a good number of fans of transformers g1 agree that peter cullen is the one and only voice of the real optimus prime.  never has this statement been validated more so than with transformers: the movie.


much of peter cullen's work has resided in the world of animation, established with such companies as hanna-barbara, sunbow productions and Disney.  his filmography is nothing short of a history of animation reaching further back than the 70's.  and yet, with that impressive background, peter has not had such a celebretyship as he has today, beloved by transformers fans all around the world.





in summer of 2004, fans from across the  u.s. and around the globe gathered in the little town of pasadena, ca to celebrate transformer's 20th anniversary.  the highlights included such transformers celebs as PAUL DAVIDS (thief in the night) DAVID WISE (day of the machines, microbots),  Dan Gilvezan, the voice of bumblebee, WALLY BURR and FLINT DILLE.  (by the way, david wise is a wealth of knowledge in the animation industry and a handful of fans managed to corner him toward the end of the convention and learned a great deal more outside the panel ;)

botcon 2004 was unforgettable.  it was the year masterpiece optimus prime was issued and fans rushed to attain their very own optimus.  (which, as I understand it, is selling as high as $285 on ebay).  Peter graciously spent a good deal of time with the fans-including extended time at his panel and missing father's day with his own family.  fans greeted him with respect and love, and many of those who stood to speak to him often called him "Mister Cullen" and they expressed a good deal of gratitude to this quiet, private individual who influenced them so much as children.

when asked how he came up with the character and voice for Optimus Prime, Peter explained about how he drew from what he believed to be all the qualities needed for perfect leadership, based on people in his own life.  "Leaders are never hysterical,"  Peter told the fans,  "(the leader is) always in control. And they're compassionate. They have a sense of humanity to them, and a sensitivity that cover with a tremendous armor.. Impenetrable armor. Allows them to maintain that sensitivity. I'm going to employ all the tactics I think are necessary for perfect leadership.."


few voice actors have attained the status of actor-hero like Peter Cullen.  letters found in some of marvel comics' original series and Transformers forums testify to this gentleman's influence on the generation growing up in the 80's.








"BugBites" by Jayd Hunter


a torq's cafe exclusive!! 

the 1997 botcon peter cullen transcript!



Due to the Cafe's inability to find the 1997 transcript of Peter's first BotCon, the staff have decided to reprint it here, in its original entirety.  If any of our visitors know the original source of the transcript, please notify the staff so that we can link to the page in question and give due credit.


















Cullen: (Optimus voice) Testing, one, two... Don't be afraid to ask.

Q: How did you feel when you were first approached about this (appearance)?

Cullen: Honestly, very surprised. It's been... <Q says "a decade or more"> 1984. And when I first auditioned for the role, I had no idea- I'd never seen anything quite the likes of it. It was an interesting audition... To answer the other questions along that line, I gave the character what I wanted to do, as I thought a hero should be. A super hero. I wanted strength, and I wanted compassion, and I wanted sensitivity; at the same time I wanted a role that people could associate with in real life, and that was a pretty big stretch... <Joke I couldn't make out there or on tape>

Q: Were you disappointed when they killed off your character?

Cullen: I was *shocked*. I was *hurt*. Gasping for breath. <laughter> I only had to do it once. <Cullen groans>

Q: Do you do other characters?

Cullen: I do other characters... I'm Eeyore on Winnie the Pooh. <excitement, applause> Still making an ass of myself <laughter> And I've created sounds for feature films.. I did King Kong, and I was the Predator in Predator, if you remember any of that. <with accent> Arnold Schwartzeneger- "Why you big ugly *BOOM*" <laughter> I was the guy that went <Predator clicking noises> <Jameel says "Woah! Cool!








































><applause> This is off the beaten track, but it's odd, I had finished King Kong, and King Kong was a lot of bloodthroat.. actually I went home after doing four days of all the reels of "King Kong Lives.. and he's not happy about it." I start coughing up blood and I was determined not to do any of those monster sounds ever again. And I got a call from 20th Century for Schwarzeneger's Predator, and they wanted me to come up with the voice for the Predator, and I said 'no, I'm not going to do it', but they insisted that I come in, so I went in, and I looked at the screening, and they were very tight about it; they didn't want to show it. And I said "How can I do a voice unless I know what it looks like?" Well, he didn't have a look- it was a silver streaky side. At the end of the film of course he takes off that big mask, and there was a monster there. As a kid I remember on the beach, horseshoe crabs turned upside down, and in the heat of the sun there would be bubblies coming out of their little legs, and if you remember the Predator, he had these tentacles around his mouth, bubbles were breaking- it could be that sound, that <clicking> I said, "This'll be easy..." <laughter> "I'll do this." So I gave it to them and they brought this big mike down, and I got closer and closer, and they shot the first sequence at me, and it was kind of scary, Schwarzeneger was looking up- "What the hell is dat?" <laughter> ... So that's how that came about, and I saved my voice, and made $125. <laughter> That was off the beaten track, wasn't it? I'm sorry..."

Q: How long does it take to come up with voices?

Cullen: I base all my vocal characterizations on picture. I've done a lot of characters, probably over 200, and when they give me a character, some of them are really weird looking, and I'd look at their physical structure. If they have a small diaphragm, or a small neck, I'd squeeze the voice. If they're big (like Ironhide is big), I just added a grizzly type character <Ironhide voice> "Aww, come on now man, whatcha doin?" <laughter>
<Optimus voice>: "Not now, Ironhide."
 "But I want ta kick some butt!" <MORE laughter, applause>
<Optimus>: "Ironhide, don't stand so close.. you smell.. you smell like old WD40... change your oil..." Heh heh... Some characters require a little imagination. Artists are, as you well know, very imaginative, and they come up with some tremendous sketches. In cartoons that are more based on animals and stuff, you a have a lot of fun coming up with a voice that might be just basic or inventive, depending on what they look like. I had a character, I think it was .. The Rescue Rangers... I think it was Monteray Jack, the Australian guy... <impression> Like that... but there was a little cat called <?>, and he just was pathetic looking, he looked like the world had grabbed onto him, and he was really slow and stupid, and I made him talk really slow, because he looked like a slow kind of dude. His voice would go something like this <whiney impression> Characters like that would come up through invention, based upon the look, but I think that pretty much answers your question, I hope, it certainly answered mine, I've been confused for years..."






















































Q: <?>

Cullen: I must admit, I got very attached to the Optimus Prime character, I thought he was a good role for you, for anybody really. He had honor, and integrity, and values, and courage, and strength, and sensitivity, at the same time he could.. kick ass <laughter> He was a cowboy. I do love Eeyore... I love doing him... but that's not here. That's Disney, and <thumps table>.

Q: I've noticed your voice on announcements for movies, like Star Wars... would you do a voice in one of the Star Wars prequels, or voice a part in a NPR Star Wars radio serial?

Cullen: <answer cut off, paraphrase> Well, if George Lucas asked, I'd say... OK!! Definitely!

Q: Were you ever approached to do a voice for the Beast Wars series?
Cullen: No, they went to Canada for that...

Q: When recording, would you do multiple chracters in the same scene?

Cullen: Sometimes. Sometimes I would talk to myself, yeah. Which wasn't unusual. They would put the characters sometimes really close together like that, and sometimes I'd nail it, and sometimes I'd have to stop and "I think I got a little Prime in there, Ironhide", or Ironhide had a little Prime in him. Yeah, we'd get lucky somtimes.

Q: How did you get started doing voices?

Cullen: When I was a kid, I impersonated every teacher. Every animal on the farm. I could do horses, cows, calves, ducks, dogs, cats, I could do them intermingled, I could have them fighting... I entertained a lot of my friends. I eventually decided when I got out of high school that I would become an actor, and I studied at the National Theatre, was a far stretch from doing sounds, so I ended up doing Shakespeare for 3 years. Then I got into radio, and discovered, 'Ah! This is fun!' I could be anything, so behind those closed doors, the voice started taking over.

Q: After doing Optimus for a while, did you have input on his character and lines?
Cullen: No, not really, but at the beginning, it was well respected that the character was within the confines of what they had originated, and as I made my own interpretation, my own input into it, they started writing in that genre. I would change a lot of things to suit.. I would say "I don't think he would say that."

Q: What are you working on now?

Cullen: My career basically right now is feature film narration. I just do trailers like you see in the theater, or the TV ads for them, and you might hear a little Optimus Prime in them <Movie trailers in Optimus' voice> <applause>

Q: <Question about wearing out voice>

Cullen: It is an instrument. And like any instrument, it requires work... like the piano, or a violin, or a harmonica... but some of it's good, some of it's bad for you. If you get into voices it's unlikely you'll ever be an opera singer <makes sounds> Stupid sounds... you know, it's going to wear on you after a while. But if you work it properly, and you stay within the confines, you can keep on singing. It's not good to <roars> No future there.












































































Q: <Question about TF cartoon recording sessions>

Cullen: Oh, we all did it together. All of us. I'm sorry Frank couldn't get here... he was looking forward to it, we were going to have some fun. I went to Nevada on a round up, and when I got back, I found out a couple of days afterwords that he wasn't coming, I was really disappointed... Frank is a lot funnier than I am.

Q: <Question about opinion of Prime's death??>

Cullen: <Ppbbtt noise> That's probably a good answer... he served his purpose, and.. moved on. But you guys seem to remember him, which is nice. <Ironhide>:"Aww, Prime, yer makin' me sick!" <laughter> <Optimus>:"I'm sorry"

I've got a question- how old are you? Where are you from? <shouted answers> Are you from everywhere? This is not just Rochester? Wow- man... I would like to ask a question, just for myself... the first question I answered was shock... What did you love about the original Transformers? <shouted answers.. imagination, broadened minds, toys>
I still have my truck <truck sounds> <Optimus>:"I think I'll pull over- I'm tired."

Q: One of the great things about Transformers was that it had a great scientific universe behind it.

Cullen: Who are these guys who came up with all these characters? I mean, come on- I looked at this stuff, I'd see endless sheets of paper with the characters, and their descriptions, and their looks... it was hard to imagine that they all came apart and assembled together. I'd watch kids, I guess in the 80s, putting these things together- I still have my truck, I don't know how to put it together... It's broken. The doors broke off <voices>

Q: Hinting at how much writing went into stories, did it seem the writers put a lot of effort into making it a decent science fiction show, with a lot of background and extra that wasn't put into the show.

Cullen: I think I understand your question, but Hollywood is Hollywood, and the imagination in Hollywood is incredible, the writers are incredible, they're hard working, tough working people. Not too many of them survive. Art is a tough go to. But when you seem to have the very best, go to Hollywood where the opportunities lie, it's a melting pot for the best out there.

Q: Do you have a favorite episode, or one you had more fun working on?

Cullen: We did so many, and I can't remember really. I know I had a lot of difficulty with some of the shows, because the director would force us into a situation where we would have to do all the background noises as well. We used to call it Level A, B, and C. The first level would be a bunch of guys <shouting> then you do your other character. Level B- <coughing, grunts> It was torturous. This guy particularly was a real man for all this background stuff, then they put it through a computer, did all the things they did, and when you saw it, you'd say "Aww.. I can live with it." It was worth it. Other than that, I can't remember a thing.

Q: Did you watch the shows?

Cullen: Some. My son is older now, but we used to watch it together, and my daughter, but they're both older now in college, and of course I have debts. <laughter>

Q: How much material was recorded that was cut from episodes <?>

Cullen: Not very much. I think you were looking at 22 minutes per episode, with commercials, and it would take us from 3 1/2 to 4 hours to do it, and I think they used every cough, every scream, everything they could get out of us in that period of time. Except for the curse words, of course. <laughter>

Q: Any chance we'll get tapes with the curse words?

Cullen: <laughs> If you have a little tape recorder, I'll give you a few out back... But I won't go out of my way.

Q: What was it like working with (celebrity actors) on TFTM?

Cullen: I never worked with any of them. They taped them independent, away from us. They do a lot of silly stuff in Hollywood.. with mirrors and stuff.






























































































































Q: Did you base Optimus Prime's voice on John Wayne?

Cullen: It's in my register. I didn't do his cadence, but I used his register. And oddly enough, there was some .. Robert Stack got the job in the Movie as a result of me opening my big mouth one time, saying Robert Stack had a pretty good sound, and then I'm getting "<whistle> You're out! Bob, c'mon in here!" <Wayne>:"Well, John Wayne talks like this..." <impressions> Yeah, there's a little John Wayne in there.. and there's some Optimus Prime in there, too.

Q: Have you done any computer game voices?

Cullen: I just finished one, I don't know what they're calling it now, but it was for a computer, and they wanted Optimus Prime. Of course, they didn't call him that but saying that he's dead, you know, it's just me, and I deal with that, and it's on a computer game now <Warcraft> It's interactive, right? I think that's the one. <laughs> I've got a great memory...

Q: <Question about recording sessions>

Cullen: Not really. When a group of actors get together and they do a script, they're hired for their ability to just do it right, right away. If there are any technical things that the director has in mind, he'll say 'Can you do that louder, we've got explosions over here...' That may not be in the script, but you know, when you look at it, the director opens the mike and you do takes, there is very little direction, it's up to the actor.

Q: Can you say 'Autobots, transform and roll out?'

Cullen: It's a stretch.... <laughter> <Optimus>

Q: When they killed off Prime in the movie, did they plan in advance to bring him back, or did they decide to bring him back because so many people were upset that he'd died?

Cullen: I think the latter may be true. Based upon what I've seen here right now, I know there must be a pretty good interest in that character, although I never received any mail. It would all go to them, and they showed no particular interest in relaying any of the successes to the talent. We really, virtually don't see much of anything, except continuing declining residuals as the show regresses. Now when it's playing, I think we get $3.10 a show, if we're lucky. Did that answer your question, or was I bawling?

Q: Can you say 'Leaking lubricant?'

Cullen: 'Leaking lubricant?' <shouts of Ironhide> <Ironhide>: "Why, you leakin' lubricant!" <laughter, applause> "Get out of my sight! I want to kick some butt!"

Q: <Question about changing the scripts>

Cullen: No... Well, there were very few girls in the studio, so it was a pretty raunchy bunch of guys. We did change the script a few times... <Ironhide>:"Prime, what are you gonna do with that?" <Prime>: "None of your business, Ironhide.." There were a few moments like that. Of course Frank Welker.. he could make a room laugh just breathing. It was a fun session, they were all fun.

Q: What are your opinions of the new Optimus in the Beast Wars series.

Cullen: I've got to be very honest, I haven't seen it. I live on a ranch, I don't watch very much TV. I've got a lot of horses and cattle....

Q: <Question about the Alpha Trion episode- the Elita One 'plug in' scene>
Cullen: Perhaps my reply would be as vague as the director's. I can't answer that. It's coming back to me.. <laughter> Not really clear.

Q: If given the opportunity, would you play Optimus again? (Perhaps in Beast Wars)

Cullen: Sure. Sure, he's fun. You know, today, I guess in a new age of declining values and stuff, maybe I'm old fashioned, but I think he's pretty good. I think there's a new form of Decepticons out there, and I think it's deception on a moral level. I like the idea of Optimus Prime fighting for something... that is deception.

Q: What have your favorite jobs been?

Cullen: I liked the jobs that were easy. You know, like <Predator click> And Prime is just talking. The other ones were tough. I'm basically pretty lazy, I'd rather be with the animals, so I'd say- Prime.

Q: <Question about working with Susan Blu>

Cullen: ...There was great talent. A very beautiful girl- a very beautiful lady. It was always fun working with Sue <wink><laughter> She's got a tremendous voice, and we did a lot of work together at Hanna-Barbara, and other shows, and she's got the greatest voice. She's a director now, she does mostly directing, and she's a good director too.

Q: Have you worked exclusively in voice acting?

Cullen: I did mostly on camera, until I made a career decision, as to go behind the scenes and do voice over.

Q: <Quesion about other TF voice actors today?>

Cullen: I can't remember a lot of the guys right now, but look at the credits, and you'll see a lot of guys that are in feature films now, with major starring roles.

Q: Have you ever been given a script you thought was just ridiculous?

Cullen: Yes. <laughter> I did it anyway. <more laughter> "Get somebody else!" <Optimus>: "I'm not doing this script... I'm not reading this line..." "All right, so, see you later!"

Q: <Question about working with Chris Latta (Starscream)>

Cullen: Chris was.. out there. He was a talented guy with a lot of energy and... God bless him, you know. There's an old line about Hollywood that Johnny Carson came up with once, it said "Hollywood is the only town in the world that devours its young." He was a victim. <pause> Sad... geez... say something cheery!

Q: What do you do in your spare time?

Cullen: Cattle. I raise cattle, some horses....

Q: Do you have any musical talent?

Cullen: I play the piano by ear, the guitar by ear, and the water faucet by ear <laughter> I've done some Lounge Lizard singing, old standards like "It could happen to you", the old romantic ballad stuff.

Q: Can you sing something like Optimus?

Cullen: <Optimus sings/whispers "It could happen to you"><laughter, applause>





























































































--->  Rahmud and Venger are (c) 1981 Dungeons and Dragons

Eeyore is (c) by the Disney company

Optimus Prime, Ironhide and Cindarr are (c) 1984/1986  by Hasbro and Sunbow Productions

Peter Cullen is (c) by God in the beginning.