(written from a Production point of view)
Franklin Wendell "Frank" Welker (born 12 March 1946; age 74) is an American screen and veteran voice actor who has created a broad spectrum of character voices and vocal effects in Hollywood since the 1960s. For the Star Trek franchise, he provided Spock's screams in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock and voiced the cytoplasmic lifeform in the Star Trek: Voyager fifth season episode "Nothing Human". He also did additional voice work for the video games Star Trek: Starfleet Academy, Star Trek: Starfleet Command II - Empires at War, and Star Trek: Starfleet Command - Orion Pirates.
Welker was born in Denver, Colorado, but attended college in California. He performed in numerous college plays and formed his own stand-up comedy act which led to him touring in concerts with performers such as The Righteous Brothers and Sergio Mendes. He later performed in areas such as Los Vegas and Lake Tahoe as the opening act for such headliners as Sonny and Cher, Diana Ross and Loretta Lynn.
Voice acting career
Welker has done over 1,200 voices since the late 1960s, earning him the title of "voice acting god" from some of his fellow voice-over artists. One of Welker's earliest voice-over roles was the Pushmi-pullyu in the film Doctor Dolittle, which starred Star Trek: The Next Generation guest actress Samantha Eggar. One of Welker's most famous voice roles is that of Fred Jones in the various Scooby-Doo cartoons. He first played "Freddie" in the 1969-1972 series Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, and has continued voicing the character ever since. Since 2002 (starting with the series What's New, Scooby-Doo?), Welker has been the voice of both Freddie and Scooby-Doo.
Welker is also strongly affiliated with the Transformers series. He provided the voice for ten of the Decepticons on the 1980s series: Megatron (the Decepticon leader), Soundwave, Skywarp, Mixmaster, Laserbeak, Buzzsaw, Rumble, Frenzy, Ravage and Ratbat. He also voiced a few Autobots: Mirage, Trailbreaker, Blades, Chromedome, Groove and Sludge. In addition, he voiced Megatron, Soundwave, Rumble, Frenzy, Ravage and Laserbeak, as well as Wheelie and (along with Michael Bell) the Junkions, in 1986's The Transformers: The Movie. Leonard Nimoy, with whom Welker worked on Star Trek III, provided the voice of Galvatron in the Transformers movie, Paul Eiding, who did the voice of Perceptor in The Transformers cartoon series also did Perceptor's voice in the film. Welker then took over the role of Galvatron for future productions, marking the second time he inherited a role from Nimoy, having provided the screams for Nimoy's character Spock in Star Trek III.
More recently, Welker has become known for voicing Nibbler (performing both the animalistic grunts and the rare spoken language from the character) on the popular animated series Futurama. He has also voiced many animals (including Santa's Little Helper) on the long-running series The Simpsons. Some of the many other television characters Welker has voiced over the years include:
- Jabberjaw the shark in various Hanna-Barbera cartoons
- Dingbat on Heathcliff
- Bobby Drake, aka Iceman, on Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends
- Brain, Dr. Claw, Mad Cat, and various other characters on Inspector Gadget
- Baby Kermit and Baby Skeeter on Muppet Babies
- Torch, Wild Bill, Junkyard, Flash, Short-Fuse, and several others on G.I. Joe
- Slimer and Ray Stantz on The Real Ghostbusters (and Slimer! and the Real Ghostbusters)
- Bigtime Beagle, Bubba Duck, and many others on Disney's DuckTales
- Gogo Dodo, Furrball, Uncle Stinky Pig, Little Beeper, Calamity Coyote and Byron Basset on Tiny Toon Adventures
- Suchi the monkey on Captain Planet and the Planeteers (also featuring the voices of LeVar Burton, Whoopi Goldberg, David Warner and Malcolm McDowell)
- Ralph the Guard, Runt, Thadeus Plotz, and others on Animaniacs
- Darwin the dolphin on the live-action science fiction series seaQuest DSV
- Bronx on Disney's Gargoyles (which also featured the voices of such Star Trek alumni as Michael Dorn, Jonathan Frakes and Marina Sirtis)
- Monkey and Krunk in the "Dial M for Monkey" and "Justice Friends" segments of Dexter's Laboratory
- Bella, Salty the Seal, Butch the Bulldog, Gus Goose, and Figaro the Cat in various Disney television series.
- Tyrannosaurus Rex from Back to the Future: The Ride
Welker's vocal effects can be heard in many feature films, as well. Perhaps his most recognizable film character is that of Abu the monkey in Disney's Aladdin. He also voiced the Cave of Wonders in that film, and has since reprised the role of Abu in the film's direct-to-video sequels, various short films and video games, and in the mid-1990s Aladdin television series. He has done voice work for many other Disney films, notably 1995's Pocahontas as Flit the hummingbird. This film also featured the voice of John Kassir as Pocahontas' other pet, Meeko the raccoon, as well as the voice of David Ogden Stiers. In addition, Welker and Star Trek: The Next Generation performers Whoopi Goldberg and Patrick Stewart voiced the books Horror, Fantasy and Adventure, respectively, in the 1994 film The Pagemaster. This film also featured Ed Begley, Jr., Christopher Lloyd and the voice of Leonard Nimoy, marking Welker's third collaboration with Nimoy.
Among the other film characters Welker has portrayed include Stripe and other creatures in the 1984 film Gremlins (which starred Zach Galligan) and Mohawk in its 1990 sequel Gremlins 2: The New Batch (whose on-screen cast included Zach Galligan, John Glover and Robert Picardo). He also voiced Rahzar and Tokka in the 1991 sequel Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (which also featured the voice of Brian Tochi and on-screen performances by David Warner, Michelan Sisti, Lee Spencer and Lisa Chess), the Alien Sil in Species (1995), Shao Kahn and Goro in Mortal Kombat (1995) (starring Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa), and Max the Dog in How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000). Most recently, he voiced Soundwave, Devastator, Ravage, Reedman and Grindor in the 2009 sequel Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, which was co-written by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci. This film also featured the voices of Robert Foxworth and Tony Todd. Welker reprised the role of Soundwave in the third film Transformers: Dark of the Moon, co-starring the voices of Nimoy and Keith Szarabajka. He is also a regular on the Orci and Kurtzman-produced Transformers: Prime – on which he reprises the role of Megatron – co-starring Jeffrey Combs. He voices Oswald the Lucky Rabbit in Epic Mickey and Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two.
On-screen acting career
Welker made his on-screen acting debut in the Elvis Presley picture The Trouble with Girls (1969), which also featured John Rubinstein and Bill Zuckert. He later appeared in the Disney films The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969) and Now You See Him, Now You Don't (1972), both of which were directed by Robert Butler. William Schallert had a role in former film, while William Windom starred in the latter.
Welker was a regular performer on NBC's The Don Knotts Show from 1970 through 1971. He then co-starred with that show's star, Don Knotts, as well as Star Trek alumni Yvonne Craig and the aforementioned Bill Zuckert, in the 1971 comedy film How to Frame a Figg. Welker then appeared in the 1972 Western film Dirty Little Billy, which starred Michael J. Pollard in the title role. Welker also worked with Stewart Moss in Paramount Television's unsold pilot for a proposed series based on Joseph Heller's novel Catch-22. In addition, Welker has appeared on such television series as The Partridge Family, Love, American Style, Rowan & Martin's Laugh In, The Mike Douglas Show, The Dean Martin Roast and The Tonight Show.
In 2009, Welker made his first on-screen acting appearance in over two decades when he played the father of Matt Damon's character in the serio-comic film The Informant!. This film also featured Star Trek: Enterprise star Scott Bakula, as well as Clancy Brown and Ann Cusack.