ANIMATION WORLD MAGAZINE - ISSUE 5.01 - APRIL 2000
Frank Welker: Master of Many Voices
(continued from page 5)
Unintentional Voice Changes
As people grow older, their voice changes. Actors may find it increasingly difficult to match the vocal qualities of characters they had performed earlier in their careers, as happened with Mel Blanc in his later renditions of the Looney Tunes characters. With Frank Welker, however, his range seems to be improving with time.
He reports, "It's starting to change a little bit and I'm able to do a few more lower voices that I've never been able to do before, and it's still not enough. I've always wanted to have that big, deep, announcer kind of guy, and it's always sounded like Freddie [from Scooby Doo].
"Coincidentally, when we were doing the direct-to-video movie, Scooby Doo on Zombie Island, I was basically the only one left from the original group. I thought they might replace me because they thought my voice had gone down an octave. I personally feel I can do Freddie right up front."
To prove it, Welker recited the line, 'Would you do it for a Scooby snack?' in a dead-on vocalization as Freddie Jones.
Welker doing what looks like a Worlds Strongest Man impression, in this 1970s publicity photo. Photo by John Findlater. Courtesy of Frank Welker.
He continues: "For me, fortunately, it's always there. That happens to be pretty close to my voice. When we were recording it, the director kept saying, 'Higher and higher,' and I kept saying, 'No, no, I don't think so. I did that for a lot of years,' and I went back and looked at some tapes, just to make sure, because I don't want to be doing something that would be wrong for the studio, either. And so they were looking at some old tapes, 'cause they were worried about some of the old voices and matching them. She [the voice director] listened to the Freddie voice and she said, 'I'll be darned. He's absolutely right. He sounds exactly like Freddie.' It's a double-edged sword."
A possible explanation lies with the Cartoon Network, which time-compresses early episodes of Scooby Doo, Where are You! This is done to squeeze in more commercials and network promotions. However, time compression speeds up the audio of the characters, which makes them sound higher-pitched. Hence, there can be a perception that Freddie Jones is a tenor when his actual recorded voice is a baritone.
"Another advantage of being in the voiceover business is that, the older you get, it adds more things to your plate. Especially since I can still do younger voices. One of the things I was very disappointed in, was that (I was not asked, or my agent didn't know about, but) I never got in on Rugrats. I would have loved to have tried one of those little kids.
"On Histeria! I do this kid called Peul. He's a cry-baby. It's a falsetto. I still do women and on Muppet Babies I did Skeeter, which is a real high female voice. My highs are still pretty much there and I'm getting some new deep things so I don't mind it.
"The only thing that I do notice is that it's harder to do monsters for a longer period of time, looping for films, screaming for long periods of time. I try to limit the time now. When I first started I could probably scream all day long. I think I make up for it now because my technique's better so I can do as much work in a shorter period of time," Welker says with a chuckle.
He adds, "I know that Corey Burton smokes cigarettes to keep that beautiful timbre that he's got. With age I think that will come more naturally and then I hope he quits smoking because I want him to be healthy."
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