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Creator / Peter Cullen

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"Be strong enough to be gentle."

He IS Optimus Prime.

Peter Claver Cullen (born July 28, 1941 in Montreal, Quebec) is a Canadian voice actor best known for his Star-Making Role as the voice of Optimus Prime in the original Generation 1 incarnation of The Transformers. Cullen might have just been the first of many voice actors to lend their vocals to the Autobot leader, until 2007 when the live-action film series began and he returned to voice Optimus in all five films as well as the spin-offs, Bumblebee and Rise of the Beasts. So celebrated was the news that he was the former Trope Namer for And the Fandom Rejoiced, under the name "Cue Cullen".

Since 2007 he has become the iconic voice of Prime, returning to the role in Transformers: Prime, Transformers: Rescue Bots, Transformers: Robots in Disguise, the tie-in web animations The Transformers: Titans Return and The Transformers: Power of the Primes, and numerous video games including the tie-ins to the movie series, Transformers: War for Cybertron and Transformers: Fall of Cybertron, and Transformers: Devastation. Cullen's voice is so closely associated with the character these days that on the rare occasion he isn't voicing Optimus, whoever is will probably be doing their best impression of Cullen.

Before he ended up filling Prime's tire tracks, Cullen did prolific voice work through the 60s, 70s and early 80s. He has narrated and played Coran (Raible in the original) and King Alfor (King Raimon) in the Lion Voltron (GoLion) series, the transforming spaceship/robot Ramrod (Bismarck in the original) in the 1980s anime series Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs (Sei Juushi Bismarcknote ), Commander James Hawkins in the Vehicle Voltron (Dairugger XV) series, Eeyore in Winnie the Pooh, Venger in Dungeons & Dragons (1983), the narrator, Murky Dismal, and Skydancer in Rainbow Brite, Eddie Spenser in Filmation's Ghostbusters, the Predator in the original film, King Kong in the 1976 remake, and KARR in Knight Rider.

Cullen also holds the distinction of being the first voice actor to portray Mario in any language (in the Donkey Kong segments from Saturday Supercade)note . For many years he provided voice-overs for Toonami's promos (as "the big guy"). Cullen also voiced Monterey Jack on Chip 'n Dale: Rescue Rangers for the first season, but was replaced by Jim Cummings for the rest of the series (Cummings had already voiced Monterey Jack in the five-part pilot movie "To The Rescue").

No relation to Bill Cullen, or that sparkly vampire dude. Also, not to be confused with Peter Mullan.

Transformers also wasn't his first collaboration with Frank Welker. His earliest animation role was as Mighty Man in Ruby-Spears' "Mighty Man and Yukk" segments on The Plastic Man Comedy Adventure Show, with Frank as Yukk. He later voiced Sourpuss the family cat opposite Frank's Chomp-Chomp the family dog in Hanna-Barbera's Pac-Man series.

I am Peter Cullen, and I send these tropes to any surviving topers out there among the stars

  • Actor Allusion: Greg Sepelak and Trent Troop, writers for several pieces of Transformer lore and merchandise, have said that in their minds, the Shattered Glass incarnation of Optimus Prime sounds like Venger from Dungeons & Dragons (1983).
  • Creator Backlash:
    • Cullen loved playing Eeyore, and after Disney decided to go with a different actor he had nothing nice to say about them — albeit in his usual polite manner. At conventions since he was let go, he's consistently refused to refer to Disney by name and once even asked whose butt Optimus Prime should kick while role playing a conversation between Prime and Eeyore.
    • Cullen was unhappy with the direction that Optimus Prime's story went in Transformers: Age of Extinction, particularly with his vow to kill the human antagonist.
    • Cullen said he was physically ill voicing Optimus in Bumblebee, since another actor was first used as reference for the animators and he had to imitate him, rather than making the performance his own like he usually does.
  • Creator Cameo: A tie-in comic to the live-action films depicting Optimus Prime's holographic decoy driver when he's in vehicle mode — it's a dead ringer for Cullen.
  • I Am Not Spock: He knows very well that, while he has done many other voices throughout his career, he will be remembered primarily as the voice of Optimus Prime. However, he is quite happy with that epitaph.
  • Professional Voice Dissonance: The characters he voices, such as Optimus Prime, Eeyore, and Venger have deep and reasonant voices. Cullen's normal speaking voice is a lot more mid-range and less resonant.
  • The Soft-Hearted Warrior: In his anecdotes about how he came up with the voice for Prime on his way to his audition, when he told his brother he was going to be voicing a robot army hero, his brother (who was a veteran of the Vietnam War) advised him to not play a Drill Sergeant Nasty like in movies, it should be a gentle but firm presence, "a real hero." Thus we got Cullen's Optimus Prime, with a deep and echoing voice that is nonetheless warm and wise.
    "I had the pages in front of me, and I'd gone over them, but I hadn't done my voice for him yet. But I just remembered Larry saying 'Peter, if you're gonna be a hero, be a real hero. Be strong enough to be gentle.' And I just took that softness into the microphone, and I...*voice deepens* "My name is Optimus Prime." *voice goes back to normal* And then I read."
  • Serious Business: While he has had many comedic moments while voicing the Autobot Leader, Cullen keeps himself to a high standard regarding Optimus Prime, and outright refuses to lean too far into funny territory when voicing him. The Robot Chicken cast later revealed that when they asked him to reprise the role for a sketch involving Prime dying from prostate cancer, Cullen took it so seriously that he actively turned the offer down, which the staff fully respected him for.
  • Typecasting: Cullen's 21st-century resume is admittedly not that impressive compared to his rep sheet from the 1990s, as aside from occasional other roles his modern-day credits are almost entirely Optimus Prime, not that he seems to mind. His non-Transformers roles have largely been the same sort of Big Good character as Optimus.
  • Vocal Evolution: Cullen's Optimus Prime voice is very much a mid-range tone in the original cartoon, but since his role reprisal in the 2007 film, Prime has consistently been depicted with his famous deep baritone, though even then it raises and lowers in pitch through the years due to Cullen's growing age. By Rise of the Beasts, Cullen's voice for Optimus is notably gruffer than in the past films, with a more hoarse tone and slight rasping in certain scenes.