Franklin Wendell "Frank" Welker (born March 12, 1946) is an American actor, who for most of his career has specialized as a voice actor, is best known for his role as Fred Jones from the Scooby-Doo franchise since its conception in 1969, as the only original voice actor still with the Scooby-Doo franchise, along with the voice of Megatron in the Transformers franchise, specifically Transformers G1 and Transformers: Prime, as well as Scooby-Doo since 2002. He is also well known as both the vocal effects and the voice of Nibbler in Futurama.
In 2016, Welker received an Emmy Award in honor of his lifetime achievements.
Welker was born in Denver, Colorado, on March 12, 1946. He then moved to California and attended Santa Monica City College in Santa Monica, California, where he majored in theatrical arts. In 1966, he received honors for his performance as the Cowardly Lion in the college's theater production of The Wizard of Oz. During his transition between college and his voice-acting career, his first voice-over role was in a commercial for Friskies dog food. The producer's girlfriend informed him of auditioning for Hanna-Barbera during the casting of Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!, where he initially auditioned for the title character (and, according to Casey Kasem, the role of Shaggy Rogers, as well) but instead won the role of Fred Jones.
Live-action acting career
Welker's first on-camera film role was as a college kid from Rutgers University who befriends Elvis Presley in The Trouble with Girls (1969). His next film role was in the Disney film The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes (1969), which starred Kurt Russell (he would also appear in the film's sequel, Now You See Him, Now You Don't, in 1972). He later co-starred with Don Knotts in Universal's How to Frame a Figg (1971), and appeared in Dirty Little Billy (1972).
On-camera television appearances included roles on Love, American Style, The Partridge Family, and The Don Knotts Show. He played a prosecutor in the highly acclaimed ABC special The Trial of General Yamashita and as Captain Pace beside Richard Dreyfuss' Yossarian in Paramount Television's pilot Catch-22. He also appeared on Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, The Mike Douglas Show, The Tonight Show, The Merv Griffin Show, The Smothers Brothers Show, The Burns and Schreiber Comedy Hour, Laugh Trax, and as one of the cast members in the special of That Was the Year That Was (1985) with David Frost.
Frank also played an on-camera role as a voice actor in an 1984 episode of Simon & Simon. In The Duck Factory, he played a rival actor trying to steal the role of Dippy Duck from fellow voice actor Wally Wooster (Don Messick). In recent years, he appeared in Steven Soderbergh's film The Informant! (2009) as Matt Damon's father.
In 1978, Frank Welker appeared on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast to George Burns. While saluting Burns, he showed his abilities as an impressionist by honoring George Burns with the voices of Walter Cronkite, Henry Kissinger, Muhammad Ali, David Frost, and Jimmy Carter.
Welker's first voice role came in 1969, as Fred Jones in the Scooby-Doo franchise. Since 2002, he has provided the voice of both Fred Jones and Scooby-Doo. Welker has voiced Fred in every series and incarnation of the Scooby-Doo animated franchise, with the exception of A Pup Named Scooby-Doo.
His next major character voice was for Wonder Dog (which was inspired by Scooby-Doo) and Marvin White on the 1973 series Super Friends (also produced by Hanna-Barbera). That same year, he played Pudge and Gabby on DePatie-Freleng Enterprises' animated series Bailey's Comets. Welker continued to provide voices for many characters for Hanna-Barbera for several years, which include Jabberjaw, Dynomutt, Dog Wonder, and the Shmoo in The New Fred and Barney Show and its spin-off, The Flintstones Comedy Show. Frank Welker described the voice he used for the Shmoo as "a bubble voice" (one he would later use for Gogo Dodo in Tiny Toon Adventures).
In 1978, he played the title character on Fangface and later in its spin-off, Fangface and Fangpuss, and also voiced Heckle and Jeckle and Quackula on The New Adventures of Mighty Mouse and Heckle & Jeckle, and Droopy on The Tom and Jerry Comedy Show.
During the 1980s and 1990s, Welker became a very busy actor, providing the voice for many popular cartoon characters in multiple series, including Brain, Doctor Claw, and M.A.D. Cat on Inspector Gadget; Mister Mxyzptlk, Darkseid, and Kalibak on Super Friends: The Legendary Super Powers Show; Wild Bill, Dreadnok Torch, and various G.I. Joe heroes and villains; Ray Stantz and Slimer in The Real Ghostbusters; the villainous Dr. Jeremiah Surd on The Real Adventures of Jonny Quest; Bubba the Caveduck and two of the Beagle Boys (Bigtime & Baggie) on DuckTales; multiple voices on The Smurfs, including Hefty Smurf, Poet Smurf, and Peewit; and various characters on Captain Planet and the Planeteers
He also voiced various characters on The Simpsons, such as Santa's Little Helper, Snowball II, and various other animals from 1991 to his departure from the show in 2002. Welker provided both the speaking voice and animal sounds for Nibbler on Matt Groening's Futurama. He provided the voices for Mr. Plotz, Runt, Ralph the Guard, Buttons, and other characters on Animaniacs, Gogo Dodo, Furball, Beeper and others on Tiny Toon Adventures, Pepé Le Pew on The Sylvester & Tweety Mysteries, and McWolf the main antagonist to Droopy and his nephew Dripple on Tom and Jerry Kids Show and Droopy, Master Detective.
Welker has also created the vocal effects for many animals and creatures in films, including the monkey Abu in Aladdin (1992), its two sequels, and the television series, Arnold the Pig in the television film Return to Green Acres (1990), the Martians in Tim Burton's Mars Attacks! (1996), and the penguins in Mr. Popper's Penguins (2011). He performed as voice double for Leonard Nimoy in Star Trek III: The Search for Spock (1984) and voiced The Thing in The Golden Child (1986), Jinx the robot in "SpaceCamp" (1986), Totoro in the English version of Studio Ghibli's 1988 film My Neighbor Totoro, Alien Sil in Species (1995), Malebolgia in Spawn (1997), and Gargamel's cat Azrael in Sony Pictures Animation's live action/animated film versions of The Smurfs.
In 2006, he began voicing George in the popular children's series Curious George. He also voiced George in the animated film of the same name that same year. In 2007, Welker became the new voice of Garfield, succeeding the original actor Lorenzo Music, who died in 2001 (Welker and Music had previously worked together on The Real Ghostbusters and the original Garfield and Friends). Welker voiced Garfield in Garfield Gets Real (2007), Garfield's Fun Fest (2008), Garfield's Pet Force (2009), and on the new series The Garfield Show, which has been running from 2008 to present. In 2011, he provided the voice of Batman in a Scooby-Doo crossover segment of the Batman: The Brave and the Bold episode, "Bat-Mite Presents: Batman's Strangest Cases!". In the same episode, he also voiced Batboy, the classic "Mad Magazine Batman spoof, originally created by Wally Wood.
Welker has also provided voices for many video game characters, most notably Disney's Oswald the Lucky Rabbit and The Shadow Blot in Epic Mickey and its sequel Epic Mickey 2: The Power of Two, as well as Zurvan, also called the Ancient One, on StarCraft II: Heart of the Swarm. He also provided the voice of the mad mage Xzar for the Baldur's Gate video game series, and reprised his role from Avengers Assemble as Odin for Lego Marvel's Avengers.
In the 1980s, Welker voiced many recurring characters in the original Transformers animated series. He voiced several Decepticons, including the leader Megatron, Soundwave, Skywarp, Mixmaster, Laserbeak, Buzzsaw, Rumble, Frenzy, Ravage, and Ratbat, as well as Autobots Mirage, Trailbreaker and Sludge. He took on the role of Wheelie in The Transformers: The Movie (1986), and in the post-movie episodes took over the role of Galvatron (from his Star Trek III castmate Leonard Nimoy) and also voiced Chromedome and Pinpointer.
Welker returned to two of his Transformers roles when he portrayed Megatron and Soundwave as part of a spoof in a third-season episode of Robot Chicken, which aired shortly after the release of the first live-action film. In the second Transformers film, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (2009), he joined the voice cast and reprised the roles of Soundwave and Ravage, and also provided the voices for Grindor, Devastator, and Reedman. He would again reprise his role as Soundwave, as well as take on the roles of Shockwave and Barricade, in the third film, Transformers: Dark of the Moon (2011). And in Transformers: Age of Extinction (2014), he would reprise his role as Galvatron, albeit with a much different voice from his performance in the 1980s series. Welker is set to voice Megatron in the upcoming fifth installment Transformers: The Last Knight (2017).
He does not voice Megatron in the first three live-action films (Hugo Weaving was chosen for the role instead). However, Welker did voice Megatron in the two video games based on the first two films, as well as the theme park attractions at Universal Studios Singapore, Universal Studios Hollywood, and Universal Studios Florida, Transformers: The Ride.
Welker also reprised the roles of Megatron and Soundwave in the series Transformers: Prime (retitled Transformers: Prime – Beast Hunters for its third season) and the video game Transformers: Devastation.