Toon Zone has published my interview with cartoon voice acting legend Jim Cummings, originally conducted by phone July 28th just prior to the August 4th DVD release of The Tigger Movie 10th Anniversary Edition.
In this candid and extensive interview, Jim discusses The Tigger Movie; his process for performing voice matches/sound-alikes; his role as Ray the firefly in Disney’s The Princess and the Frog (and the controversies surrounding the film); his Daytime Emmy nomination; Sterling Holloway (Pooh’s original voice); Phil Harris (Disney’s Jungle Book, Robin Hood); his cameo in the live-action Comic Book: The Movie; and the infamous “Carol Channing Story.”
I’m also pleased to announce that Jim’s full audio from this interview will be available here exclusively in the near future.
And to my fellow Jim Cummings fans out there — especially those reading this by way of Toon Zone, Jim’s Facebook fanpage (hosted by Hillary DePiano, webmaster of The Cult of Cummings), The Voiceover Bulletin Board, and The Acorn Cafe — if you’re curious to know how it was to get the chance to chat with Jim on the phone…
Well, words like “thrilled,” “excited,” and “beyond ecstatic” come to mind. I lost count how many different character voices did during the course of the interview (which you’ll hear in the audio later), so it was like getting a private, one-man show (which others will be able to enjoy later when the audio is posted).
I should mention that this interview was booked on very short notice, giving me very little prep time. But I’m very grateful and appreciative to Ed at Toon Zone for passing the opportunity along to me.
Initially, it was scheduled to be only a 10-minute interview. However, Dustin Sandoval of Click Communications graciously honored my request to extend my interview to 20 minutes, and then my Disney contact permitted it to run a full 30 minutes. Otherwise, I would have never had time to cover the core topics I hoped to address.
Here’s an excerpt from my original interview, omitted from the published version at Toon Zone because it was a dated question about the status of Jim’s official website: JimJCummings.com. Up until the time of the interview, his site had been down for quite some time, so I asked him when it might return. And unfortunately, my audio recording software glitched during part of his response and thus made it un-transcribable (if that’s a word). So to summarize, Jim explained his site had been down due to switching servers, although he didn’t quite know how to express it that way. He explained thusly:
I have to be honest with you. I’m still a bit of a “Luddite” – I think I topped out at VCRs. (laughs) I’m part Amish. I kind of put the site up [in 2007] in the original form and it’s kind of stayed there ever since. It’s been fun [to make] for people. What can I say…my mom likes it.
Jim also assured me that it would be back for good after it relaunched, which as you can now see is back — probably happened sometime in early August due to the release of The Tigger Movie and other interviews Jim did concerning his Daytime Emmy nomination.
Another excerpt you won’t hear in the final version of the published audio is my confession to Jim that I went — by myself — to see The Tigger Movie when it first premiered in February 2000, simply because Jim was involved in the movie.
In 2000, I was almost 30 years old and single with no kids. So for me to be sitting — by myself — in a theater with parents and kids just to hear Jim’s performance… well, that’s true fan devotion for you. (Although I’m sure parents in the audience who saw me by myself, watching a kids movie, thought I was some kind of creepy, weirdo geek.)
But Jim seemed flattered that I had done this, and said that it was nothing to be ashamed of.
Moving onto the reason the interview was scheduled in the first place — The Tigger Movie 10th Anniversary Edition DVD…
In spite of the film’s flaws and young target demographic, it’s an entertaining film on the merits of the traditional animation, the musical numbers composed by the legendary Sherman Brothers, and the great character voice performances, including:
– Jim Cummings skillfully performing both Tigger and Pooh (who also sings as both characters in the film)
– Ken Sansom as Rabbit
– John Fiedler as Piglet
– Peter Cullen as Eeyore
– Andre Stojka as Owl
– Nikita Hopkins as Roo
– Kath Soucie as Kanga
– Tom Attenborough as Christopher Robin
– John Hurt as the Narrator
It’s also visually appealing as the animators were able to recreate the animation style from the original Winnie the Pooh cartoons. And for those of you with younger children, it’s a lighthearted, fun family film (the DVD press release Disney provided states that the previous DVD release of the movie “is the best-selling pre-school DVD of all time” according to a 2008 Nielsen report).
And two previously-unreleased to DVD vintage Pooh cartoons are included as bonus features: “King the of Beasties” and “Tigger’s Houseguest” from The New Adventures of Winnie The Pooh (1988), which features (besides the aforementioned cast who reprise their roles in The Tigger Movie) Paul Winchell as Tigger, Hal Smith as Owl, Michael Gough as Gopher, and Tim Hoskins as Christopher Robin.
Other features include a bonus digital copy of the movie (for Macs, PCs, portable digital devices), “Your Heart Will Lead You Home” Kenny Loggins music video, and for the kiddies: “Round My Family Tree” sing-along, Movie DVD Storybook, and interactive trivia and matching games. The trivia game is actually worth noting because, as Toon Zone’s Ed Liu says in his review, “correctly answering all the questions unlocks a pleasant, brief video on the history of Winnie the Pooh as a liteary figure and a Disney character.”
Unfortunately, Jim was not asked to record any new materials for this DVD release, as he stated in my interview.
I mentioned Jim’s role in Comic Book The Movie earlier — I’m actually planning a feature on CBTM since 2009 marks the 5th anniversary since the movie was released. I covered CBTM extensively for Toon Zone back in 2003 (here’s the archive of the original feature article). And then after the movie released on DVD January 27, 2004, I still had some additional materials related to the movie which I wasn’t able to publish due to lack of internet access.
I need some time to finish compiling data and recovering files and photos from an old hard drive, so this feature will be published sometime in November. I also hope to have some follow-up interviews with CBTM’s cast and crew to coincide with the article.
In the meantime, here are a few photos from the CBTM panel Mark Hamill hosted at the 2003 San Diego Comic-Con — easily one of the most entertaining con panels I have ever attended:
And finally, Disney also provided a bio on Jim, added here for archival purposes:
“Tell the kid he’s got it,” said the legendary Mel Blanc with a smile, after listening to a young man’s first demo tape of cartoon character voices. The year was 1984, “the kid,” was Jim Cummings. Since then, “the kid” has gone on to give life and voice to some of America’s most beloved animated characters, even a few of the late Mel Blanc’s, and in May, Cummings was nominated for a Daytime Emmy Award for his work as the lovable Tigger on Disney Channel’s “My Friends Tigger and Pooh,” in which he also voices everyone’s favorite bear, Winnie the Pooh.
Born and raised in Youngstown Ohio, Cummings spent Saturday mornings riveted to the TV screen as he mimicked the characters in his favorite cartoons, all the while dreaming that one day he would voice them himself. At age 19, he moved to New Orleans, where he performed as a drummer, a singer, a deck hand on riverboats, and even designed and created Mardi Gras floats, all the while absorbing the rich characters and accents that would some day find expression in animation.
Years later, Cummings relocated to Southern California and managed a video store as he pursued his childhood dream. He gave his first demo tape to a customer who was also a movie producer, and the rest, as they say, is history. In 1984, Cummings landed his first role as Lionel the Lion, in Disney Channel’s “Dumbo’s Circus.” During his illustrious career, he has worked extensively for the Walt Disney Studios voicing classic characters such as Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, King Louis, Kaa the Snake, Pete (formerly peg-legged Pete), and more. His many other Disney credits include Darkwing Duck, Bonkers, Fat Cat, and Monterey Jack on “Chip ’n Dale: Rescue Rangers,” Don Karnage on “Talespin,” and too many others to mention here.
Cummings has done scores of voices for Warner Bros. as well, including Taz the Tasmanian Devil himself, Steven Spielberg’s “Animaniacs,” “Tiny Toon Adventures,” “Batman,” “Pinky and the Brain,” “Taz-Mania,” “Duck Dodgers,” and more. Other credits include “King of the Hill,” “Bump in the Night,” “Adventures of Jimmy Neutron: Boy Genius,” “The Replacements,” “The Addams Family,” “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” “Star Wars Clone Wars,” “The Simpsons,” “Barnyard,” and “Catdog.” He was also “AC,” the lead singer of the famed claymation “California Raisins” cartoon series.
Not limited to the small screen, Cummings has acted in several blockbuster feature films for Dreamworks including “Shrek,” “Antz,” “Kung Fu Panda’s Furious 5,” “Hook,” “The Bee Movie,” “Balto,” and more. His credits read like a top-list of animated and live-action films. Credits include “Who Framed Roger Rabbit,” “The Little Mermaid,” “Aladdin,” “Tarzan,” “Pocahontas,” “The Lion King,” “Babe: Pig in the City,” “The Hunchback of Notre Dame,” “Brother Bear 2,” to name a few.
Cummings’ uncanny ability to sing in character and voice match for stars who are, in his words, “great actors, just not great singers,” has led to many platinum and gold records for soundtracks like “Anastasia,” “The Lion King,” “Fox and the Hound 2,” “Pocahontas,” “Hercules,” and more.
His most recent musical turn will be as Ray, the Cajun firefly, in Disney Studio’s feature, “The Princess and the Frog,” due in theaters Christmas 2009 with Oscar-winner Randy Newman as composer. Cummings’ work in voice over includes hundred of television and radio commercials, movie trailers, promos, and videogames. “Pretty much anything involving microphones, music, noise in general, and padded walls,” jokes the affable actor, and “remember, only you can prevent forest fires,” so says Smokey the Bear, aka, Jim Cummings. No matter how busy Cummings’ schedule may be, it all stops when Famous Fone Friends or the Make-A-Wish Foundation call on behalf of a very ill child and distraught family in need of a phone call from their favorite cartoon character. “Just bringing a respite, however brief, and perhaps a smile and giggle or two means so much to the child and their families. I consider it a true blessing to be able to do that.”
Cummings is a proud father of four and resides somewhere in Southern California with his wife Stephanie, their beautiful daughters Grace, Lulu Rose, and their critters.
I’d like to offer a special thanks to Jim for his time and participation in the interview (it was indeed an honor and a privilege), as well as Dustin Sandoval (Click Communications) and Alexis with Disney PR for helping to set the interview up.
Related post: 8.27.2009 — ‘Rescue Rangers’ Voice Cast Featured in Vintage Video Clip