Published on June 1, 2013 by Amy
Cree Summer Francks (born July 7, 1969), best known as Cree Summer, is a Canadian-American actress, musician and voice actress.
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She is perhaps best known for her role as college student Winifred “Freddie” Brooks on the NBC sitcom A Different World. As a voice actress Summer is best known for voicing Penny in Inspector Gadget during Season 1, Elmyra Duff in Tiny Toon Adventures, Susie Carmichael on Rugrats and All Grown Up, Princess Kida in Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Valerie Gray in Danny Phantom, Foxxy Love in Drawn Together, Numbuh 5 in Codename: Kids Next Door, and Cleo the Poodle in Clifford the Big Red Dog.
Summer (born Los Angeles, California on July 7, 1969) grew up on the Red Pheasant Reserve in Saskatchewan. She is the daughter of Canadians Don Francks and Lili Red Eagle, a member of the Plains Cree First Nations. Her brother, Rainbow Sun Francks, is a former MuchMusic VJ.
Summer’s career began in 1983 when she was cast as the voice of niece Penny on the original cartoon version of Inspector Gadget. Her unique, throaty voice was instantly recognizable to casting agents (as well as viewers even today), who began frequently casting her in animated programs. Many of these were part of cult franchises, like The Care Bears Movie (1985) and Ewoks (1985, part of the Star Wars franchise).
Audiences finally had a chance to put Summer’s voice to a face when she was cast as the freespirited Winifred “Freddie” Brooks in The Cosby Show spin-off A Different World. She remained a regular cast member of the show from 1988 through its end in 1993.
During the run of A Different World, Summer continued working in voice acting. She was cast in the short-lived television series Sweet Justice in 1994 until its cancellation in 1995. Barring guest appearances on other live-action television shows such as Living Single and The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Summer’s professional work since has been limited to voice acting.
At the start of the series’ third season in 1988, the cartoon series The Real Ghostbusters episodes were expanded from their original half-hour format to last an hour, and the overall feel of the show was changed to be more youthful, with episodes having a lighter tone to be less frightening (even switching artistic styles from more serious to less). During the less serious segments, Cree voiced the sweet and helpful Chilly Cooper, neighborhood ice-cream woman and innocent love interest of Slimer.
In all, Summer has voiced over 100 animated characters between 1983 and 2006. These have spanned the realm of video games, cartoon television series, animated films and commercials. Among her most famous roles was in Inspector Gadget (Season 1) as Penny (a role she reprised in the Robot Chicken episode “Adoption’s an Option”), Tiny Toon Adventures (1990) as Elmyra Duff (which she reprised for Pinky, Elmyra & the Brain) and Mary Melody, Aka Pella in Histeria!, Susie Carmichael in Rugrats and its spin-off All Grown Up!, Cleo the Poodle in Clifford the Big Red Dog, Foxxy Love in Drawn Together, Dulcy the dragon in Sonic the Hedgehog, Princess ‘Kida’ Kidagakash for Disney’s Atlantis: The Lost Empire, Valerie Gray in Danny Phantom (2004), Numbuh 5 (Abigail Lincoln) and Cree Lincoln in Codename: Kids Next Door, Penelope in Barbie As Rapunzel and Miranda from As Told by Ginger, Tiff on My Life as a Teenage Robot, octogenerian villain Granny May on WordGirl and Blackarachnia in Transformers Animated (2008).
In the first season Drawn Together DVD commentary she stated that she was originally hired to do the voice of Meg Griffin on Fox’s animated series Family Guy, but was fired by the producers.
Summer is a frequent co-star of Canadian-American actress Tara Strong, the two are childhood friends, both having grown up in Toronto, Ontario.
Summer is also the voice of the Green spokescandy for M&M’s.
She voiced-over in the games Baldur’s Gate: Dark Alliance and BLACK. She voiced Tandi in Fallout and was also the voice of Tatjana in Arc the Lad: Twilight of the Spirits; Lady Belgemine, Young Tidus and additional voice-overs in Final Fantasy X; Lenne/Calli in Final Fantasy X-2; Storm in Marvel Super Hero Squad; Cynder in The Legend of Spyro: A New Beginning and Magma in X-Men Legends, and the voice of Catalina Thorn, the leader of the Cell in Crackdown 2. She also had a small role in Mass Effect. She also voices Medusa in the game Kid Icarus: Uprising for the Nintendo 3DS. She also voiced the Inca priness Micay in Pitfall: The Lost Expedition. She also did miscellaneous voices in World of Warcraft: Mists of Pandaria.
Summer sang since an early age and joined her first band at 13. In 1985, she recorded the theme song for OWL/TV. In 1990, she sang background vocals on two tracks for fellow A Different World cast member Jasmine Guy’s self titled LP. In 1993 she released an album (as lead singer) with her band Subject to Change. The album was not officially released by Capitol Records because of creative differences; the records that were produced were distributed as promotions and are considered a rarity. The band, with an aggressive political message and rock-soul fusion sound, remained popular as a co-headlining act with other performers. In 1999, Summer released her solo album Street Faërie produced by and featuring guest artist (and friend) Lenny Kravitz, but the album was a moderate success. Although Summer toured as Kravitz’s opening act, her label dropped her and a planned spot with Lilith Fair was canceled. The label continued to promote the album, however, sending out a four-track sampler to radio and issuing remix singles of the track “Revelation Sunshine” in Europe, with a special single specifically for Austria.
Summer recorded a song titled “Savior Self” for which she directed a music video co-starring Zoe Kravitz, daughter of actress Lisa Bonet and rocker Lenny Kravitz. The video was screened online, but the track was never made available commercially, nor was it distributed to radio.
A number of Summer’s portrayed characters (animated or otherwise) are singers or sing songs within the soundtrack of a show. The character of Susie in All Grown Up! was portrayed as a singer with real talent, allowing Summer to sing in the role. Cree Summer also sings the opening theme song for All Grown Up! The character of Foxxy Love in Drawn Together was a singer, with songs like “La-La-Labia”, Numbuh 5 from Codename: Kids Next Door sang a Lullaby to lull babies to sleep. Elmyra Duff as she sang in many times on the show of Tiny Toon Adventures. She co-performed lead vocals in the song “Cool Kitty” with Tara Strong, which accompanied a cartoon called Class of 3000, directed and written for Cartoon Network by André 3000.