Voice actor fan favorite Jim Cummings is interviewed by his Youngstown, OH hometown newspaper The Vindicator on growing up in Youngstown, working in New Orleans, and how he got into voice acting:
– First gig as a performer (singer and drummer) was at the age of 13 for a junior high dance at Our Lady of Mount Carmel, and he also acted in plays while in high school.
– He worked in a steel mill:
Like many Youngstowners, Cummings’ first post-high school job — he has never attended college — was in a steel mill.
He soon realized that it wasn’t something he wanted to do for the rest of his life.
“I worked for Sheet and Tube at Brier Hill for six months, then I moved over to the coke plant in Campbell,” he said. “One day I was walking home from work at about 3 o’clock in the morning and it was about 15 below. Snow was up to my thighs and the wind was blowing. I heard a voice from God say to me [using his deepest voice from the heavens], ‘What do you want me to do?’”
Luckily, Cummings didn’t have to think of an answer. A friend soon told him he was going to Mardi Gras in New Orleans. “I went with him and I never came back,” said Cummings. He was 19.
– After moving to New Orleans, for work “he sang in a band, worked as a riverboat deckhand and also designed Mardi Gras parade floats.”
– First voice acting job was in 1984 as the voice of Lionel the Lion in Disney’s Dumbo’s Circus TV show.
– Although Jim never had the chance to meet Mel Blanc, in 1984 at the age of 76 Mel said after hearing Jim’s demo tape, “Tell the kid he’s got it.”
– Of all the characters Jim voices, he said he prefers the villains: “I like the bad guys because they’re closer to my personality. Even as a kid I’d rather be the old wizard than the prince. It always seemed liked they had more fun.”
– On the source of his vocal inspirations:
He credits his hometown for providing ideas which he’s incorporated into his work.
“Youngstown had so many characters,” said Cummings. “Neighbors, aunts and uncles have all shown up in my characters over the years. You know, a bad enough impression of somebody can be a whole new character.”
His ad libbing while in character also is valued. “At this point I’m usually hired because I do bring more than what’s written on the page,” he said.
Previous news: 6.21.2009 — Jim Cummings Presents Braille Challenge Awards