‘Voices of Character’ Event in Beverly Hills

07.28.2010

The Samuel Goldwyn Theater in Beverly Hills, CA will be hosting a unique event on August 19, 2010: The Marc Davis Celebration of Animation: Voices of Character with a “panel of experts” that includes prolific cartoon voice actor Jim Cummings, the “First Lady of Cartoon Voicing” June Foray, author/voice talent Yuri Lowenthal and Russi Taylor (voice of Minnie Mouse). Also on the panel will be animation director Bob Peterson (voice of Dug in Pixar’s “Up”) and animator James Baxter as well as casting executive Rick Dempsey and animation historian Charles Solomon as panel moderator. (It seems more special guests will be announced, and we’ll provide updates as they become available.)

Here’s a description of the event from Oscars.org:

While animators have been called “actors with pencils” who toil vigorously to create the “illusion of life,” animated characters equally depend on the unique talents of voice artists to breathe life into their visual components. Vocal range and consistency, comic timing, emotional impact, character definition and song styling are just a few of the very specific choices that can make or break a coordinated effort between picture and sound. Our panel of experts will discuss how they approach their work, what they admire in the work of others, and perhaps even “sound off” on why their work isn’t nearly as appreciated as it should be.

Tickets for this event are only $5, and full details are available through the link below:

http://www.oscars.org/events-exhibitions/events/2010/voices.html

Thanks to Deirdre for the heads-up via VO-BB.com.


‘Pooh’ Feature Voice Cast Announced

11.18.2009

ProductionWeekly.com announced via Twitter that the voice cast for the Disney’s 2D-animated “Winnie The Pooh” feature film will feature Jim Cummings as Pooh and Tigger, Tom Kenny as Rabbit, and late-night talk show host Craig Ferguson as Owl.

To date, Disney still has not announced an official title for this film.

Thanks to Hillary for the heads-up via her Jim Cummings fan page on Facebook.

Related post: 9.03.2009 — The Jim Cummings Interview


The Jim Cummings Interview: Outtakes, Photos and Biography

09.03.2009

Jim Cummings in an undated publicity photo. (Photo credit: Disney PR)

Jim Cummings in an undated publicity photo. (Photo credit: Disney PR)


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:

L to R: Roger Rose, Debbie Derryberry, Donna D'Errico, Jess Harnell, Jim Cummings, Mark Hamill

L to R: Roger Rose, Debbie Derryberry, Donna D'Errico, Jess Harnell, Jim Cummings, Mark Hamill


L to R: Roger Rose, Debbie Derryberry, Jess Harnell, Billy West, Jim Cummings, Mark Hamill

L to R: Roger Rose, Debbie Derryberry, Jess Harnell, Billy West, Jim Cummings, Mark Hamill


Jim Cummings with Craig Crumpton after the 'Comic Book: The Movie' panel at SDCC 2003.

Jim Cummings with Craig Crumpton after the 'Comic Book: The Movie' panel at SDCC 2003.

And finally, Disney also provided a bio on Jim, added here for archival purposes:

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“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


‘Epic’ Voice Actors Photo Feature on Life.com

08.28.2009

Life.com has a photo feature on the individuals they have determined to be “Epic” voice actors.

The 17 names who made their list:

Mel Blanc: most of the iconic Looney Tunes characters.
Dan Castellaneta: The Simpsons, Earthworm Jim.
Alan Reed: voice of Fred Flintstone.
Seth MacFarlane: creator/producer/writer/voice actor on Family Guy, American Dad!, The Cleveland Show.
Frank Oz: voice of Jedi Master Yoda, Sesame Street characters Grover and Bert.
Matt Stone and Trey Parker: creators of South Park.
Tom Kenny: voice of SpongeBob SquarePants
Billy West: Futurama, Ren & Stimpy
Hank Azaria: The Simpsons
Nancy Cartright: The Simpsons
Russi Taylor and the late Wayne Allwine: respective voices of Minnie and Mickey Mouse.
Tony Anselmo: voice of Donald Duck
Harry Shearer: The Simpsons
Jorge Arvizu: considered to be the Hispanic equivalent of Mel Blanc.
Mark Hamill: voice of The Joker.

I had reservations about linking to this because the nitpicker in me believes this list has been mislabeled as “epic” when “iconic” would be more fitting. Also, some major talents have been omitted — no Frank Welker, Daws Butler, June Foray, Jim Cummings, or plenty of others I could mention — all very worthy of the title of “epic” when it comes to voice acting talent.

And there there are some like Parker and Stone who just don’t feel at all like they belong on such a list. They may have created iconic characters and a cult hit show, but they are so not “epic” in terms of voice talent. One reason I stopped watching the show is that they do their own voices as celebrity impressions for every stinking celebrity they spoof… and they all sound the same. It may be one of the show’s running gags, but it just grates on my ears. I’ll grant that some of their character voices like Cartman, Mr. Garrison, Butters, and Kenny are amusing, but I just don’t believe they qualify as “epic.”

Furthermore, in the photo profiles there’s a typo on Tweety’s name (“Tweet Bird”) and Mark Hamill’s last name is misspelled as “Hammill.” (That qualifies as “epic” FAIL in my book.)

And I would like to have seen more females mentioned other than just Nancy Cartright. It blows my mind that Life would neglect to include “The First Lady of Cartoon Voice Acting,” June Foray. And there are other females who would have been welcome additions to such a list: Mae Questel (Olive Oyl, Betty Boop), Janet Waldo (The Jetsons, Penelope Pitstop), Tress MacNeille (Animaniacs, Futurama), and Mary Kay Bergman (South Park, Captain Planet, Scooby Doo movie series). (And that’s just to name a few).

Now, with that off my chest, I will say that it’s nice to see the majority of these individuals featured by a publication as renowned as Life Magazine. (And photos of voice actors are always welcome.) Frankly, Mark Hamill still gets unfair media criticisms for being a so-called “has-been since Star Wars” so any time he’s recognized in the media for his incredible voice acting is okay by me (although you’d think they would’ve tried spelling his name correctly). And as far as I’m concerned, Tony Anselmo, Russi Taylor, and the late Wayne Allwine will never receive enough recognition for their work.

Finally, I was rather surprised and pleased to see Jorge Arvizu included, someone I’d been planning to feature here in the future. He really is a great character voice actor who needs to be introduced to a wider U.S. audience. Here’s a clip of him performing some of his characters in a promo for Súper Agente 86 (the Spanish version of Get Smart):

[Link credit: Voice Chasers]


‘Rescue Rangers’ Voice Cast Featured in Vintage Video Clip

08.27.2009

Here’s a video clip I’ve been meaning to share for a long while and just plain kept forgetting to.

This is a making-of documentary on Chip & Dale’s Rescue Rangers that originally aired in 1989 and features members of the cast and crew:

I have some behind-the-scenes details on this behind-the-scenes feature as well.

But first, some notes on the voice actors seen in this documentary:

Jim Cummings (seen with his 80’s mullet-ish hair) performs Pooh, Jack Nicholson, Monterey Jack, and Fat Cat.
Tress MacNeille performs Chip, Gadget, Katherine Hepburn, and Joan Rivers.
Corey Burton (incorrectly identified in the video as “Cory Burton”) performs Dale and his spot-on impressions of Gregory Peck, James Mason and Professor Ludwig von Drake.
– The late Hamilton Camp (voice of DuckTales character Fenton Crackshell/Gizmoduck) voices a supporting role from a Season 2 episode.
Carol Channing, from her guest role as Canina LeFur in the Season 2 episode “A Chorus Crime.”

Voice director Andrea Romano is also interviewed, and the video also offers a rare treat seeing Tress and Corey perform Chip and Dale’s voices before and after being sped up for their trademark chipmunky sound.

Even though I was in my late teens when this special originally aired, I had only a vague memory of seeing it. So I asked my friend Corey Burton (yes, I’m name-dropping) if he remembered when this aired and what it was from, and he said in reply:

It was an independent/Disney co-produced syndication “companion-piece” (called “Chip’n’Dale’s Excellent Adventure”; aired locally on then Disney-owned KCAL/channel 9) to promote the Rescue Rangers series, done at the start of the reorganized second season’s production run.

(The series was initially supervised and directed by a novice TV Animation writer/performer, who was later replaced by veteran pro Andrea Romano, featured in this piece, to correct for a number of increasingly costly rookie mistakes – due in part to some terribly problematic casting choices, apparently based in the well-intentioned – but “highly questionable” – traditions of charitable nepotism common to the monetarily-challenged world of Community Theatre/Stage production, where the original series director had been working just prior to assuming that brief Disney TVA Division gig.)

Fellow Corey fan Tom Wagner asked Corey how realistic the recording session was as it was portrayed in the video, and Corey replied:

The director would often be seated with us – for the rehearsal/run-through (which is seldom done anymore for an average TV cartoon session – Andrea, however, still does it all in that same classically professional manner for every show she directs, whenever studio space and time consideration allow); and after a break, we’d reassemble – with the director then working from behind the control room glass, from the engineer and producers’ vantage point. The standing lineup recording setup for that piece was “dummied” for the camera, with lines taken from a previously-produced episode (so they could intercut with existing animation); most of us sat in those chairs for the actual recording (there are always a few who insist on standing while performing – and they are perfectly welcome to, if that’s what they prefer).

And when asked if this was the “infamous” recording session with Carol Channing — a hilarious anecdote which has been oft-repeated by the cast members and in the industry, Corey says that it was indeed the one and the same:

It was because of the interview cameras, in fact, that she was outfitted with the glamorous (but uncontrollably noise-producing) apparel and bracelets that were so un-self-consciously (and hilariously) cast aside for the actual recording session, which began once the cameras left.

Corey also explains how he was originally cast as the voice for Dale:

I was brought in by Disney Character Voices as a “specialist” (before actual production began) to reformulate the chipmunk voices for “limited” TV animation: They were originally special effects “chatter”, provided by female staff from Disney Studios’ Ink & Paint Department and secretarial pool, and part-time actresses (speaking mostly gibberish); until Jimmy MacDonald voiced them for Walt’s “Wonderful World of Color” featurette (where they compete to woo “Clarisse”). Because they needed to carry legible dialog now, we determined that a less severe speed shift could still sound “chipmunk-y”, and that the characters could be better differentiated if split between male and female performers doing “Little Rascals” style boy voices. I based Dale on Alfalfa Switzer, and borrowed from what Jimmy had done previously for TV. Tress based Chip on those early staff gals’ tone, delivered “in harmony” with my take on Dale. We had an extensive experimental session, until the right speed and characterizations were found, that everyone felt would work for the series.

Incidentally, 2009 marks the 20th Anniversary of Chip and Dale’s Rescue Rangers (the series premiered on the Disney Channel March 5th, 1989), and we still have yet to see the DVD release of the remaining 14 episodes of this fan favorite animated series. If anyone from Walt Disney Home Entertainement/Buena Vista Home Video happens to be reading this, please give the fans some closure and help us complete our DVD collection and release the rest of the series on DVD and/or Blu-Ray. Or at least consider releasing a complete series box set with some actual bonus content — like the above documentary, new interviews with the cast and crew, and maybe a peek at the unreleased materials for the Rescue Rangers feature film that was originally planned for release in 1991. With it being the 20th Anniversary of the show, you’re missing out on a prime and timely opportunity to market and release a complete series box set and/or the Volume 3 release you still owe the fans. And for Pete’s sake — throw the fans a bone and include some bonus materials. The fans made your show a success — it’s the very least you can do for them in return.

I believe I originally discovered this clip thanks to Kristy via the forum on Voice Chasers. And my thanks to Corey and other fans for their responses to my posting of this clip on the official Corey message board at CoreyBurton.com.

Update: 8.30.2009 — I want to thank my fellow Rescue Ranger fans at The Acorn Cafe for their kind words about me and this article which I discovered while checking my blog traffic trackbacks.

So, just for you guys at The Acorn Cafe, here’s a photo of me and Corey Burton from July 2003 after meeting for dinner at a Greek restaurant just outside Burbank, CA when I was in town for the San Diego Comic-Con. It also happened to be my birthday, and Corey even treated me to dinner. (Best. Birthday. Ever.) Afterwards, as we were about to part ways in the parking lot I realized I’d forgotten to get a photo of us, so we went to the Kinko’s next to the restaurant and wrangled an employee to take this photo for me:

Corey Burton and Craig Crumpton pose at Kinko's in July 2003.

Corey Burton and Craig Crumpton pose at Kinko's in July 2003.


Sometimes Other People Blog About Voice Actors Too

08.21.2009

Monkey Goggles blogger Geoff Carter highlights the work of Mel Blanc, Daws Butler, Corey Burton, June Foray, Jim Cummings, Paul Frees, Frank Welker, and others. He promises a follow-up is forthcoming.

Update: 12.20.2009 — Carter fulfills his promise, as promised.

[Thanks to voice actor webmistress extraordinaire Doreen for the heads-up via Facebook.]


Catholic Review Interviews Jim Cummings

07.24.2009

Jim Cummings talks with The Catholic Review about attending Catholic schools during his childhood and his work as a voice actor. Here are some highlights:

– Jim was a “relentless mimic” from grade school through high school and was often reprimanded for it: “I’d be doing dolphin sounds in the background. Sister Mary Agnes would say, ‘We don’t allow dolphin sounds in the classroom, Mr. Cummings.”

Jim says he doesn’t hold being corrected (for what would eventually become his career) against his teachers or principals. “I have a scholarship at my old school in my dad’s name, so they don’t seem to mind me anymore.”

– While attending Ursuline High School in Youngstown, Ohio, he turned his talents into “championships for Ursuline during state and regional speech and oratory contests.”

– Among Jim’s greatest voice-over challenges he’s had to date was recording “practically every conceivable child’s name for a talking Winnie the Pooh toy. Jim says, “Esquire magazine gave it a prize for ‘most interesting name’: My Interactive Pooh.” Cummings speculates that he recorded 25,000 names for this project, causing him to accidentally answer the phone in Pooh’s voice when he returned home from recording.

– If Jim has any regret in his life, he says that it was when he was too sick to audition for The Simpsons when casting first took place 20 years ago for actors who could perform multiple voices. “Other than that one, I’m a happy camper. I don’t look back in frustration and anger,” he said. “I hope for the best, expect the worst, and take what comes.”

– Jim got his first TV role playing a “cute little kid” in a TV special called The Catholic School Story when he was in the sixth grade. Also appearing in the special as Father O’Neill was Ed O’Neill, who played Al Bundy on the sitcom Married With Children.

Click here to read the complete interview.

Previous post: 7.02.2009 — Washington Times Interviews Jim Cummings