Peter Claver Cullen
July 28, 1941
Peter Claver Cullen (born July 28, 1941) is a Canadian voice actor. He is best known as the voice of Optimus Prime in the original 1980s Transformers animated series, reprising the role many times since 2007. He has also voiced many other characters across a wide variety of popular media, including Eeyore in the Winnie the Pooh franchise, Monterey Jack in Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, the first voice of KARR in Knight Rider and the vocalizations of the title character in Predator. In 2007, Cullen returned to the role of Optimus Prime in Transformers media, starting with the first live-action film.
Cullen was born on July 28, 1941, in Montreal, Quebec, to Henry and Muriel (née McCann) Cullen. He has three siblings: Michaela, Sonny, and Larry. Cullen attended Regiopolis-Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School. He is a member of the first graduating class of the National Theatre School of Canada, which he graduated in 1963. His brother, Larry Cullen, was a retired Captain in the United States Marine Corps, and helped inspire the voice of Optimus Prime.
In 1968, he and Joan Stuart appeared as "Giles" and "Penelope" in L'Anglaise, a recurring segment about a French-Canadian man with an English-Canadian wife, on the CBC Radio comedy series, Funny You Should Say That.
Cullen played a French-Canadian astronaut character named Commander Bi Bi Latuque alongside Ted Zeigler for the 1969 children's show, The Buddies on CFCF-TV in Montreal. He honed his voice skills by working as a radio announcer, notably in his home town of Montreal on (then) MOR station CKGM doing the overnight and weekend swing shifts. From 1967 to 1969, he was the announcer for Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
From 1971 to 1974, he, Zeigler and Billy Van were series regulars on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour. In 1974, Cullen was the announcer and a series regular (with Ted Zeigler and Billy Van) on The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show. He lent his voice to a character in the album "The Story of Halloween Horror" in 1977.
As Optimus Prime
Cullen recalls auditioning for the role of the robot superhero Optimus Prime at a casting house in Burbank, California, explaining that as he read Prime's character breakdown, he saw that it was "the opportunity of the year", and heeded his brother Larry's advice: "Peter, don't be a Hollywood hero, be a real hero. Real heroes don't yell and act tough; be strong enough to be gentle." Cullen later learned from his agent, Steve Tisherman, that he not only won the part of Prime, but also, to his surprise, the role of Ironhide as well, which he saw as a "home run".
He has stated that Optimus is his favorite voice role, and that he based the voice of the Autobot leader on his older brother Larry, who served in Vietnam. "When he came home, I could see a change. He was quieter and he was a man and a superhero to me," says the actor. "I watched him and listened to him. I'd never had an opportunity to do a superhero, and when that came, [that voice] just came right out of me and I sounded like Optimus."
He has also stated that he had no idea of Prime's popularity until the character's controversial death in the 1986 animated film, because the studio had never given him fan letters from children addressed to Optimus. The public backlash over Optimus's death surprised producers greatly. Children were leaving the theaters distraught because of the character's death. The writers temporarily revived the character for a single episode in Season 3 called "Dark Awakening". Initially, this was intended to be his final appearance, but after fan requests continued, "The Return of Optimus Prime", a two-part episode was produced. The original ending of "Dark Awakening" was altered in reruns to include a teaser about the return of the character, and indeed, Optimus returned once and for all to lead the Autobots for the final five episodes of the original American cartoon series.
Cullen reprised the role of Optimus Prime in the 2007 Transformers live-action film, the sequels Revenge of the Fallen, Dark of the Moon, Age of Extinction and The Last Knight, the spin-off Bumblebee and the forthcoming Rise of the Beasts and the video games based on the film series. Though he was only contractually obligated to voice Optimus up to The Last Knight, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura stated in 2021 that Cullen was welcome to voice the character for as long as he wanted.
Cullen again reprised his role as Optimus Prime in the video games Transformers: War for Cybertron, Transformers: Fall of Cybertron and Transformers: Devastation, and in the recent television series Transformers: Rescue Bots, Transformers: Prime and Transformers: Robots in Disguise. His performance in the premiere season of Transformers: Prime earned him a nomination for a 2011 Daytime Emmy Award in the Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program category.
In the 1980s and 1990s, Cullen appeared on a number of television shows. He has played Coran, Stride the Tiger Fighter, and King Alfor in the Lion Voltron series, the transforming spaceship/robot Ramrod, the heroic Commander Eagle and the villainous Nemesis in the 1980s anime series Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs, Commander James Hawkins in the Vehicle Voltron series, Eeyore in the Winnie the Pooh franchise, Original First Voice of KARR in Knight Rider, Antor and Bomba, and Gunner, in Dino-Riders, Airborne, Zandar and Nemesis Enforcer in G.I. Joe, He played Mantor/Mantys in Coleco's 5 episode mini-series Sectaurs in 1986; Red Skull in the 1981 cartoon series of Spider-Man, Klaar and Zanzoar in Megas XLR and Mantus in The Pirates of Dark Water. He also had a voice part in the 1984 motion picture Gremlins (as a gremlin) and in the first season of the 2008 Knight Rider series, where he reprised his vocal role as KARR (from the original Knight Rider series). He also did voicework in The Greatest Adventure: Stories from the Bible series, notably as Japheth, one of Noah's sons in the "Noah's Ark" episode, and the King of Nineveh in the "Jonah" episode. He was well known by some as the main villain Venger in the animated series of Dungeons and Dragons. He played the evil sorcerer Renwick in the lesser known series Little Wizards and played Cindarr in the short-lived series Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light.
Among many other television series and films, he has also lent his basso voice to many film trailers and television commercials, including announcing for the Toonami and You Are Here blocks on the Cartoon Network. Cullen spent some of his early professional years in Montreal as a radio announcer/DJ on CKGM; and as a character in a then-popular local television kids show. He acted the role of a French-Canadian astronaut, along with writer and his partner on the show, Ted Ziegler. Both Ziegler and Cullen were in the supporting cast of The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour, as well as other network comedies of the era.
Cullen has done voicework on drum and bass DJ Dieselboy's 2004 album, The Dungeonmaster's Guide, and narration on the 2013 album Tetragrammaton by the Dutch extreme metal band The Monolith Deathcult. Tetragrammaton also featured Cullen on bass in "God's Among Insects." Additionally, he did voicework for the unreleased Blizzard Entertainment game Warcraft Adventures: Lord of the Clans, and provided narration for the Star Wars fan film series I.M.P.S.: The Relentless.
He has also done voice work for promotions of the 1999 film "The Iron Giant"
|1967–68||The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour||Announcer|
|1974||The Bobbie Gentry Show|
|1979||Mighty Man and Yukk||Brandon Brewster / Mighty Man|
|Scooby-Doo and Scrappy-Doo||Additional Voices|
|1981||The Kwicky Koala Show||Bristletooth|
|The Smurfs||Additional Voices|
|Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends||Dr. Bruce Banner / Hulk, Mysterio, Red Skull||2 episodes|
|1982||The Scooby & Scrappy-Doo/Puppy Hour||Lucky|
|Spider-Man||Red Skull, Stuntman, Jack Riven|
|Meatballs & Spaghetti||Additional Voices|
|The Little Rascals||Officer Ed, Pete the Pup|
|Knight Rider||K.A.R.R.||1st voice; |
Episode: "Trust Doesn't Rust"
|1983||Monchhichis||Shreeker, Snitchitt, Gonker|
|The Puppy's Further Adventures||Lucky|
|The Biskitts||Dog Foot, Fang, Scratch|
|The Dukes||Additional Voices|
|1983–85||Mister T||Additional Voices|
|Dungeons & Dragons||Venger|
|Heathcliff and the Catillac Cats||Additional Voices|
|1984–86||Rainbow Brite||Murky Dismal|
|1984–85||Alvin and the Chipmunks||Additional Voices|
|Lucky Luke||English dub|
|1984–87||The Transformers||Optimus Prime, Ironhide, Streetwise, Wingspan, Slugslinger, Nightstick|
|1984||Voltron: Defender of the Universe||Coran, King Alfor, Narrator|
|1985||The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo||Maldor the Malevolent|
|Challenge of the GoBots||Spoiler, Tank, Pincher|
|The Super Powers Team: Galactic Guardians||Felix Faust||Episode: "Brainchild/The Case of the Stolen Super Powers"|
|1985–86||G.I. Joe: A Real American Hero||Airborne, Ramar, Zandar|
|1985–87||The Jetsons||Additional Voices|
|1986||MoonDreamers||Igon, Various characters||Episode: "Zodies on the Loose"|
|Rambo: The Force of Freedom||Sergeant Havoc|
|Muppet Babies||Sor-Elbow, Smoggy the Bear, Football Bear||Episode: "Fozzie's Family Tree"|
|Ghostbusters||Eddie Spenser Jr., Eddie Spenser Sr., Haunter, Floatzart|
|Pound Puppies||Captain Slaughter||4 episodes|
|The New Adventures of Jonny Quest||Patch||Episode: "Peril of the Reptilian"|
|Foofur||Baby the Rat, Vinnie the Cat|
|My Little Pony||Captain Crabnasty||Episode: "Fugitive Flowers"|
|1987–88||BraveStarr||Dr. Whiston, Dr. Watson, Hack|
|DuckTales||Admiral Grimitz, Bankjob Beagle, Mad Dog McGirk, Lessdred|
|1987||The Little Wizards||Renwick, Various characters|
|The Real Ghostbusters||Doctor Destructo, Police Officer||Episode: "Captain Steel Saves the Day"|
|Visionaries: Knights of the Magical Light||Cindarr|
|1987–89||Saber Rider and the Star Sheriffs||Commander Eagle, Narrator, Nemesis|
|1988||Dino-Riders||Gunner, Antor, Bomba||Episode: "Toro Toro Torosaurus"|
|1988–89||The New Yogi Bear Show||Ranger Roubideux|
|1988||The Wonderful World of Disney||The Sorcerer||Episode: "Mickey's 60th Birthday"|
|1988–91||The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh||Eeyore|
|1988–90||Disney's Adventures of the Gummi Bears||Kerwin the Conqueror, Gritty|
|1988–89||Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles||Smash, Mugger, Napoleon|
|1989||Rude Dog and the Dweebs||Herman, Winston|
|1989–90||Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers||Monterey Jack, additional voices|
|1990||TaleSpin||Additional Voices||Episode: "It Came from Beneath the Sea Duck"|
|1990–93||Tom & Jerry Kids||Additional Voices|
|1990–91||Widget the World Watcher||Bob the Poacher, Rooney Kangaroo, Gdunu|
|1991–93||The Pirates of Dark Water||Mantus|
|1993||Bonkers||Abominable Snowman, Mackey McSlime|
|1994||Hardball||Fox Announcer||Episode: "Lee's Bad, Bad Day"|
|1996||Boo to You Too! Winnie the Pooh||Eeyore|
|1998–present||The Magical World of Walt Disney|
|2001–02||House of Mouse|
|2001–03||The Book of Pooh|
|2004–05||Megas XLR||Zanzoar, Klaar|
|2005–06||IGPX: Immortal Grand Prix||Narrator|
|2007–10||My Friends Tigger & Pooh||Eeyore|
|2009||Knight Rider||K.A.R.R.||Episode: "Knight in King's Pawn"|
|2010–13||Transformers: Prime||Optimus Prime, Vehicon|
|2011–16||Transformers: Rescue Bots||Optimus Prime|
|2014||2014 Kids' Choice Awards|
|2015–17||Transformers: Robots in Disguise|
|2017||Doc McStuffins||Eeyore||Episode: "Into the Hundred Acre Wood"|
|2017–2018||Transformers: Titans Return||Optimus Prime|
|2018||The Toys That Made Us||Himself
|Transformers: Power of the Primes||Optimus Prime|
|2019||Rise of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles||Yōkai Councillor #1||3 episodes|
|2003||Piglet's Big Game||Eeyore|
|2007||Transformers: The Game||Optimus Prime|
|2009||Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen|
|Transformers Revenge of the Fallen: Autobots|
|2010||Transformers: War for Cybertron|
|2011||Transformers: Dark of the Moon|
|2012||Transformers: Fall of Cybertron|
|Transformers: Prime – The Game|
|2014||Transformers: Rise of the Dark Spark|
|2016||Transformers: Earth Wars|
|1967||The Buddies||Commander Bi Bi Latuque|
|1969||Comedy Cafe||Unknown episodes|
|1971–74||The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour||Himself, various characters||12 episodes|
|1974||The Hudson Brothers Razzle Dazzle Show||Himself||Unknown episodes|
|The Sonny Comedy Revue||Himself, various characters|
|1975||Down Home Country||Luke Warm||1 episode|
|1976||The Wolfman Jack Show||Unknown role|
|1984||Three's a Crowd||Sports Announcer, Airline Captain||2 episodes|
|1991||In Living Color||Blond long hair guy||Episode: "Dickie Peterson: Cherub of Justice"|
Theme park rides
|2003||The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh||Eeyore|
|2011||Transformers: The Ride 3D||Optimus Prime|
Awards and nominations
|2010||Golden Raspberry Awards||Worst Screen Combo||Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen||Nominated|
|2011||Daytime Emmy Awards||Outstanding Performer in an Animated Program||Transformers Prime||Nominated|
|2012||Golden Raspberry Awards||Worst Screen Ensemble||Transformers: Dark of the Moon||Nominated|
- Gilchrist, Todd (June 8, 2007). "Exclusive: Peter Cullen Interview". IGN. Archived from the original on March 11, 2012.
- All Our Alumni Archived 2012-05-12 at the Wayback Machine, National Theatre School of Canada, ent-nts.ca; accessed August 18, 2015.
- Hidalgo, Pablo. Transformers Vault: The Complete Transformers Universe Showcasing Rare Collectibles and Memorabilia, Abrams, 2011, Foreword by Peter Cullen, p. 7
- "The Buddies". 4 January 2011.
- The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (TV Series 1967–1993) - IMDb, retrieved 2021-03-06
- Lee, Chris (Spring 2014). "An Optimal Voice for Optimus". Hero Complex, Los Angeles Times. p. 22
- Nguyen, Hanh. "Prime Time: Cullen's 'Transformers' Resurrection", Zap2It, 7 November 2006.
- Optimus Prime Returning for the Bumblebee Spinoff Movie – Screen Rant
- "Transformers: Peter Cullen Will Play Optimus Prime Until He Says Otherwise".
- Review of Tetragrammaton by The Monolith Deathcult, Metal-fi.com
- Blizzard Entertainment, Coming Soon magazine
- "IMPS Chapter One FAQ". Impstherelentless.com. Retrieved 2014-01-18.
- Handout. "Police Story 4: First Strike". OrlandoSentinel.com. Retrieved 2017-03-31.
- "Optimus Prime Wants Michael Bay to Direct 'Transformers 5'". screenrant.com. 24 September 2014.
- "Frank Welker". Behind The Voice Actors.
- "Optimus Prime actor Peter Cullen 'developed a love of NASA and anything related to space'". YouTube.
- "NASA Announces Winners of Optimus Prime Spinoff Video Contest - Transformers News - TFW2005". 4 March 2011.
- "TRANSFORMERS Hall of Fame Peter Cullen" (video). Hasbro. Retrieved January 18, 2014.
- "Peter Cullen". Behind The Voice Actors. Retrieved 2014-01-18.