Den of Geek Interview with Peter Cullen
Den of Geek’s Chris Cummins interviewed Peter Cullen, the voice of Optimus Prime, in connection to the Titans Return web series. While there’s nothing new on Titans Return, the interview offers some perspective on Cullen’s relationship to the job in G1 and the film franchise, including some uncertainty whether he would get the job as Prime on the big screen!
The interview covers Cullen’s initial hiring for The Transformers, his auditioning process for the film character in the more recent movie franchise, and advice to aspiring voice actors. Cullen has explained in previous interviews that he worried his performance had been unappreciated when his character was to be killed in the 1986 movie, and he adds some detail here to set that scene:
We didn’t get fan mail. I never received a letter of fan mail although I was told it did come. And we didn’t have the internet so there was no thermomenter to judge how popular or unpopular something was. So move on, go on to the next job.
Another point of discussion is his audition process for the film franchise, reflecting the difference between voice acting for a cartoon and for a live-action film.
Going back and forth between the two characters, I could see Michael Bay was going to be a little bit concerned. “Is this guy gonna give me a cartoon interpretation of this new multimillion dollar movie, or is he going to be able to act the part?” So in retrospect I probably shouldn’t have done Ironhide, because I did have to go back the next time and prove I really could act. I haven’t told that story in awhile.
Finally, Cullen offers some advice for aspiring voice actors, commenting on the range and versatility of his counterpart Frank Welker and emphasizing the importance of practice, training, and versatility, as well as personal determination.
Well, never give up. And if it’s specifically voice over, as I started with cartoons, don’t be limited to one voice. The human voice is an instrument. Like any musical instrument you have to learn how to play it. It’s a question of controlling the air, it’s a question of resonance, how do you get high, how do you get low, how do you get nasal, how do you get hollow, and practicing that. And never give it. Do it until you drive people nuts the way that I did when I was a kid. That means doing sounds too, whether that means animals or mechanical noises or sounds.