Cree Summer Francks was born July 7, 1969 in California to actor Don Francks. Her father didn't want to raise Cree in Hollywood so he moved them to a Plains Cree reserve in Canada, where they lived in a house made of mud. She later lived in a bus, a horse stable as well as a commune. Cree has had an extensive career in voiceover work. Her career started early in her teens when she got the part of the voice of Penny on "Inspector Gadget". It led to many, many more voice roles. In 1988 Cree joined the cast of "A Different World" as Freddie Brooks, a role which she kept for the next 5 years. In 1999 Cree released her first CD, produced by Lenny Kravitz (they met thanks to mutual friend actress Lisa Bonet). Cree continues to work as a voiceover actress in movies and TV as well as building her career as a singer.
Her father is famed Canadian actor Don Francks, and her mother is Lili Red Eagle , a member of the Plains Cree First Nation. Her brother is former Much Music VJ Rainbow Sun Francks of Stargate Atlantis. She was born in Los Angeles, California, but grew up on an Indian reserve in Saskatchewan, Canada.
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 afrocentric Winifred "Freddie" Brooks in the Cosby Show spin-off A Different World. Summer, a multiracial woman (of Caucasian, Black, and Native American descent) who wears her hair in a large afro-style, proved to have an appearance as unique as her voice. 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; it went off air in 1995. Barring numerous 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.
In all, Cree Summer has voiced over 70 animated characters between 1983 and 2004, many of them were African-American girls. These have spanned the realm of video games, cartoon television series, animated films and commercials. Among her most famous roles was in Tiny Toon Adventures (1990) as Elmyra Duff (which she reprised for Pinky, Elmyra and the Brain), Aka Pella in Histeria!, Dulcy the dragon in Sonic the Hedgehog, and Cleo the poodle in Clifford the Big Red Dog (2000-2003). Among her more recent roles are Susie Carmichael in All Grown Up! (itself a role carried over from Rugrats), and the Lincoln sisters Abby/Numbuh 5 and Teen Ninja Cree (formerly Numbuh 11) in Codename: Kids Next Door. In 2001, she did the voice of Princess 'Kida' Kidagakash for Disney's Atlantis: The Lost Empire. She also does voices in M&M's advertisements as the voice of the female green M&M.
Summer has also ventured into the realm of music. 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 promotionally 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 the solo album Street Faerie produced by and featuring guest artist (and friend) Lenny Kravitz, the album was not hugely successful. Summer toured as Kravitz's opening act, but her label dropped her and a planned spot with Lilith Fair was cancelled. The label continued to promote it, however, sending out a four-track sampler to radio and issuing remix singles of the track "Revelation Sunshine" in Australia and Europe.