OK, it's possible that I am being brainwashed by Quintessa, but for a film franchise that's known for its explosive action and unintelligible excess, you'd think that the long-awaited reveal of Bumblebee's voice would be some sort of celebrity stunt casting. Or at least an opportunity to make a joke. But nope. Bumblebee's voice was that a totally earnest, remarkably average young dude.
Finding that voice wasn't easy, either. The real challenge for the creative team behind the franchise was that no one really had a sense of how Bumblebee should sound. “Should it be Barry White? Should it be George Clooney? We didn't know,” writer Ken Nolan told MTV News at the global premiere of Transformers: The Last Knight in London. “No one knew what he sounded like!” added writer Matt Holloway.
As a character, Bumblebee is sweet and jovial, yet fiercely loyal. He's basically a rowdy, easily distracted teenager stuck in a two-ton mech body that can do a lot of damage. But it was also important that the voice didn't surprise audiences. Bumblebee should sound warm and familiar but with a slight edge. After all, Bumblebee has been around for a while, and in The Last Knight we even watch him kick Nazi butt during World War II, so he couldn't sound too naive.
Though, there was one thing that everyone agreed on: He had to sound different from Optimus Prime (voiced by Peter Cullen).
“You really want to match the love you have for the character and also be very distinguishable from Optimus,” executive producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura told MTV News. “He's sort of a teenager. He's a little out of control, but he's really warm and emotional, so trying to find that voice was not simple. We went through a lot of ideas.”
For Holloway, it was important that the voice reflect Bumblebee's long history as a “badass” Autobot. “Bumblebee is fun, and what makes him so much fun is the way he communicates through his radio. He has that teenager sensibility,” he said. “But we also wanted everyone to remember that this guy's a badass and has been Optimus Prime's second for a long time. In this movie he steps up, [and] he should sound like a badass.”
As it turned out, the voice of Bumblebee had been right under their noses. Sound designer Erik Aadahl recorded Bumblebee's dialogue as a temp voice, but once director Michael Bay had heard the voice, he knew he had found his Bumblebee.
“The task was daunting, like, how are you going to find that voice?” Bay told MTV News. “And then he just voiced it. We played it back, tweaked it out a bit, and it just worked.”
Aadahl had what the team was looking for, even if they didn't know it until they had heard it — a voice that was warm and youthful but had obviously been through some tough shit. “He's a tough bastard,” writer Ken Nolan said. “He forgot how tough he was, and he remembers in this movie. So he should sound like one.”
Sadly, seeing as its a prequel set in 1985, Aadahl won't be back for the Bumblebee spin-off movie. But just think of all of the 1980s radio frequencies Bee will be able to pick up. Something tells me he'd be really into new wave.
Transformers: The Last Knight is in theaters now.