Saturday, October 01, 2011

Peter Cullen On Doing Dark of the Moon and Optimus

To help promote the home video release of Transformers: Dark of the Moon the voice of Optimus Prime, Peter Cullen, briefly spoke with MovieWeb about working on the film.
I know how the process of voicing an animated character works, but how does it work on a live-action movie like this? How early in the process are you coming in to do the voice? Can you talk about how that process works?
Peter Cullen: Well, the difference between the animated version, going back to Generation One, and the action version, the human involvement is highlighted and Optimus finds himself communicating on a human level more than ever before. Not that he didn't before, but it's much more obvious now. Certainly in Transformers: Dark of the Moon, he begins to show more human emotions than he ever did before, including anger. These are all factors that create new challenges.

Are you ever on the set when they are shooting this, or when do your recording sessions come into play?
Peter Cullen: Our recording sessions are usually in the studios with the engineers. I did have the opportunity to work with Frances McDormand and Josh Duhamel and Tyrese Gibson on set. It was a very exciting moment for me because normally, as a voice actor, you're stuck in a small room. I had the opportunity to join them in an airplane hangar down in Long Beach. It was really fun. I even had my own chair (Laughs).

Was that the first time you had done that in this series? Had you done that in the first two movies?
Peter Cullen: No, not at all. This was unique. It came about in a funny way, Brian. (Director) Michael Bay wanted Frances McDormand to have a more one-on-one relationship with Optimus Prime, so she could get a better idea of him, rather than talking to a balloon attached to a crane 45 feet up in the air. So we did our scene together, several times. I had a ball working with her. I have great respect for her as an actress. My God, she's one of the greatest, going back to Fargo and things like that. It was great to be with her and look right into her eyes, and it gave her a better sense of what Prime was, on an acting level. Then she could go about talking to the crane, and that made more sense. I wanted to be in the movie myself, at that point (Laughs). I didn't want to go home. It was in the back of my brain. I was saying, 'Gee, I want to play.'

As Optimus has evolved throughout these three movies, are there things you wanted to do different with the voice, this third time around?
Peter Cullen: No, not really. The most important thing to me is to maintain the character traits and be true to them, as I have in the past. I'm never really presented anything that conflicts with those. There might be questionable areas, like the first time where they wanted Optimus Prime to be funny. I said, 'Well, how do you do that?' You can do it with words or an expression of some kind, but everything is really carved in stone. These are his traits, these are his qualities, this is what he stands for, this is who he is. I don't have to fight very hard for that. The fanbase made that pretty clear from the very beginning. They gave that a thumbs up and I honor that. It's certainly one of the easiest things for me to do, to honor Prime's traits.

Can you talk a bit about the recording process itself? Are you shown any footage during these sessions, or do you go off other things?
Peter Cullen: Well, I see varying forms of animation, from pencil sketches on a big screen, all the way to a finished product, depending on where they are in production. I'm always privy to what is happening, so I can have an idea of the character before or what's going to come after, so the lines can be read with continuity and interpretation to the plot. To answer your question, I have seen just small pencil sketches that are displayed in front of me, and they'll give me the idea of whats going on, pretty much the way it is when I record in a studio for the animated series. We don't have any pictures to look at, we just have descriptions of what the action is. And, I might add, when I see a finished product and I'm standing in front of a microphone, beats would go on in my earphone and I would miss my opportunity to speak because I would be so awed by what I just saw. It would probably take me two or three visual passes before I would be able to speak, because I would just be overwhelmed by the visual experience. As you could understand after seeing the finished product, there are so many moments where your jaw just drops.

Can you talk about working with Michael (Bay) throughout this trilogy?
Peter Cullen: It's been a unique experience and completely unforgettable. I have to pay tribute to the writers and the creative people behind this, every person behind a monitor or electronic device that they use, right down to sound, every department. It's just an amazing process and to be a part of it from my point of view, has been a huge pleasure and honor, which I will never take for granted, and I'll have for the rest of my life. Hopefully there will be another one, and I can partake in it again, but the memories are there forever and I'm genuinely pleased that a character like Prime has made a difference. It certainly did in my life.


  1. Peter Cullen is the man....when I was 6 in 1984 he as Optimus stood for everything that was good and to fight the good fight against Megatron and the Decepticons were just awesome....I'm glad he is ready to do another movie...

    Til all are one

  2. Peter Cullen is the man alright I was 6 at the time to0 and during that time he put everything is brother taught him in Optimus prime during G1 but hes alot different in the movies hes different he does not show emotion hes more like a vulcan. Even if he did express emotions he does not sound so real but back in G1 he sounds alot more real. We see him laughing,sad, and even loss his cool he was alot more human back than the most human of the autobots. Not only he was a great leader of the autobots but he was a really great friend, if an autobot has a promblem you can just sit with Prime and talk and he'll listen and have a great answer to the problem maybe but manly he'll just listen. But after the 4th season of the show Peter never played Optimus Prime again maybe a few commericals of the toys that never in the show like Powermaster Optimus Prime. And this new voice of Optimus Prime came in the picture in 1996 Garry Chalk and hes been Optimus Prime ever since he was great in his own way he really sounds more like a military leader but okay and since then hes been playing Optimus prime. I beleve Peter saw this new Optimus for years and might be thinking that people forgot about him which is not true. So I beleve that the reason why he played Optimus Prime in these live actions was because of his ego. After a phone call from Michel Bay or someone he stepped up to the plate right away. It was really good to hear the voice again and everything but hes not the same he was more of a Hollywood Hero and not the real hero he was in G1. In fact in these movies Optimus Prime or any of the autobots were not the heroes it was just sam who is truly a Hollywood hero looking stupid at times with the toilet humor. If you ever make another one and you have Peter do the voice onice again please let him play it like the real hero his brother taught him, because Optimus Prime (Peter Cullen) was my hero and in high school i was going through hard times but seeing g1 again at that time made me want to be a better man which I am today.

  3. ^ you really need to not spout your opinions like they're facts


               Creative Commons License