazy stilt suits (or if you prefer for that to stay behind the curtain it was the real Bumblebee and Optimus!), “General” Glenn Morshower, explosions, and Steven Spielberg. Plus, of course, the ride itself: an exhilarating hurl around – and occasionally above – New York in new Autobot Evac, aggressively pursued by Decepticons in pursuit of a bit of Allspark.

A few technological upgrades aside, it’s essentially the same ride that Empire’s Ali Plumb crushed in Hollywood a year ago, so for loads more details, pay a visit to Ali’s own report here. From my trip though, I thought I’d share the transcript of this fun audience with Peter Cullen and Frank Welker: the voices of, respectively, Optimus Prime and Megatron. A voice actor’s lot, it seems, is not an unhappy one: Welker’s vast body of work actually meant that, incredibly, between 1980 and 2011 he was the actor with the highest combined box office gross in the world, until Samuel L. Jackson took his title. Friends since they first worked together in the late ‘70s, he and Cullen may work away from the limelight, but hopefully the following demonstrates that they can also effortlessly play to a crowd. [Welker invades about half way through…]

Peter Cullen: [In Optimus voice] My name is Optimus Prime, and I am the leader of the Autobots. [Back to normal] And I’ve been the leader for a long time! 1984 was when it all started. I was in it for a couple of years, and then it was resurrected back in 2006, I guess, for the 2009 movie. And here we are! We opened the first of these Universal park rides in Singapore, and then recently in Los Angeles, and I had the opportunity to get on the ride, and it was one of the most exciting adventures I’ve ever been on – and I’ve been on a few rides in my life! If you haven’t been on it yet I think you’ll be genuinely impressed. The kids love it. The last kid I talked to said he’d been on it seven times, and I can understand it. I’m still a kid at heart, believe me!

How long is the process between you recording a voice for something like this and seeing the finished product?
There are a few journeys in the making of something like this! In the beginning quite often all I’m working with is a pencil sketch of an idea. Then eventually I’ll get to see some rough animation and then finally the finished product. During the course of that journey of creativity from the artistry to the animation to the writers, a lot will change due to action sequences that were caught differently or lit differently. Words will change. My recording will be on and off over a year. It doesn’t seem like a lot of work but it usually is. But it’s only a couple of hours at a time. Live-action actors work a full day! I just show up and [sheepishly] read into a microphone. I have to slave over a hot mic all day!

Do you ever get to work with the live-action actors?
No, I work alone, with Michael Bay and his crew of sound engineers. Some of it’s impromptu, ad-libbed, off-the-cuff. There’s a very relaxed and creative pace about it. Michael is exciting to work with. He doesn’t come across that way to a lot of people, but I’ve always had the greatest respect for him. I’ve often compared him to a general in a military campaign, because the scope of what he deals with on a daily basis is so huge. He’s like Schwarzkopf in Desert Storm, putting all these pieces together. I just have to sit back and do my lines, but when I put together his puzzle, it’s mind-boggling. I couldn’t do that.

You came to the films because of fan demand – is that right?
I’m not sure of the details but I know the fans had a lot to do with it. The fanbase was really insisting that they bring back Optimus Prime – my Optimus Prime from 1984 – and I was tickled pink. It was a great honour, and certainly I wanted to be chosen. I didn’t want to let those people down, because they were heart-bent on having the Optimus from their childhoods. As the years went on I began to realise how serious that was. But I had to audition three times!

How did you come to be Optimus back in 1984?
I was with my brother Larry, who was in Vietnam as a captain of the Marine Corps. He’s a real leader. He asked me where I was going, and I told him I was off to an audition to be a truck! [Laughs] "He’s a hero truck! And I guess he changes into some robot or something." So Larry said to me, “Peter, make sure he’s a real hero. Don’t be one of those Hollywood assholes. Don’t go yelling and screaming. Be genuine and have him show some concern.” He’s thirteen months older than me and about six inches taller, and his voice has all this volume, but we have a similar sound. He said [Optimus voice], “I mean it, Peter. Be a good one!” And when I was given the lines for Optimus Prime, it was Larry’s voice that came out. I was thinking of him, and of how he treated people genuinely and how they respected him. And about two weeks later I found out that I had been chosen to be the truck!

During this story, Welker has quietly entered the room. When Cullen subsides, he says in a plummy-Brit voice: “Mr Cullen, is it not also true that you auditioned for the role of Megatron and did not get it? IS THAT NOT TRUE?

Cullen: [Launching himself at Welker] ARRRRGH! NO THAT IS NOT TRUE!

Welker: I’m sorry for busting in but you can’t just let the good guys go on and on.

Cullen: This is the king. Frank Welker, the king. Oh boy…

Have you ridden the ride together?
Welker: Yes, we sat together and we were both terrified! Actually it was really fun. We were talking about how impressed we were, and surprised at how all this could come together and how well it works. I think Peter – I mean, don’t let me get in here and steal your thunder – but I think Peter is a little jealous because Megatron has a lot to do in this ride. He’s just trying to stop me but it’s my job to scare everybody!

Cullen: [Dryly] Oh the fun we’ve had. I mean, you just have to imagine, when you’re in the recording studio you’re not on camera, and there’s a lot of downtime between takes when directors are talking to producers or whatever, and the microphones are off. There might be, oh, five or ten minutes of just hilarious exchange. [Pulls face]

Did you meet Orson Welles when you were doing the animated movie [Welles played the voice of Unicron in 1984]?
Cullen: [Note perfect late-life Welles rumble; mimes reading a script, baffled] Oh my god. Shit. What the hell is this all about? Nonsense. Shit.

Welker: It was interesting, because he came in, and he was pretty much the size of a planet, which is what he ended up playing! So that was appropriate. But he had the two smallest dogs you’ve ever seen. [Does brilliant mime of incredibly fat man walking two dogs on leads, while alternately barking like a tiny Chihuahua and huffing like Welles]. It was such an unusual sight. But he had a lot of voice. Hearing him and Peter… I actually got to watch from the sidelines. It’s always a treat to work with Peter because nobody has a voice like that… Did you tell them about Mighty Man?

Cullen: No, I didn’t get to that! We both worked together for the first time on a television cartoon series called Mighty Man and Yukk. I was Mighty Man of course! He was a miniature superhero, who in real life was a normal person that sounded like Bing Crosby. And Frank was the dog, who wore a doghouse over his head because he was so ugly, and if he took the doghouse off it was just mayhem. "Don’t take off that doghouse! No! Arrgh!" [Etc.]

Welker: This is how we met. The fortunate thing was they had us doing almost every single voice, which pretty much guaranteed we got all the donuts too.

Cullen: And we went from there. Him being the bad guy and me being the good guy, Megatron and Optimus Prime, doesn’t relate to any sort of reality. There’s no reality anymore.

Do you enjoy being famous as voices but not recognised in the street?
Cullen: Well Frank worked with Elvis Presley, Jack Benny, Johnny Carson, some of the greatest talents in the United States over the years. Tonnes of people. He’s just a tremendous mimic and entertainer. He was a huge star on all the talk shows. I was on the Sonny and Cher show, doing comedy sketches. One day – I don’t know if this is how it was for you, Frank – I just said to myself, “That’s it, I’m not going on camera anymore. These people are freaky!” I wanted to raise my kids, so I just went behind the microphone and hid, in the place behind my mind where I keep all my stuff!

Welker: It’s really an ideal profession. There are so many different branches that you can specialise in, and yet you still know enough that you can cover other areas. I hadn’t done any on-camera acting for a long time, but a couple of years ago I got a call from my agent saying I was being asked for by a director doing a Matt Damon film [Steven Soderbergh, making The Informant!]. I thought, “I wonder what sort of dog they want me to play. A Poodle maybe?” But they wanted me to play Matt’s father. I felt old! Hello, Mr Time. I didn’t know I was Matt’s father. I thought I was in San Diego the whole time! It was only one or two lines, but it struck me how much I prefer the voice business to the on-camera business. It was almost a full day for my two or three lines. Peter and I will go in and do four or five shows in a day, and have a blast playing a grandfather and a baby and a dog and a transforming truck or whatever, and then go to the golf course. In terms of just fun in acting, voice acting is such a rewarding job. And you don’t have to travel away from home!

You’d be mobbed outside if the kids knew who you were!
Welker: Yeah, that’s fun. It doesn’t happen often. I do forget sometimes who we’re doing this for, but when you see their little faces light up, it’s super-special.

Cullen: It transcends generations. Transformers was brought back out of want! It was a genuine, honest desire to have these beloved characters come back. And now to have those fans’ own children watching, it’s an honour, really. It’s a phenomenon, and it’s a thrill to have something unmatched like that in your career that makes an impression on different generations. It’s mind-boggling.

Welker: I remember one time I was playing golf with a gentleman, a very senior person, and he asked if I would do a Megatron voice for an answering machine message. I asked him what his son’s name was, and he said, “No! It’s for me!”



Want to visit the ride? Here are the details...

www.universalorlando.co.uk

Seven nights in Orlando with Virgin Holidays, including scheduled flights with Virgin Atlantic from London Gatwick direct to Orlando, accommodation at the 5V Loews Royal Pacific resort at Universal on a room only basis with car hire included starts from £819. Price is per person based on 2 adults travelling and sharing a standard room, price includes all applicable taxes and fuel surcharges which are subject to change. Prices are based on departures on 21st Jan 2014.

Virgin Holidays is a member of ABTA and is ATOL protected.

To book: www.virginholidays.co.uk, 0844 557 3859 or visit one of our 100 stores located in Debenhams, House of Fraser, Tesco and Sainsbury’s stores nationwide.

Login or register to comment.

Comments

1 whiteynine
Posted on Friday August 2, 2013, 12:26
I love these guys.

Log in below, or register to post comments
Username:
Password:
Remember Me:

CATEGORIES

Empire States (440)

Under The Radar (317)

Infinite Lives (92)

Small Screen (57)

Words From The Wise (35)

Cannes 2011 (28)

Off The Wire (24)

Comic-Con 2010 (21)

Casting Couch (2)

Oscars 2011 (1)


RECENT POSTS

Cannes Film Festival 2014: Awards Wrap
By Damon Wise

Sundance London: An Introduction To The 2014 Edition
By Damon Wise

Sundance 2014: Final Wrap
By Damon Wise

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
By Damon Wise

Sundance 2014: First Report
By Damon Wise

Shane Carruth Interview: Upstream Color
By Damon Wise

Lars Von Trier's Nymphomaniac: First Look
By Damon Wise

The European Film Awards 2013
By Damon Wise

Metro Manila Charity Screenings
By Damon Wise

San Sebastian Film Festival 2013: First Report – Enemy, Le Week-end, Quai D'Orsay and The Railway Man
By Damon Wise


RECENT COMMENTS

Sundance 2014: Final Wrap
"lights of both competitors alongside its traditional 24/7 series. Here we have the greatest hits of "  lalkala000
Read comment

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
"Ha ha, buuuurn! I am going to go a step further and say Dredd was a better film."  doug64
Read comment

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
"You are a miserable old fart! "  Crazel
Read comment

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
"Doug64 I totally agreed with you"  Crazel
Read comment

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
"Am I the only person in the world who doesn't think The Raid is all that great? I realise you have t"  doug64
Read comment

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
"Great write-up on a movie for which I am incredibly excited. Even more promisingly, this seems to be"  tysmuse
Read comment

Toronto 2013: Starred Up, Belle, The Invisible Woman, Dom Hemingway, The Double
"If being on a par with Terry Gilliam's 'daft' Brazil is the only criticism avowed Gilliam-disliker D"  Garth_Marenghi
Read comment

Venice 2013: Under The Skin
"I'm glad that Glazer's finally back on the big screen. Judging by the review, he"  Manfrendshensindshen
Read comment

Venice 2013: Gravity Is Out Of This World
"What's really interesting about this film is the trailer gives nothing away but give you the premise"  durelius
Read comment

Venice 2013: Gravity Is Out Of This World
"Looks majestic. Can't wait to see this particularly if it lives up to the slowly-building hype."  herbertwest1701
Read comment


POPULAR POSTS

Why I Love Django Unchained
5 comments

Sundance 2014: The Raid 2 – First Look
5 comments

Venice 2013: Gravity Is Out Of This World
4 comments

Venice 2013: Under The Skin
1 comments

Toronto 2013: Starred Up, Belle, The Invisible Woman, Dom Hemingway, The Double
1 comments

Sundance 2013: The Round-Up Part Two
1 comments

Sundance 2013: The Round-Up Part 5
1 comments

Argo: a round table encounter with Alan Arkin, Bryan Cranston and John Goodman
1 comments

Cannes 2013: Some Thoughts On The Official Lineup
1 comments

Sundance 2014: Final Wrap
1 comments


BLOGGERS
Damon Wise (297)
Helen O'Hara (167)
James Dyer (86)
Amar Vijay (71)
Ali Plumb (56)
James White (29)
Phil de Semlyen (19)
Owen Williams (15)
Ally Wybrew (2)
Ben Kirby (1)
Ian Nathan (1)
Dan Jolin (1)
David Parkinson (1)

SPECIAL FEATURE
The 301 Greatest Movies Of All Time EMPIRE READERS' POLL: THE 301 GREATEST MOVIES OF ALL TIME
You turned out in your hundreds and thousands, and here are the results... Browse the full list


CURRENT HIGHLIGHTS
The Future Of Film: Cinema Will Cross The Uncanny Valley
The future of VFX, from believable digital humans to underwater mocap

The Future Of Film: There Will Be Another Indie Golden Age
Independent producers are growing from micro-budgets to something a lot bigger

Empire's Epic Interstellar Subscribers' Cover
The countdown begins to Christopher Nolan's sci-fi masterpiece

The Future Of Film: Your Favourite Movie WIll Be Crowdfunded
Click here to donate

The Empire Podcast #128: Interviews With Sir Roger Moore And George MacKay
Plus we say goodbye to Richard Kiel and the British Expendables are assembled...

Shut Up, World! Gary Busey Is Talking!
Strap yourselves in and meet a true Hollywood original.

Classic Feature: Gods Among Us - Paul Newman
A cat so cool he makes Steve McQueen look geeky.

Subscribe to Empire magazine
Get 6 Issues Of Empire For Only £15!

Get exclusive subscriber-only covers each month!

Subscribe today

Subscribe to Empire iPad edition
Get The Empire iPad Edition Today

Subscribe and save maney on annual digital subscription

Subscribe today
Buy single issues

Get 6 issues of Empire for just £15!
Get the world's greatest movie magazine delivered straight to your door! Subscribe today!
Empire's Film Studies 101 Series
Everything you ever wanted to know about filmmaking but were afraid to ask...
The Empire iPad Edition
With exclusive extras, interactive features, trailers and much more! Download now
Home  |  News  |  Blogs  |  Reviews  |  Future Films  |  Features  |  Interviews  |  Images  |  Competitions  |  Forum  |  iPad  |  Podcast  |  Magazine Contact Us  |  Empire FAQ  |  Subscribe To Empire  |  Register
© Bauer Consumer Media Ltd  |  Legal Info  |  Editorial Complaints  |  Privacy Policy  |  Bauer Entertainment Network
Bauer Consumer Media Ltd (company number 01176085 and registered address 1 Lincoln Court, Lincoln Road, Peterborough, England PE1 2RF)