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, and most other incarnations of the character. He has also voiced several other characters, including Eeyore in the Winnie the Pooh franchise, Monterey Jack in Chip 'n Dale Rescue Rangers, and KARR in Knight Rider. In 2007, Cullen returned to the role of Optimus Prime in various Transformers media, starting with the first live-action film.
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.
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 1967–69, he was the announcer for Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour.
From 1971–74, 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.
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 superhero, be a real superhero. Real superheroes don't yell and act tough; they are tough enough to be gentle, so control yourself." 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."
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 in the 1980s anime series Saber Rider & the Star Sheriffs, Commander James Hawkins in the Vehicle Voltron series, Eeyore in the Winnie the Pooh franchise, KARR in Knight Rider, Antor and Bomba, and Gunner, in Dino-Riders, Airbourne, Nemesis Enforcer and Zandar 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 the first season of the 2008 Knight Rider series as KARR. 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 voice work on the 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 voice work 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.
- The Adventures of the Little Prince (1978-1979) - Additional Voices
- Macron I (1981) - Narrator
- Saber Rider & the Star Sheriffs (1984-1985) - Ramrod, Commander Eagle, General Whitehawk, Supreme Commander Nemesis, Calibos, Colonel, Jake, Caster, Baron, George, Narrator
- Voltron (1984-1985) - Coran, King Alfor, Hutch, Commander Hawkins, Viceroy Throk, Narrator
- IGPX: Immortal Grand Prix (2005-2006) - Narrator
- Warriors of the Wind (1984) - Kurotowa
- He is a good friend of his longtime Transformers co-star and fellow voice actor Frank Welker.