CBT Speaks With A Man With A Million Voices; An Interview With Frank Welker
I recently had the opportunity to interview Frank Welker, one of the greats in the voice-acting community, and got to talk a bit about his career and some of his favorite roles over the years. For those who aren’t familiar with Frank’s work (for all you young-ins out there) Frank lends his voice to such high-profile characters Fred Jones and [as of 2002] Scooby-Doo from Scooby-Doo, and the Decepticon Leader Megatorn from the original cartoon and the current “Prime” series. That’s enough of a history lesson let’s get this underway.
Wilt (CBT): First and foremost I want to thank you for taking the time from your busy schedule for this interview. You’re regarded as one of the most well-known and beloved voice-actors of all-time; how did you get started voice-acting and what keeps you doing such a fantastic job of it?
Frank Welker: Well, after that wonderful characterization of me, how could I refuse??!! Thank you!
I was doing standup comedy and a producer who was casting a dog food commercial saw me doing a dog and cat fight on stage and cast me on the spot. I had no idea what a voice over was…but that was the start. I really had no idea that the voice part of the business would be where I would spend my career really. I still remained busy in the on camera side doing films and television shows and traveled all over the country with my comedy act…but alas, it was the noise making and the voice over area where I spend the majority of my time. It seemed to be a good fit and I have enjoyed the ride!!!
CBT: You’ve done so many iconic voices throughout your career, from Fred Jones and since 2002 Scooby-Doo from Scooby-Doo, Doctor Claw from Inspector Gadget, many voices from the classic Transformers Cartoon with Megatron being perhaps the role you’re most known for and one of my favorites Nibbler from Futurama. Besides those of the Transformers what was one of your favorite characters to voice?
FW: I had a lot of fun with Slimer from the “Ghostbusters” and I enjoyed doing the voice of Jabberjaw that was a treat since I was doing Curly from the “Three Stooges.” A side note, I worked with Moe’s daughter and son in law Norman Maurer. They seemed to like what I did and I loved the fact that part of the family was giving me the nod of approval. Plus, I really liked the “Stooges” and doing Curly was a dream job, I truly felt like I was channeling nuk nuk nuk!
CBT: Many Transformer fans consider you THE voice of Megatron. How was it coming back to the role as the cherished Decepticon Leader?
FW: Yes, I do see myself as Megatron. “Leader of the Decepticons.” I have pretty much done him since the beginning in some venue or another so I claim “squatters” rights. Since I was the original Megatron, that in and of itself seems to resonate with the fans, and I’ve got to tell you the fans are fantastic and so supportive without their vocal support I don’t think I would still be doing the voice after all these years.
CBT: I’ve noticed that in Transformers: Prime, Megatron is much more maniacal, ruthless and calculating. You’ve added those qualities to the classic Megatron voice to complete a truly frightening version of Megs. Was it a conscious decision to differentiate Prime-Megatron from G1 Megatron? If so what were your influences in that direction?
FW: Yes, it was. Since we have much more time to develop the story and there are far fewer characters in each episode, that gives us a little more time to focus on the inner working of the mind. We were not driven so much by action but more by the overall development and individual agendas. Also, if you notice in the shows you can see much more detail in the faces, the CGI lends itself to subtle vocal qualities. That really helps in playing more drama and character reaction. There are times when I can give Megs just a low slow growl and it is very effective in conveying feelings that would be lost in huge rush of action. I enjoy slowing him down to get those edges and that gives me a lot in reserve for his manic G1 fun screams and frustrated gyrations. Bottom line I have taken the G1 Megatron and with time and story been able to add more dimension and hopefully make him someone you wouldn’t want to invite to Sunday dinner!!
CBT: What is it like to be so loved as villain? There were so many people who were upset when you were not the voice Megatron in the Michael Bay films.
FW: That totally surprised me. I had no idea that we had so many fans let alone such vocal fans. As I already mentioned they are awesome and responsible for keeping me wearing the evil armor.
CBT: As a parting thought are there any words of wisdom for fans or anyone who would like to get into voice-acting?
FW: Sure, there is a wide open market and they are always looking for new people…but it is very competitive. With the internet I don’t see how anyone can be kept from doing and showing ones talents. You need to get an agent which there are a good top ten and found through the SAG. There of course is a protocol for being professional and making demos. You should have a good voice range and not be afraid to use your imagination. I would recommend reading everything you can get your hands on. Practice reading aloud from comics and newspapers…there is a lot you can do, but the most important thing of all, don’t audition for “Megatron” or some very angry fans might just spam you!!!!
Thanks for your interest Wilt…Megatron, “Leader of the Decepticons!”
You can hear Frank and his talents on Transformers: Prime Saturdays at 8:30pm ET/ 5:30pm PST on The Hub.