Frank Welker talks Tranformers Prime, airing Saturdays on The Hub
Simply put, Frank Welker is a voice-over legend. Anyone who grew up in the 80s, like I did, remembers his renditions of Megatron on the original Transformers, Hefty Smurf on Smurfs, Torch on G.I. Joe, and countless other memorable voices.
He reprises his iconic Megatron role in The Hub series Transformers: Prime, which airs Saturdays at 8:30 PM ET. I had the chance to ask this iconic voice actor some questions about the show and his long-standing fan base.
Here's what he had to say.
When you first started voicing Megatron and other Transformers characters in the 1980s, did you think this franchise would still be living on through big screen features and new television series almost 30 years later? How do you feel about the way its continued to grow into what it is now?
Frank Welker: (Optimus Prime voice actor) Peter Cullen and I have often talked about that very thing. We had no idea how big the fan base was or how the franchise was growing back then. We never received any fan mail and the only feedback we got was when and if the show was picked up for another season. We didn't have any invites to Bot Cons and the like until just a few years ago, so all of this attention was a surprise, a very pleasant surprise. With the features and the new iterations of all things TF, the new audience and the old supporters seem to remain enthusiastic and that is very meaningful and appreciated.
Were there any specific changes you wanted to make with Megatron's voice in Transformers: Prime, compared to your previous versions of the voice?
Frank Welker: In Transformers: Prime, there are fewer characters and the stories build more slowly, plus with the CGI animation you can see the faces and reactions of the characters. That allows me to explore a wider vocal range. In the Generation One show we had to drive to keep with the fast paced action, but these shows are more story and character driven. I enjoy going to the edges with Megatron slower and lower and blending the old with new. But always, I want to be sure that he is someone you wouldn't want at Sunday dinner!
Can you talk a bit about working with executive producers Roberto Orci, Alex Kurtzman, and Jeff Kline? How hands-on are they during your recording sessions, and are you allowed to guide the character's destiny as it were?
Frank Welker: I can't say enough about Orci. He looks like a kid, well I guess compared to me he is a kid!! He is very smart, talented, and a stand up guy. He is so respectful of the franchise and loyal to a fault. He listens to the fans and fights for everything TF. I know without him I would be selling gas in Iowa. As for Alex Kurtzman, I haven't spent much time with him as I would like but his credits speak volumes. They don't get a lot of opportunity to come by because they are doing so many other projects; but I know they are like robotic flies on the wall and never are too far away from their supervising roles. Jeff Kline is our hands on producer for the show. He is a bull dog, when something needs to be done Jeff is the guy. We always love it when he comes by the sessions...It means that something is a foot. Usually it is good news, or a special event or presents from Hasbro. He will give us information about what's going on in the corporate world or our ratings etc. and he knows how to give us just enough information to keep us excited but not too dangerous. He is a really good guy and the powers are lucky to have him. His enthusiasm is infectious!!! Our director is Jamie Simone. He is a veteran director who is skilled in getting across what the writers want and the actors need. He never is far from a smile and seems to enjoy every session he directs. As you can see, I am a fan of our entire production team and that goes all the way to the top at Hasbro.
With the new series Transformers: Rescue Bots airing on The Hub as well, are there any possibilities for crossover episodes, or just for you to hop over and voice a character for an episode or two?
Frank Welker: Well, that is a great idea... but for me that hasn't happened. I think they are fairly separate but one of our guys Steve Blum has had roles in both shows so not sure if in the future we will comingle. What I would love to see is a nod to the old G1 series and do an animated special with all the entire old cast from the show including our director Wally Burr as a guest voice. I see a lot of the guys and they are available and I know would love to do it....
Do you have any thoughts on the upcoming Transformers 4 movie? You voiced Shockwave and a few other characters in Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, so have you been approached to voice Shockwave or any other character for Transformers 4? Is there a particular character you'd love to voice that you haven't been given the chance to yet?
Frank Welker: I haven't been asked to participate in the new features, but usually we don't know until later because the voice work comes at the end of the production process. I'm not sure if any of the TF's I did in the other features will be returning. I would like to see Soundwave get more screen time he is always a fun character. For Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, I did his voice in many foreign languages and that was really fun. Hard, but fun. I didn't have a lot of lines but I tried to make the most of them. Japanese was impossible!!!
You've gotten to watch a lot of your fans grow from kids to adults, while constantly getting a whole new wave of young fans every year. Do you feel a certain loyalty to the older fans? Or do you view all fans as equals?
Frank Welker: Again without getting maudlin, the fans are so important and you would be surprised to see how much the studios monitor them. When you have such vocal fans as the Transformer fans they become a voting block and ultimately play a significant role in the direction the powers go. For actors, they keep us in the game so both new fans and old all fans are important...But like old friends, old fans keep you in line because they have known you for the longest.
You can check out Frank Welker as Megatron in Transformers: Prime, which airs Saturdays at 8:30 PM ET on The Hub.