What was your reaction, when you heard about the out-pouring of support from the fans for you to reprise your role as Megatron in the recent movie?
Well, I was absolutely blown away. I really had no idea how big the Transformers were, let alone the size of the fan base. Their passion and knowledge of all things TF is pretty awesome. For me, knowing the fans felt my G1 Megatron was original and important to them and should have been included in the feature production was humbling. That loyalty has pretty much increased my hat size about two fold. Of course I realize it is "Megs" ultimately...not me.
How did you feel about the role of Megatron in the recent transformers movie going to Hugo Weaving?
Hey, if it can't be me or an immediate member of my family playing the role of Megaton, Hugo Weaving is not too shabby. He is a superb actor who always brings interesting interpretations to his work. His agent Smith from the Matrix series was an example, he used a very slight robotic twitch and underplayed it so nicely...top notch. The clips I saw of his Megatron seemed to work just fine, but it was pretty heavily processed and made the voice sound typical of what you might expect of a 40 foot mechanical villain. I think it would have been more interesting to hear less process and more Hugo.
Have you been approached at all for any further work with the franchise, either with the movie(Soundwave?) or another incarnation, such as Transformers: Animated?
Well it is a little too early to be specific but I will say yes and no. No, I have not been approached by the movie folks but yes I am still involved in the franchise...more on that later.
What differences do you find in voicing animals, as opposed to "speaking" characters?
I think people have more of a preconceived idea of what a human voice's should sound like but when you do animals there is more freedom of artistic movement. You are creating sound the listener hasn't pigeon holed ....directors are more apt to leave me alone with my etch-o-sketch and I like that.
(Welker is the "god" of animal noise work for Hollywood. If an animal makes a noise in a movie, Welker is probably the voice behind it.)
Where do you draw your inspirations from in creating a voice? What inspired you to come up with Megatron's voice?
I find that I respond more visually than verbally and looking at a drawing or seeing pictures of the characters evokes an automatic reaction which suggests a voice or attitude. If there is a description and history it helps form a point of view that adds to the overall voice. I think I enjoy looping to picture...looping is the process where you record in a studio with the film or project on the screen and you voice over to what you are looking at...because you see the action on the screen and you just go for it. The character is there and it helps the director as well since he just has to show you the scene, it is a very liberating and creative process. When I auditioned for the Transformers show, there was a sign at the door that said “pick three”. There were piles of drawings of the characters on this table so I just picked up a bunch of the Autobots and Decepticons and had at it. I was drawn to the evil characters since a lot of my work had been mixed with way too many good guys. When I saw Megatron he stood out and I liked the fact that he was the leader of the Decepticons. I tried to make his voice different from what I thought the other actors might do in hopes it would stand out. In the case of Megatron it was the first voice that came to me and the powers to be said "Hello Megatron."
As it turned out I got seven of the original parts...Autobots and Decepticons. I think Wally Burr the director was so busy doing other shows plus working this one he didn't realize he cast me in all those parts...hey, I was lucky!!
Could you cite some other notable examples?
Well, Soundwave was a very bad impression of Barry White but again I wanted something different and it was another weird sounding voice. I think now I was not going with visual as much as trying to create a voice that was different from what I had already done and from the rest of my fellow actors. I didn't realize until the middle of the season that Scotty, our engineer, had processed the shorts off that voice and added large amounts of that "vocal harmonizer thingy bobby"...that's tech speak for "lots of sound stuff." So anyway, it really was fun to do but I could have done Snooky Lanson and it still would have sounded the same. The younger folks will need to look Snooky up on Wikipedia.
What are some of your fondest memories working on the original Transformers series?
I know it is cliche, but as I mentioned above, it was a hoot working with Mike Bell who loved to pick on Peter Cullen. Peter is such a good guy and has the best laugh in town. We all tried to get his number and he was pretty easy. Of course he could dish it out too and was very funny with great stories of the Great White North. He does a French Canadian that puts me away. It was an odd cast of characters literally...and that kept it fun.
You've played a lot of villains over the years, what was your favorite "evil" role?
Probably would be Megatron because he has been the longest running and most widely known. He is fun to do because there are no limits...he can be over the top and still work, or low and subtle and make wee ones have nightmares. And note, around this voice there is controversy, that is a good sign. I think it is important that you don't sound like people expect you to, always good, unless you are running for public office!