When Frank Welker was asked to mimic sheep for the movie Mafia!, he thought there would be no difficulty. After all, for the past three decades, he's made a living out of mimicking cats, dogs, monkeys, ducks, parrots, cows, pigs -- even gremlins and dinosaurs. So sheep noises? No problem.
Except the producers of Mafia! had a peculiar twist in mind: "They're like mad dogs -- but they're sheep."
Puzzled, Welker asked, "They're mad sheep dogs?"
"No, no. They're mad sheep that are like dogs. Why don't we try having a sheep growl, like mad dogs?"
Welker thought, "OK," and proceeded to record his "dialogue."
"We did some sheep that growled and barked," he recalls, "and we did some real nasty aggressive sheep. I think they used a little of both. I also voiced some little dinosaurs that eat these kids, and a mad baboon that tears people up. It was really bizarre stuff."
Growling as angry sheep in Mafia!, or snorting as Altivo the horse in DreamWorks The Road to El Dorado, or roaring in Disneys Dinosaur, are just a few of Frank Welker's many roles. He has performed in every facet of show business: as a standup comedian and impressionist, an onscreen actor in movies and TV, a stage performer, a record producer and star, a radio announcer, a performer in commercials, a co-creator and co-producer of a TV series, and a vocal effects specialist in live-action movies, theme park attractions and video games. Most significantly, his voice has brought life to countless hundreds of animated cartoon characters.
It all began with a dog.
Welker recalls, "I was working at Ledbetter's on Westwood Blvd., doing a dog-and-cat fight as part of my standup act. A commercial producer came in and said, 'I'm doing a voiceover commercial tomorrow for Friskies dog food. Would you like to be the tail of a dog?' I didn't know what a voiceover was, but I said, 'Sure.' Ted Knight was the announcer. The producer's girlfriend at the time worked for ABC, before CBS got Scooby Doo. (I think ABC had it first. It went to both networks.)
"She was casting Scooby Doo, and she said, 'Frank would be perfect for Scooby.' It never occurred to my agent that I could or should go out [for the part]. I was asked to go to Hanna-Barbera and audition. I thought I would get the dog, hands-down. Casey Kasem was reading for Freddie; he thought he would have Freddie. Don Messick ended up doing Scooby Doo. I mean, he could have done everything anyway, by himself. They didn't need us.
"They kept asking me to read for Freddie. They said, 'Look, we've already decided on Don Messick as the dog. But, you still have a chance as Freddie.' I said, 'Freddie? He's the straight guy. Maybe I could do Shaggy because it is such a character voice.' Coincidentally, Casey wanted to do the voice of Freddie. Well, Casey and I ended up getting just the opposite parts we thought we would."
Welker describes working with Joe Barbera as "great."
"Here I was, brand new, and I was sitting around the table with Don Messick and John Stephenson and Henry Corden and all these really great voice actors, and Joe Barbera would say, 'Okay, you've got the part of the villain and it's a guy named Coal Miner and he's a real bad dude. John, you want to take a try at it?' And John would read about four or five lines. And Joe would say, 'Okay, that sounds good. Messick, you want to try?' Don would read it and Joe would go, 'Okay, anybody else?' And he wouldn't look at me because I'm 'twelve-years-old.'
"And I'd go, 'Joe!'
"'You want to read for it? All right. Go ahead. This guy is 50 years-old and he's the villain.' And I'd read for it and he'd say, 'Welllll, pretty good, pretty good. Tell ya what; I'm gonna give it to Stephenson, but, that was really good.'
"The next time we'd read something, he'd say, 'This guy is 80 years-old, but Frank, you want to read for it?' He would ask you if you wanted to read. Then sometimes you'd get it.
"But it was so much fun. There was no fear, because we all knew we were going to take our best shot. The competition is reading right in front of you, but it doesn't matter. You're showing off for Joe, getting to read all these different characters. And youd get rewarded by getting it every once in awhile.
"I'm identified quite a bit with doing the dogs and animals -- which is usually good for me because in almost every show there's some sort of animal. So at least I get in the show. Sometimes, if there's other characters I get to read those, too," he says.
Going On Instinct
Today, Welker notes that actors are often cast before they arrive at the sessions.
"Sometimes you'll audition and they've got you written down for the roles they expect from you, and that's the work part of it, you know," the actor says ruefully. "That's not quite as fun."
For Welker, preparing for an audition is, "a pretty quick process. The ideal situation is that the studio provides the actor with artwork. I look at the character and immediately, a voice comes to my mind.
"When somebody asks you something and you say the first thing that comes out, it's usually -- for you -- correct. It may not be what they want, and may not be what the studio wants, but as an artist or as a performer or as a human being, you look at something and you react. Initially, what you react to is usually what's the most comfortable and what you have the most latitude in.
"A lot of times, they'll cast you in a role, and the directors will direct you into a box. They'll say, 'Do a little of Paul Lynde. Now let's take that away and let's put in a little bit of Humphrey Bogart. Now, add that character you did four years ago in that show for me where you read the dog. O.K., now let's take this and take that --' and pretty soon, your tongue is tied behind your back, and you try to do the best you can. You don't have a lot of latitude with the character because it's not from your heart."
An exception would be Fall-Apart Rabbit, the stunt character Welker voiced in Bonkers.
"I really liked that character for Disney. It was really easy to do. It was from my heart. Ginny McSwain [the voice director] latched onto that; she let me go and have fun."
"But I would say, the best and easiest way to audition is to go strictly by instinct and be able to ad-lib a little bit, and not be tied totally to the script."
Welker then points to a bothersome flaw in the auditioning process, in that sometimes a director can give too much direction.
"The less direction you get on auditions, then you have your own initial instincts working for you. If you lose the job, then it's your own fault. Then you feel better than if you lose the job based on too much interpretation or input. When the director on the audition directs me the way he wants it, then, it's really their interpretation that's being judged. I could lose the job based on that audition because it's really their interpretation, not mine."
During recording sessions, Welker has to evaluate how close he has to stick to the scripts, and how much freedom he has to ad-lib, or embellish his character.
"In the early days, Joe Barbera hired me a lot -- not because he felt I was such a great voice guy -- but because he thought I was funny. He was really being perceptive in the people he hired, because my readings weren't quite as good as some of the polished guys. But I think he liked that I would bring him this weird stuff, and he liked that I would ad-lib," Welker says.
"Joe told us a story where he was directing Alan Reed, doing Fred Flintstone. In a recording session he ad-libbed, he said, 'Yabba-Dabba-Do!' And somebody said, 'No, that's not in the script.'
"Alan said [pensively], 'Oh, is it okay that I say that?'
"Joe said [enthusiastically], 'Gee, yeah. That's good. Go ahead and use it.' That's become one of the biggest, most identifiable phrases of all time. So Joe was perceptive about that."
Welker reiterates, "I like having the freedom to move around in your character, and ad-lib. Part of the fun process of acting is putting in what we call 'handles.' If you put a 'handle' like, 'G'duh-huh!' and then do your line.
"Some directors don't want you to change a word in the script. I don't know what the writer's feelings are because they're not there all of the time; sometimes they are, but most writers like you to ad-lib as long as you don't change the meaning or the joke, unless you 'better' the joke. That's fun for actors to do. Actors like to play and be kids. Usually when people are happy and acting goofy and silly, you're going to get some pretty funny performances."
In some cases, the script may have dialogue that's not consistent with the character. Does the actor have the leeway in pointing that out?
"I guess it's when you become comfortable with the character, and the director and the writers all trust each other," Welker says. "You bring it up and sometimes you're overruled, but most of the time, they listen to you because you're doing it day in and out.
"Another thing too, is sometimes the way words fall. The actor can say them easier in his own way. That's always the constant battle, even in live-action, when the actor says his character wouldn't say it that way. Sometimes we get overruled; sometimes they accept what we say.
"I've seen directors and writers [argue], where the writer doesn't want to change anything and the director wants to direct things his way. It can be tough. I don't think it's the happiest situation," Welker says.
Work, Work, Work, Work
The mid-1980s saw an explosion of new, made-for-syndication cartoons. This brought more employment to artists, and to actors as well.
"The syndicated cartoon market has given a lot more opportunity for work because there's so much more product," Welker says. "Instead of doing your normal 13 shows, you have 65 episodes. Knowing you have job insurance for that long is great. And, you really get to know the character. You have so much more time to work with your character, story and the ensemble cast and director."
During the syndication boom, some production studios began hiring Canadian voice actors instead of Americans.
"Some of the production studios found that they could do their shows for less by making financial arrangements with the Canadians, by using the 'point system," Welker says. "If they used enough Canadian components to do the show, they would get a substantial break whether that included actors, production facilities, recordings and so on. It tended to benefit the studios to go up there."
In addition to competition both foreign and domestic, another challenge for actors is being considered too prolific.
"If you do work a lot," Welker says, "they [studios or networks] have a tendency to say, 'We want new voices. And we don't want to even see Welker or somebody because he does too much.' Which really isn't too fair.
"In fact, they say, 'Well, once you've been doing this for so long, don't you just get the jobs?' Well, once in awhile you do but usually we go out and audition and go head-to-head with each other, which is great. I like that, as long as I'm allowed to audition for everything that I think would be fun and that I'd be good at. But a lot of times you don't get a chance to read certain things because you're already typecast in other roles."
"For Foofur, the network [NBC] didn't really want to hear the same old people," he says. "But the studio was real good. They said, 'Hey, you should hear everybody.' They convinced them to listen to a blind test."
In blind-testing, producers and network executives listen to tapes of the audition without knowing who the actor is. Each tape is numbered. That way, the role is selected based solely on the performance. Then the actor is identified from the number on the tape.
The execs heard Welker's tape and awarded him the part without knowing it was him. Welker jokes that he was "lucky to get a good number."
According to Welker, blind testing is not a prevalent industry practice.
"I think for us, the actors, blind testing would really be great, because even in voice work you get voice typecast," he says. "The casting people will automatically put you into a pigeonhole, so if you do get a chance to audition for something that you normally wouldn't do, and they see your name, then they say, 'Well, I can tell it's him.' Then they don't want to hire you.
"So it's really nice when you have a legitimate test like that. A lot of times they can't tell who you are. It's more fun because you're being tested on how you sound, not the way people think you sound. I would prefer they always do it that way."
Today, recording sessions are limited to four hours, much to Welker's relief.
"Speaking for myself, supposedly representing my fellow thespians, we are like children. Our attention span only lasts so long," he says. "I've seen award-winning shows done in an hour, and I've seen shows that have dragged on for a day.
"No longer can you drag on for a day. Four hours is the maximum, which is great.
"Actors have got to get to other jobs. One show, one cannot a living make. So as professionals, you should be able -- if you're cast properly -- to do your job, and go on to the other one," he says.
Sometimes, Welker's versatility can pose a scheduling problem, particularly when he's cast in two different shows that are recording on the same day.
"It's better now with the four hour sessions for the studios too, because they have two chances of getting you instead of one show holding you all day," he says.
"Most studios don't like to do pickup lines, but it does work. Sometimes you're not able to physically be in that session. You've gotta get the track to Japan or wherever, so you gotta get that actor.
"I found that when you do a lot of different kinds of work like I do, it's even better that way, because when you're doing monsters, or special FX voices, you can concentrate on one line or action. You don't have all that dialogue inbetween. It's really helpful.
"When it's a story and jokes, then it's better as an ensemble group. Otherwise [if you're recording by yourself], all you're doing is reading your lines, and you don't know what the action is. The director has to tell you. You may not get as good a performance when you're performing as an ensemble group. (But sometimes when you do have a whole group, it can be just as disjointed.)
"Unfortunately, in one of our shows, the director would stop us all the time even when we were recording. Stop-stop-stop. So you're never really getting that ensemble flow anyway."
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.
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."
During the thirty years he's been involved in the industry, Welker notes a tremendous increase in actors doing voices for animation.
"When I first got in, it was just a handful. I wasn't even on the hand. But I could see the hand from there. Then with Hanna-Barbera, Filmation, Warners and Disney Animation becoming so successful, there's been an explosion.
"I remember when all the animation was being sent overseas. There were animators [here] but they couldn't work. Everybody was afraid of computer animation. Now they're cutting down trees trying to find animators and for people who work computers. So it's a real good time for everybody including voiceover people. There's so much work to do.
"The business has really changed for the better. In the old days voice folks didn't get residuals or reuse payments for their work. They weren't being rewarded for the work that they did. The Screen Actors Guild and the industry has changed all that, so it's much better for actors and their families, too.
"It's also opened up tremendously for on-camera 'celebrity voices, so there's all kinds of people doing voices now, and really enjoying it. What used to be a handful of people has now grown to several hands, arms and maybe one leg. I'm just trying to hang on to one of the hands."
How does Welker feel about the new competition from the live-action celebrities?
"Again, speaking for myself -- but I think a lot of the other actors I've talked to feel this way -- is that, it doesn't really matter who does the voices as long as you have an opportunity to compete," he says.
"I'd love to read for some of the other roles. Usually we're ignored because they want to get celebrity voices. If it's for the sound, because a celebrity has a unique voice, then that's understandable.
"Studios do it because when they go into advertising, they can say, 'Hey, Toy Story starring Tom Hanks and Tim Allen from Home Improvement,' as opposed to saying 'Toy Story starring Jim Cummings and Frank Welker.' In terms of promotion for adults, I can understand it.
"I don't think the kids would know the difference between Tom Hanks' voice or Tim Allen. I don't think it really matters. I do understand the need for promoting, and it makes sense, that if you're going to have a major motion picture, adults will figure, 'Well shoot, maybe I'll take the kids. Tom Hanks is in it.' That does make sense. I totally understand that aspect.
"But when all the production companies bring in celebrity voices on Saturday morning shows, it's a one-upsmanship between the studios to say, 'Look who I've got.' 'Yeah, well, I've got'
"It's almost a shark frenzy situation. It doesn't bother me as long as I'm still able to audition against them. If they get it, they deserve it. If the voice is unique and individual and I was that production company, I would cast who's best for the show.
Advice From The Master For those who do want to be voiceover actors, and compete with the likes of June Foray, Tress MacNeille, Rob Paulsen, Jeff Bennett, Maurice LaMarche, Jim Cummings, Will Ryan, Billy West, Joe Alaskey and himself, Frank Welker offers several suggestions.
"Believe in yourself and you can do anything that you want to do, if you allow yourself to do it, if you have the talent to do it.
"But be realistic. Set your goals high, but understand what your limitations are -- and then go beyond those.
"Technically, you should practice reading. Try to have the widest range possible because now, more than ever, animation directors and producers are looking for people who can do multiple voices, to save time and help out on their budgets.
"That's not to say that you can't have a really unique voice, just one voice, and work all the time. Because there's people who do that, too. Such as Lorenzo Music. He's known for his unique voice, even though he does other voices. He's typecast as himself. Go figure.
"It's good to be able to do impressions of other people and of other characters, but, you've got to start developing your own style, your own voices. If you do an old person, it's going to sound like youre doing an old person. But if you do Daffy Duck, it's going to be you trying to sound like Mel Blanc (or now, Joe Alaskey) doing Daffy Duck. You don't want to do that. You may want to do that for fun, but you don't want to do that for business. Do as many characters and people that you can do yourself.
"Studios will have a drawing of a character they're trying to find a voice for. That's when you create the voice. You become the new Mel Blanc, or Joe Alaskey, or whoever."
Welker reveals that he has never had any formal acting lessons, having been trained on the job. Moreover, he says, "I didn't like acting schools for on-camera or off-camera. I always felt that that would tend to interfere with your basic instincts. If your instincts weren't correct, you know that on your own.
"If you got some teacher piddling with you, then you really start worrying about, 'Gee, I'd better not do it that way because it'll be wrong.' What's wrong?
"I think, technically, if you don't know how to perform in front of a microphone or how to use a microphone, you learn those things with time.
"If I was going to recommend something to somebody, I'd say, 'Stay away from acting coaches. Stay away from classes. Go for the plays. Read for everything that you can get your hands on, and work. Go to the middle theater and go to auditions. Just let yourself come out.
"Voiceover classes are a different deal, because you can learn technique, how to work on a mike, how to use your voice, as opposed to how to act. As soon as somebody tells you how to act, then I would say, 'Get a bus ticket out of town.'"
Once a budding young actor feels he's ready to "break in," Welker advises preparing a demo tape.
"The first step would be to get a demo tape. It doesn't have to be slick. It should sound professional, though. Don't just use a hand-held tape recorder. Make it so it's legible to the ear. If you can do a tape that shows your versatility and your sound, it doesn't have to be your final demo tape. It just has to be an introduction to your agent.
"When you get an agent, then invest the time and the money and the agency will steer you to the right production people. Your agent will probably guide you as to what he wants on the tape. The two of you can decide what that final tape is going to be."
To find an agent, Welker recommends getting a list of reputable signatory agencies from the Screen Actors Guild.
"Nowhere along the line should an agent charge you money," Welker cautions. "He should never ask you for money. They charge you from what they get you, by percentage. So, if anybody ever asks you for money, a red flag should go up. A legitimate agency who represents you won't charge you.
"People sometimes go to managers first; my thinking is, go to an agent first. There are managers who will help you but in the voiceover business you don't need a manager. Just an agent."
Demo Tape Tips
In making a demo tape, Welker stresses the need for brevity, "Brevity is the law of the land."
"Forget about doing a story; forget about being clever. Directors, producers and writers who listen to your tape start judging the material and they forget about the voices. They may say, 'Well, that's not funny.' It doesn't need to be funny; it doesn't need to be clever; it needs to be good.
"So I would say, just lay down the voices. You don't even have to make any sense out of it. It's nice to have a butt-cut where you have a little kid and all of a sudden you have an old man, and then a woman, and then whatever your mind wants to do.
"It's not a bad idea to throw in a few impressions if you do some really good impressions. Don't do any lame ones. But if you do some really good impressions, drop in a few and then just put on your resume a list of impressions.
"There's so many guys [impressionists] now in the business and they are good -- Jeff Bennett, Rob Paulsen and Billy West. You can pretty much bet a producer has heard good impressions from ten different people, but it does show that you have a quirky kind of talent if you do impressions. I wouldn't rule it out, but, don't lean on that.
"Put in some straight voices, announcer-type voices (this is for your general tape), and some animated voices. Just as wide a range as possible.
"If you're not a multi-voice person, but you do a single voice or you just have a good vocal quality, then you might try demonstrating your acting ability and how you can reach a voice as an announcer, as a lead, as the bad guy. Or something like that so you still have a little variety."
As for doing sound effects and animal noises, Welker says, "Don't do that because you'll put me out of a job." He chuckles, then says, "Absolutely, if you do some sound effects and animal sounds, that's really great. That shows your versatility."
Welker reminds us that the demo tape should be a maximum length of three minutes -- but the shorter, the better.
"Keep the pieces of material short, too. Do an MTV-style demo. Wham - wham - wham - wham - wham. That's because nobody listens to them very long. Most people don't have a lot of time to listen. If they hear something great right away, they'll listen to your three minutes. But even when it's great, they've got to stop because they've got to listen to more tapes."
In preparing a high-quality demo tape, Welker says, "You don't want to spend a lot of money, but on the other hand you want to make a professional tape.
"Find somebody who can do a professional tape for you. Check with The Voicecaster, Screen Actors' Guild, AFTRA, and ask if they have a list of reputable companies. Get ahold of Dialogue magazine, or try and find referrals.
"If you have an agent, your agent should be able to do that for you. Do the best you can as far as quality because producers listen to good stuff all day long. As soon as they hear something that doesn't sound professional, even though they say they're being objective about it, they'll pass.
"Wait until you're really ready then invest in a good quality tape."
The Current Gigs
In 1998, Frank Welker articulated for one of cinema's legendary giants: Godzilla.
"I did baby Godzilla sounds. Screaming and screeching and yelling. Typical Godzilla-type stuff.
"The sound editor sent me a tape of the original scream. They were having trouble reproducing that sound. They felt the sound was probably an old metal table, however these guys created it in Japan. They were telling me, 'Is there any way you could get that kind of sound in there?' So I fiddled around and tried different things."
Welker has reprised Freddie Jones, not just in the video series, Scooby Doo on Zombie Island, Scooby Doo and the Witchs Ghost and a third video to be released this fall, but in spoofing the character in other shows, as well.
"I did one on Animaniacs. Casey [Kasem] came in and we did a takeoff on ourselves.
"On Family Guy, the show was all about this guy watching television. Scooby Doo and the gang are part of his mental deterioration, his love of television. I just had a few lines of 'modern dialogue' that Joe and Bill would never have put in one of their shows. It's a little wild.
"I thought it was nice of [creator] Seth MacFarlane to revive the part. It was fun doing it. I looked around the room and everybody said, 'Oh yeah, I grew up watching that [Scooby Doo].' It's nice that it's found this whole other generation of viewers."
For Disney, Welker stars in Buzz Lightyear of Star Command, the Toy Story spinoff series [to be animated traditionally, not using CGI].
"I'm doing Grubs, the evil Zurd's little creatures. They're scared to death of him and they run around doing these evil things. Today I was doing an alien and made up my own language. I do all kinds of creatures, carnivores and monsters. There seems to be Star Wars-at-the-bar creatures in almost every show. It's fun to do seven different Jabbas."
Welker refers to Disney's Hercules series as a "monster movie big time" because of the plethora of creatures he voices.
"Usually these monsters fly in groups so I repeat myself many times," he says. "Monster roars and roars again. Technically I might do it three or four times. I do different layers and then they'll put that all together as one huge group."
For Warner Bros., Welker stars in Histeria! as Father Time, as well as numerous incidental characters and historical figures.
"It's very, very good, I think. The writing is just excellent. It's more adult-type humor, but still, kids will enjoy all the action. It's really nuts."
The purpose of Histeria!, Welker says, is to fulfill "a mandate from the psychiatrists and Congress and the networks. They believe kids programming needs information, that it's all pabulum for children -- which I don't agree with, because kids deserve to have fun, too. School is school, television is television. Why not just enjoy cartoons? And make them good and funny? But, Congress says, No, we need information in all these shows. Warner Bros. did a take on history and put it into these shows. But they've done it in such a way that you do get some information, and you get a lot of comedy. You get some great drawings, incredible cartoons and voice acting and impressions that are just unbelievable.
"And talk about impressions. Everybody in the show does impressions: Maurice LaMarche does Bob Hope as George Washington; Billy West does everybody else as everybody else; yours truly does Bill Cosby and Rochester and Fetch the dog. It's so much fun because they're all such great characters.
"Father Time is in every show because he's the narrator. He holds everything together. Like, The year was 1709. He explains what's happening and we switch to the scene. It's just a golden cast, with Rob Paulsen, Tress MacNeille, Lauraine Newman, Maurice LaMarche, Billy West, Jeff Bennett, and on and on and on. Just incredible people.
"They encourage a little bit of ad-libbing, which we all like to do as performers. That's an extra bonus, when we're encouraged to be a little crazy.
"It's a tremendous amount of work for us [actors], because not only are we doing the shows, we're already re-looping and re-doing shows to picture that have come in. So they're constantly working us. We're called in two, three times a week just to do this one show. They're putting a lot into it. They have great music with full orchestration and great songs."
For those who wish to see the man behind the voice, check out ABC's One Saturday Morning, in which Welker appeared as himself in the second season premiere episode (which will doubtlessly be repeated).
"'Manny' [Paul Rugg, voice of Freakazoid] interviewed me down at the L.A. Zoo," Welker says. "We walked around and talked about animals and did different voices; he asked how I created animal sounds. That was a lot of fun."
Of course, Frank Welker has made many on-camera appearances, acting alongside Elvis Presley in The Trouble with Girls, Kurt Russell in The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes and Now You See Him, Now You Don't, and Don Knotts in How to Frame a Figg. His TV appearances include The Partridge Family, The Don Knotts Show, First Impressions, Simon and Simon, Laugh Trax and Love, American Style. Will the versatile Welker consider doing more on-camera roles?
"Well, I'm very happy with what I'm doing," he says. "As far as on-camera stuff, I never go out on interviews but sometimes if a director gives me a call and asks if I want to do this, I'll say, 'Sure.' Anything that's fun.
"As long as they keep calling, I'll keep showing up."
Just how prolific is Frank? Visit his filmography and find out.
If you are still hungry for more voice over information, visit the Animation World Magazine Archives and use key words such as casting, voice over, voice acting and other related words to find out more.
Bob Miller is an animation professional who has written extensively about the industry for Starlog, Comics Scene, Animation Magazine, Animato!, Animation Planet, Comics Buyers Guide, and APATOONS. He served on the first season of Courage, the Cowardly Dog as storyboard supervisor and is currently working at Film Roman storyboarding episodes of The Simpsons.