The July 3rd edition of The Washington Times interviews prolific cartoon voice actor Jim Cummings, calling him “The Stealth Celebrity.” Here are some highlights:
– On how he got into voice acting:
“You start by getting kicked out of class a lot when you’re in grade school. You’re back there doing dolphin noises in the back of the room,” he says. “Sister Mary Agnes knows who that is. Next thing you know, you’re out in the hall.”
He loved cartoons as a child. “I was the guy watching and thinking to myself, ‘This Mel Blanc guy sounds like he’s having a pretty good time. It usually gets me in trouble when I act like that,’ ” he says. “I always knew as a kid I’d be doing something like that. I knew I wouldn’t have a time clock in my future.”
– On being a musician and singer:
I jokingly refer to myself as a stunt singer,” he says. “A lot of great actors don’t sing, and I’m a pretty good singer and a pretty good mimic, and I put those two together and sing in character for them.” He’s sung for Ed Asner, Danny DeVito and Christopher Lloyd. When Jeremy Irons’ voice gave out while recording “The Lion King,” Mr. Cummings filled in for him — seamlessly.
He gets to combine his love of music and acting again in “The Princess and the Frog.” It sounds as if the Cajun character Ray was pretty easy for Mr. Cummings to create, having lived in New Orleans for most of the 1970s.
“Randy Newman, the poet laureate of New Orleans, he’s doing the music. It’s set in the jazz age. It’s so up my alley, I can’t even begin to tell you. I’m a jazz guy,” he says. “I’ve been singing my whole life. You combine that with Cajun culture, my favorite city, the first African-American princess in a Disney movie ….” He really knew he had to get the part, though, when he realized his children would be watching the DVD for years to come. He reportedly beat Harry Connick Jr. for the role.
– On celebrities as cartoon voice actors:
“A lot of big-time celebrity movie stars are throwing their hats into the ring, that’s for sure,” he says. Case in point: Three of the five nominees in his Daytime Emmy category are Hollywood heavies — Amy Poehler, Joan Rivers and Vanessa Williams. Mr. Cummings has a simple solution to the problem plaguing him and his colleagues. “I’ll make a deal with Tom Cruise and Brad Pitt. If they don’t do any cartoons, I promise I won’t be the lead in any blockbuster films. Is that too much to ask for?”
Previous news: 6.28.2009 — Jim Cummings Interviewed.