Mega-Voice: Frank Welker, From Transformers to Scooby Doo
Animated Shorts 600: FRANK WELKER
It seems the only thing that Frank Welker hasn’t achieved is a single award for his work. Yes, that’s truly astonishing.
Considered a “voice acting god” by his peers, such as “Futurama’s” John DiMaggio and Billy West, DiMaggio is probably one of the busiest VOA’s in the business. The IMDB currently lists the number of projects he’s applied his golden tonsils to as over 600. That’s since 1968, when he was the voice of the Pushmepullyu in the film “Doctor Doolittle.”
Still, it was 1969 that he truly came into his own. That was the year Hanna-Barbera lined him up as Fred Jones in the original Scooby-Doo series, “Scooby Doo, Where Are You?” At that time, another voice legend, Don Messick, voiced the roll of the crime-solving canine, but Welker would soon take the job over. To this day, he still is the animated voices of Fred and Scooby, including voicing them in the upcoming video game "Scooby-Doo! First Frights". He’s also the voice of the Great Dane in the origins live action movie, “Scooby Doo: The Mystery Begins.”
Yet that isn’t all he’s known for. Welker replaced another legend, Mel Blanc, as the voice of Barney Rubble. Mark Evanier thinks so much of him that he now voices Garfield. For the tykes, he also does Curious George. In fact, it seems near impossible to find an animation project where either he or Dee Bradley Baker isn’t on it (many times together).
It was actually explained very simply once by director Eric Radomski.
“There’s many a time you have to audition hundreds of actors,” the former director of “Batman: The Animated Series", "Spawn", "Xioalin Showdown” and “Scooby Doo: Get A Clue!” once quipped, “only to prove the only actor for the role is Frank Welker.”
“That is incredibly flattering and I love hearing it,” Welker said. “In a way it is a bit scary too. I hate missing opportunities to work with different directors. One thing that seems to surprise the studios is finding out later my willingness to audition. Under the right circumstances I actually enjoy it very much. If I can audition to picture on a sound stage it works so well for everybody. I can see what is needed and audition under fire in real time, meet the director and see if we both connect, and the studio can see and hear what they need to make their decision. But [that quote] makes me feel great.”
Yet this interview was to celebrate his 25 years in one of his other memorable rolls, Megatron. It doesn’t hurt that Shout! Factory just happens to be releasing another Tranformers collection, kicking off the second season. Still, Welker admits that of all his performances, Megatron is still a personal favorite.
“He would have to be at the top,” Welker admits. “Number one, is he is different than any of the other voices I have had the privilege of providing. Also, the fact that he has remained a fan favorite and caused a bit of controversy along the way qualifies him for my personal hall of fame. I think he and Soundwave have set themselves apart from the other robots in terms of sound identification and that makes me a proud papa.”
How he came up with Megatron is a story in itself.
“I purposely set out to make him standout,” says Welker. “I wanted him to be different than just having a big loud voice. There are too many good actors that would be doing that. Putting in the scratchy weird noises seemed to work and the producers never asked me to do anything different. That helped because it was a visceral reaction to what I saw and read about him and for me that tends to make for the best latitude in acting.
“It was appealing because I had been doing ‘Smurfs’ and ‘Baby Muppets’ and lots of cute furry creatures. This was a big departure and as actors it is fun to stretch out and do something entirely different. I didn't realize that it was going to be as big as it was. I really thought it was just a cool job and like most shows it would go away after a season or two. It was nice to be wrong.”
As for the Transformers now celebrating their 25th Anniversary?
“Pinch me,” he laughs. “You are going to need a crow bar to get the smile off my face.”
Welker also acknowledges the character as a fan favorite, too.
“I think that is a good question for the fans to answer, but I might venture a guess and say it is a combination of things. He is the ultimate in evil, selfish to a fault...and will do what ever it takes to get where he needs to go.
“He was well designed, drawn and written in the animated shows and his personal battle with Optimus Prime lends itself to good drama. Of course I humbly submit that I think the voice works very well and I think a goodly portion of the fans tend to agree.”
Oddly enough though, it shocks the heck out of him when he hears fans will spend literally over $1000 for an original Megatron action figure.
“What!,” he exclaims. “Wow, I didn't know that. Really fantastic. I guess I won't be receiving one from Hasbro. It is very sad, but I have none.
“While we were doing the show I had the old "Megs" with the canon gun but it disappeared. When I was doing the movie I received a box Soundwave and I was thrilled. Then I realized it was to be signed and given to the sound engineer. Oh well, I will get some one of these days. There's got to be a store nearby!”
This comment then led to his work on the recent Transformers movie, “The Revenge of the Fallen.” As T-fans know, Welker did the voices of Soundwave and Devastor, but not the big M itself. That went to Hugo Weaving.
“I came in towards the end of the picture which is typical of voice work,” says Welker. “I was able to see bits and pieces of the film to get an idea of the action. We laid down a bunch of different lines that they later could work with and sort of pick and choose which worked best. I was very happy that Michael felt foreign actors would have trouble with the Soundwave voice. I ended up working most of the foreign versions. That was extremely hard. It took me many hours to do the different languages. Soundwave in French is not to be believed.”
In the meantime, Welker is keeping one incredibly full schedule.
“I finished working on a Steven Soderbergh film playing a very small on camera roll which was a great deal of fun. I actually play Matt Damon's father. I was hoping to be his college buddy. I think I was miscast. Anyway, I haven't done a on camera roll for sometime. I am not use to memorizing lines. Fortunately, I worked in the scene with Candy Clark, good actor, and Steven didn't mind us ad libbing a little. The film is due out in October, ‘The Informant.’”
“I have a Scooby film DVD release in September and we are back doing another season of ‘Scooby Doo Mysteries.’ Also, we are doing more of the series ‘Garfield the Cat.’ Oh and I don't want to forget the ‘Curious George’ show. We just completed the Christmas special. Other than that, I am working on my golf swing and chasing the paparazzi. I just can't get them to take my picture!”
And who knows? Maybe the animation industry finally might recognize Welker for his career in voice over. Just for Megatron alone he deserves a little more consideration than the industry has given him.
ADULT SWIM DEBUTS TITAN MAXIMUM THIS MONTH
As if Matt Seinreich and Seth Green aren’t busy enough, the producers of ‘Robot Chicken’ will have a second all-adult series debuting September 27 at 11:30 p.m eastern. Entitled “Titan Maxium,” the series is the duo’s homage to all things ‘Voltron’ and super-mecha.
Chicken head writer Tom Root is also credited as the series creator, along with Seinreich. Green will voice the series main villain, just to keep the work evenly distributed.
Set 100 years in the future, Saturn’s moon Titan is defended by Titan Force Five, an elite squadron of young, brash pilots whose spaceships combine to form the giant robot Titan Maximum. As the series opens, the team has been disbanded due to budget cuts, but must hastily reassemble when a former team member turns rogue and tries to conquer the solar system with an assault of giant monsters. Now, the fate of humanity rests in the hands of a team of dysfunctional misfits commanding a rust bucket robot.
Breckin Meyer, Rachael Leigh Cook, Dan Milano and Eden Espinosa are also in the voice cast. As always, the show is being produced by ShadowMachine.
CN’S NEW MARVEL SERIES DEBUTS SEPT. 19
While everyone is still recovering from Disney’s acquisition of Marvel, a new Marvel animated series will make its debut on Cartoon Network on Saturday, September 19 at 8:30 a.m. eastern.
Entitled “The Superhero Squad Show” the series focuses on a Americanized chibi-reinterpretation of such Marvel mainstays as Iron Man, Falcon, Captain America, Silver Surfer, Hulk and Wolverine.
The Squad must keep Dr. Doom’s allies from gathering pieces of the Infinity Sword; otherwise, Doom will use the Sword to rule the universe. These brave heroes deliver the action with plenty of humor on the side. Marvel has attracted superstar talent to play the roles of the dynamic heroes and villains, including: Tom Kenny (Iron Man, Captain America), Charlie Adler (Doom), Steve Blum (Wolverine…what else is new? Try Abomination) and Grey DeLisle (Ms. Marvel, Enchantress). If that isn’t enough, Stan Lee is the voice of the Mayor.
For a fast preview, goto the URL: Adler does a great Doom, too.