Peter Cullen and Frank Welker discuss Hasbro's use of non-union actors at GalaxyCon Richmond

Discussion in 'Transformers General Discussion' started by convoy84, Mar 6, 2020.

  1. misterd

    misterd Multifaceted nerd

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    I spoke with John Kassir (The Cryptkeeper of Tales from the Crypt) about this a few years back. Because their faces are not on screen, studios tend to undervalue voice actors. It is common for them to try to cut costs by bringing in a new voice. That happpened famously with The Simpsons, but few voice actors have the clout and platform as that cast. As I recall they tried to do that with Kassir by bringing in Charles Fleischer (Roger Rabbit - which brings a whole new vibe to the Crypt Keeper). Fleischer turned them down and gave Kassir the heads up. It is very much an honor thing with voice actors.

    As for Cullen and Welker, there is a slight difference here. There are a number of other actors who have voiced some version of Prime and Megatron over the years, so it is hard to peg them as actors who "own" the characters the way Tom Kenny does Spongebob. In fact, before Cullen was brought back for the films, Gary Chalk might have had more claim to Prime in terms of years.

    I am more bothered with them going out of union when there is probably a wealth of young and cheap talent, than with them replacing Cullen and Welker (both of whom I do have tremendous respect and affection for).

    Finances are a thing, though. I have no idea how Netflix measures the worth of its series since there are no ratings or advertising. It may be keeping the VA costs down were the only way to do the show. It isn't unusual for actors' escalating salaries to hurt the profitability of a series.
     
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  2. Tetratron

    Tetratron Well-Known Member

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    Yeah, Welker and Cullen are my preferred voices for Prime and Megs but plenty of previous VAs (Gary Chalk, David Kaye, Corey Burton) show you can do other version of the characters without aping them.
     
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  3. Longitudinalwave

    Longitudinalwave A Big Fan of (Sound/Shock)wave

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    That's too bad. VAs like Cullen, Welker, Chalk, Kaye, Burton, Hamill, and McNeil are extremely talented, probably at least on par with any "face" actor that I've seen.
     
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  4. misterd

    misterd Multifaceted nerd

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    I think they expect the audience not to notice or care. To be honest, in most cases - especially kids cartoons - I'm not sure many would. That gives the actors little negotiating leverage, especially when they don't stand together.
     
  5. G1Prowl

    G1Prowl Prick, apparently

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    Does this change people's opinions on John Bailey then? I mean, he essentially did jus that for Combiner Wars AND the Bumblebee movie.
     
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  6. AutobotStrider

    AutobotStrider Well-Known Member

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    Genuinely can't stand that guy and this whole situation reaffirms that.
     
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  7. Autovolt 127

    Autovolt 127 Get In The Titan, Prime!

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    While I don't entirely mind if Hasbro actually uses non-union talents for their shows now, I agree that trying to basically voice match Peter Cullen's Optimus while he is still alive is a douchey thing. Like either go in a different direction for Optimus if you don't want to cast Peter or just fork over the money to have him back. Hell i'd welcome more non-Cullen esque Optimus Primes. Megatron is much luckier where his voices tend to all sound more unique from one another.

    It is weird that during Prime Wars they did unionize for it with Titan Returns and POTP but we're back to non-union once more.

    I didn't have as much of an issue with Cyberverse since that was done in NYC (honestly the voice work while hit and miss, still had some really good voice work) but if you're in LA, you might as well unionize. Kinda weird how Bumblebee has technically been the last unionized Transformers project.

    on a unrelated note, i really want Transformers to return to Vancouver again, let Garry Chalk reprise Optimus.
     
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  8. Preach Starscream

    Preach Starscream Well-Known Member

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    It's not so much about owning the characters; it's about trying to do the same voice. Chalk had his own spin on Optimus Prime. As did Kaye for Megatron (and even for Prime).

    What's happening now is essentially the new show trying to recreate not just the same character, but the same voice. That's the issue. It's not just replacing Cullen and Welker. It's that they're trying to replicate their work.
     
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  9. CyberstormSM

    CyberstormSM Turbo-Revvin' Young Punk

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    You know, I'm actually fine with Marc Thompson and Jason Marnocha playing Megatron instead of Frank Welker. Both of them put their own unique spin on the voice while still respecting the roots. Neither of them are trying to be Frank Welker; they're just trying to be Megatron and put their own spin on that legacy.

    It's with Optimus Prime that I have the problem. Jake Foushee, who now seems to be Hasbro's go-to Optimus voice, is just doing an impression of Peter Cullen. That's how he plays Optimus in Cyberverse, in Rescue Bots Academy, and it seems to be how he'll play him in the upcoming Netflix series. And the fact that he's just impersonating Peter Cullen isn't a surprise, really; he was likely chosen to play the character because he did that on YouTube a few years ago. Just because it's not surprising, though, doesn't make it any less disappointing. It's just an impression of something that we all like, but it doesn't have quite the same weight to it. It comes across as hollow, really.

    Neil Kaplan, who played the character in the original Robots in Disguise, was probably the closest we had to a Peter Cullen impression up until recently. But even then, Neil Kaplan didn't just do an impression of Peter Cullen; he tried to put his own spin on it and make it his own. He said in an interview once on the subject something along the lines of: "I might be able to sound like Peter Cullen, but I will never be Peter Cullen."

    I think that gets to the heart of the issue, here: in trying to sound exactly like Peter Cullen, it feels to some fans as though Jake Foushee - and, by extension, Hasbro - is trying to replace Peter Cullen and that legacy, but without the actual heart of that original performance. That hurts, especially considering that Peter Cullen has defined - or, at least, solidified - many elements of the Optimus Prime character through his iconic voice performance.

    That's obviously (well, hopefully) not Hasbro intent, but it's pretty clear as to why they're doing this. For over a decade, Peter Cullen has been the sole voice of Optimus Prime. That, coupled with the fact that G1, and especially the Sunbow cartoon, has such an influence on the current branch of media, is why they're go-to guy is just someone who is cheaper than but still (kinda) sounds like Peter Cullen. I also think that, perhaps, Hasbro doesn't really know how else to portray Optimus Prime's voice. Peter Cullen's voice has become so linked with that of Optimus Prime's that it might be difficult to think of it differently.

    The problem is, however, that just impersonating Peter Cullen doesn't work. You can't get someone to just impersonate Peter Cullen because they can't do it like he could. I'd argue that Peter Cullen's voice for Optimus Prime is iconic not only because of how it sounds, but more importantly because of how much life is put into that performance. There's a certain feeling it has to it, and impressions tend to miss the feeling despite nailing the sound. The voice itself is not iconic; the life put into it by the man behind it is. That's why new Megatron voices are better received than new Optimus voices; they try to breathe a similar life into it while doing something that sounds different.

    Likely, that's also why the Optimus performances of Garry Chalk and David Kaye worked as well as they did. They put a similar energy and feeling into it, though they make it sound different. That's why they, especially Garry Chalk, work so well as Optimus Prime despite not really sounding that much like Peter Cullen.

    That does then beg the question: what exactly is the iconic heart and soul that makes Optimus sound like Optimus?

    Well, I think it's rather obvious. In order to convincingly be Optimus Prime, you absolutely need to play the character so that he sounds, as the man himself put it, "strong enough to be gentle." The problem today is that Optimus Prime sounds like Optimus Prime, but without the emotion to ground the voice and make it believable.
     
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  10. Longitudinalwave

    Longitudinalwave A Big Fan of (Sound/Shock)wave

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    Well put!
     
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  11. kaijuguy19

    kaijuguy19 Keyblade Wielder

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    I'm kinda dreading that we may not see the last of Hasbro's tactic here with the WFC series with not getting union actors to help out especially if the Netflix series becomes a hit. It could lead into Hasbro looking for more ways to get cheap to get easy money thus becoming the Mr Krabs of the toy industry. And like with Mr Krabs this type of cheap schemes will eventually end up landing them in hot water.
     
  12. BigRed

    BigRed Well-Known Member

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    Hasbro is not remotely close to being the only or worst example of 'non-union nickel and diming' in voice-acting right now. We are all on Peter's and Frank's side on this, but you're being a bit melodramatic.
     
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  13. kaijuguy19

    kaijuguy19 Keyblade Wielder

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    Maybe and I hope that's the case. All the same I'm a bit worried that Hasbro could potentially reach to that level in the future should they feel going the cheap way is the best way.
     
  14. Autovolt 127

    Autovolt 127 Get In The Titan, Prime!

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    The thing that's the most interesting about all this is the fact most of Netflix's dubs these days since last year have been unionized (with the exception of Saint Seiya due to it being down in Houston) but the last few months all of the dubs recorded in LA at studios like Studiopolis, VSI, NYAV Post and especially Bang Zoom (where the WFC series will be recorded at) have been unionized.

    There kind of isn't really a real reason this pre-lay project in LA shouldn't have been unionized at the least.
     
  15. Ultratron

    Ultratron Well-Known Member

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    I cut the segment into it's own video for those who want to see it more in context
     
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  16. MagnusPrimal

    MagnusPrimal Well-Known Member

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    I'm a union guy.
    Guess I'll be passing on the Netflix series.
     
  17. power3921

    power3921 Well-Known Member

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    I got the impression Combiner Wars was a smaller production than the Netflix series, so I could understand if they legit couldn't afford Cullen for that. I feel like Bailey did a better job than Tillman's been doing. And Marnocha's Prime Wars trilogy Megatron was fantastic, it felt like it has an identity of it's own
     
  18. Driskull98

    Driskull98 Icon by @Bugbrainzart on Twitter

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    Before, there wasn't really any sort of big brand impersonations of Peter and Frank's voices. There was just side projects and unessential merchandise where they need a quick Optimus/Megatron voice. But now that Hasbro is using Cullen and Welker facsimiles in more mainstream product, it's becoming much more apparent that the suits just don't want to work with unions and would rather pilfer people from YouTube.

    I've always found Bailey's voices to be annoying, derivative, and just completely without range or flexibility (not just Transformers), so this is just the icing on the asshole cake for me.

    +1
     
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