Peter Cullen has become so distinct as Optimus, that people cannot help but see him, at this point forward, as THE only Optimus that will be accepted for the role. My example of an equivalent to compare is Johnny Carson and the Tonight Show.
When Leno took over for Carson, on The Tonight Show, Leno's ratings have since and always been a fraction of Carson's. This is a fact.
Why? The Tonight Show WAS Carson and never just The Tonight Show with a host. Many grew up watching Carson, who was relateable, funny, endearing, genuine, and had the ability to make people laugh when his jokes bombed. A tool that other comedians say - they marvel at, to this day. [Ref:"Johnny Carson King of Late Night" doc.movie]
I grew up with Cullen like many in the 80's, while others didn't meet him until 2007's Transformers, (which I still think is a GREAT film, even though I hate the 2 sequels). Cullen has become even more measurably important since then. Cullen's inspiration included John Wayne. It's no wonder that many then gravitated to Prime. I will say that Cullen's modern portrayal of Optimus, should bring back his G1's sense of humor. Cullen in "Prime" had been portrayed as very humorless. Cullen and the "dynamic duo", have their reasons for this decision.I want to point out that "the Duke", almost, always laughed, weather lightly, heartily, or with a gallows humor. Only "The Searchers" portrayed the humorless Ethan Edwards. (I'll also note that "The Searchers", puts Good-Bad&Ugly, Unforgiven, Appaloosa, all to shame, except for "Once Upon a Time..".] Optimus having no sense of humor has been played for humor, but, I still feel it reflects a far darker character than Prime should portrayed.Anyway, that is subjective and based on taste.
Leno is a professional comedian, not always best in delivery, has been guilty of blatant plagiarism, (and today, Copy Laundering), and, most importantly, is perceived as boring to many, worse still, disliked by others. Finding Leno funny or boring is subjective, but this is reflected by articles on the Tonight show and the ratings drop that came when Leno took over as host. It could have to do with fan's not wanting Carson to quit, at all.
There were two other hosts before Carson, unique to themselves, but Carson is what made 'Tonight Show important. Also due to public emotional attachment.
Just so everyone doesn't misunderstand. Carson was before my time, even though he was host for 11-13 years of my life. I only base my statements on what is written on Carson, Leno, & the Tonight show by others articles and videos. I haven't seen enough of classic Carson. But have seen enough Leno to just find him boring. Carson too, had his critiques.
Cullen's Prime has become just as important to TF fans, as Carson was to Tonight Show fans. The other Optimus portrayals have not been as consistent. With exceptions.
Myself, I think Kaye's, Optimus, was very good in Animated. Chalk's Optimus Primal was also memorable in a positive way. These two were, generally, well received, because they were not trying to be Cullen. Chalk was playing a young, more insecure Optimus, in a story telling of how the hero came to fulfill his role. Primal was not Prime but unique as a character, and very enjoyable. They both played their own roles, as they saw fit. Not in direct imitation of Cullen.Above picture by zgul-osr1113 "Optimus Prime Animated"http://zgul-osr1113.deviantart.com/art/Optimus-Prime-Animated-97992919Above - David KayeAbove Picture Gary Chalk
Kaye, also voiced the Beast Wars Megatron, the Predacon leader, distinct from the first.
Megatron's portrayal in Animated had Burton, who, would make for the perfect candidate to replace Welker in my opinion, when Welker eventually retires.
Welker in Prime gave a more in-depth performance to Meg's compared to G1, but, I actually think that not having the vocoder effect, hurt the portrayal. I felt it was was a little off or very rarely perfect. You may feel different, and feel free to say why it worked for you, better than myself. I still loved Welker in "Prime", anyway.
If Hasbro is not careful enough to replace Cullen with an actor who has his own charisma, gravitas, and more. If the replacement is just mimicking Cullen - the next Prime could be like Leno was to The Tonight Show. A man mimicking, someone, who is likeable and funny.
The same can be said of a future Megatron. Look at the lazy performance of Hugo "Sleaping". This man is a capable enough actor to make "V" in V for Vendetta become very charismatic, sympathetic, and very readable with that mask covering his face. He's quite capable of delivering a great performance with just his voice. But if he doesn't take the performance seriously, and does not have the right director to coax that out of him...
It was a combination of Optimus's badly executed death, and then cancellation of the cartoon even when Cullen returned. Without the cartoon backing these toys, with stories, fan interest died, slowly.
TF fans want a good Prime - the success of the franchise has always been linked to characters to draw kids interest in to buying the toy. It wasn't just the toys following strange trends, at the end of G1, that hurt toy sales.
Optimus's death was not thought out and badly executed. Compounding this was the poor handling of his successor with Rodimus. People seem to have forgotten just how badly Prime's death was used in G1.Please, bear with me, I am about to use a figure that is controversial, to say the least, but not is in no way being used to convert or preach, but just as a device for an argument. I place no value statements about the individual and the reference. At least in this statement.
I find it extremely, galling, when people make comparisons of Optimus Prime's G1 deaths (plural) to Jesus Christ. This is an invalid and HORRIBLE comparison.
Prime's death was against his will, meant to shock, was arguably pointless IE a waste given Megatron escaped and then became Galvatron. Also the characters successor, was portrayed, written, and handled even worse still. If Optimus's first death had any real value, kids wouldn't have come away from theaters, traumatized. Instead, inspired, by what should have been a heroism sacrifice, with lasting effects and value. A death with a meaning, that would have resulted in fans writing, epic songs about what Prime did. Even emulating the act. They didn't because their was no point and no value to it. Kids just asked, "why?", or, "what was the point?"
[ His first death in Marvel Comics was even worse, funny enough. He killed an NPC in a video game, felt guilty, then destroyed himself,
Now the contrast with Christ. As it is written; Jesus Christ knew what He was doing when he came to Earth, via birth as a man, in full knowledge of His mission, to be the required payment for the evils/lawbreaking/wrongdoing/selfishness/crimes/sins - of humankind. As the substitute for all individuals. Knew He would die, even struggled with it, yet he followed through, deliberately, boldly, decisively, with full clarity and knowledge. Christ knew he would die, and that it would not be a defeat, but the single most important victory as written in the Bible. Jesus even said that he would come back from the grave a full 3 days later. Jesus died as a hero, and as an example for any "masculine" man, or human in general. The death was portrayed by the written words as a choice that Jesus didn't have to make and to many made no sense. "He died for us while we were yet sinners..." The book pointed out how few would die for a noble/good person, let alone a "criminal" or "sinner". It was also a plan from the beginning "Lamb slain before the foundations of the earth...".
Prime's death was an accident, against Prime's will, and had no value.
Then, Jesus, by Himself, "...defeated the grave". Not like Optimus who to fans, and critics alike, died "like little bitch" [ xRazorFistx, Doug Walker, Linkara, ETC], for clumsy Hasbro to sell more toys, but resulting in the opposite effect. Weather you believe what is written in the Bible or not is not important here, so please, do not start a heated angry religious debate. I'm not preaching at anyone. If you cannot handle even talking about this in a philosophical/logical debate, then, please re-frame from commenting. This is just to point out what is written about Christ and how he is perceived by those that claim to believe it. Not to discuss the accuracy of the Bible, and I will not entertain any discussion on Jesus or the Bible unless used in the context of this statement, as presented. In other words, don't debate the Bible, debate Hasbro, and fan attachment to Cullen's performance. I do not place any value statements, supporting or refuting the Bible, at this time.Optimus death had no value
, and he did not return by his own power. Optimus drove the 'Cons away, but this turned out to a little pause in the "war". It is written that Jesus died to effectively buy humankinds salvation as a Messiah. In the TF Movie, Prime didn't beat Unicron, instead it was a McGuffin device wielded by a week character.
This is a valid point, and accurate to describe how careless Hasbro has been in the past.
This brands toy sales are linked to good portrayals of characters that people want to emulate in these stories. If Hasbro screws up enough, Transformers might die, again.
A good example of a noble sacrifice is Prime throwing himself in to the "Swarm" in Marvel TF G2 Issue:10.
A bad replacement would be akin to Carson and Leno with The Tonight Show. It depends on how he is written, the seriousness of the performance, the actors charisma, and ability to also be fun and even empathetic/relateable. That is what sold the toys. The toys have always been linked to good characters with good story telling. Hasbro's track record in this regard is not consistent, and full of pot-holes. This is the trap of selling a toy through a TV show or game, or even a comic. Also if there is no show at all then sales figures decline even more. Once again I ref. Weaving.
Optimus was brought back at the end of season 3, however, the show was already DOA, ending with a mini-series to complete "season 4". When the show went in to rerun, the toys lost much of the appeal and ability to draw money.
I hope that Cullen isn't going to become to TF what Carson is to Tonigh', because of poor replacements for the characters portrayal, and/or characters successor. I also hope Hasbro doesn't choose to once again simply stop making these video series and now games, or interest will fall even further.
[Companies can be this stupid, repeating past mistakes and making stupid presumptions. Look at the WWE today. Or how about how American Superspy "Jimmy" Bond in 1953's(?) Casino Royal.]