As a child I did not have a lot of in-house role-models to look up to. I (like many in my community unfortunately) lacked having a father being a part of my life. However, back in the 80s when I was growing-up, there were so many awesome-cartoons to watch and that commanded a lot of my attention. Whatever you allow your kids to watch DOES influence them in many ways. Two cartoons that had a profound impact on me were Transformers, and He-Man. Not only were the cartoons cool with a lot of cool-looking characters, magic, far away worlds, technology, sound effects, special-effects, and lots of action, etc, but these cartoons had something else important. Substance. Some credit goes to the writers obviously, but I feel the majority of the credit goes to the voice-actors. Before an actor/actress picks up a script to read, the character is a just a picture on a page or an idea in someone's mind. Once that actor gives the character a voice and personality, they come to life. The character you are watching on the screen is REAL, because the person voicing the character is giving their REAL heart into the character. I say all that to say this. Optimus Prime as a cartoon-character was iconic. Not because he was a truck that could turn into a robot, but because of who he was. A leader, a friend, a big brother, a father-figure, and a warrior. For me personally, Optimus Prime WAS a father-figure. The reason why is not because of the writers or because of Hasbro. They just wanted to sell toys. It was because of voice-actor Peter Cullen. Anything that MATTERS about Optimus Prime came from him. I remember listening to him explain how he got the role and how he found the voice. He said that when he was going to audition for the role, his older-brother whom he was sharing an apartment with at the time asked him about it. His brother was a former-U.S. Marine that served in wartime. He was Peter's role-model. When Peter told him about auditioning to play a "hero-truck" his brother told him..... "Peter, if you are going to be a hero, be a real-hero. Don't be a Hollywood hero-type with the BS of yelling and screaming trying to be tough. Be strong enough to be gentle." (Timestamp @ 1:50)
....and that is how he found the voice. It was what his brother said to him, and his admiration for him that crafted the character into what he became. Prime was gentle. Compassionate. Caring. Selfless. However, don't get it twisted. When It came time for Prime to get into battle, he was about that business. For a lot of us, he was one of the only father-figures we had. The characters of these cartoons had profound impacts on us who were kids in that era which leads me into the next-person. I mentioned He-Man earlier. The Filmation-version of He-Man and the Masters Of The Universe was a great-show for all of the previously-mentioned reasons. However, with this show they really took the fact that children looked up to these characters seriously. At the end of each episode, you would get one of the characters from the show explain a lesson that was to be learned from one of the characters, and to give helpful advice to children as well. It was never preachy or condescending. They talked about very-real issues without talking down to us kids, but in a matter that we could understand. A lot like how Mr. Rogers talked to us kids. They came across as concerned-parents that you knew loved you and only wanted the best for you. You felt the warmth in their statements that they really cared about you. While ALL the voice talent on that show deserve a hand for their roles, Alan Oppenheimer was probably the most talented of the bunch voicing everyone from Skeletor to Cringer to Man-At-Arms. His portrayal of Man-At-Arms again came across like a father-figure to everyone, not just Teela. There were times that both Prince Adam AND He-Man needed guidance and Man-At-Arms provided a lot of wisdom. That all came from Alan Oppenheimer. His wisdom not only was beneficial to the characters in the show, but to people in real-life. In a 2019 interview, Oppenheimer told a story about how in two-separate conventions, men in their 30s came up to him and told him that the morals at the end of He-Man gave them the strength to keep going even though they lived in dysfunctional-families. Children......at age 7 or 8 contemplating SUICIDE, but the genuine heart-felt morals at the end of He-Man helped them keep going. Let that sink in for a moment.............. (Timestamp @7:00)
The whole point I want to make is just how important the role of a cartoon voice-actor is. People do not understand just how much responsibility that is, and how much power that you have to inspire the younger-generation. I thank God for men like Peter Cullen and Alan Oppenheimer. I'll probably never get a chance to meet either of them, but if I did I would give each a big ole' hug and thank them for the roles that they played in my life. If you are a voice actor or actress, never let ANYONE tell you that your job is not a real-job or belittle what you do in ANY way. You were blessed with a special-talent to fulfill a special-destiny. As Mr. Rogers used to say, YOU........ARE..........SPECIAL.