In honor of the upcoming Christopher Robin Blu-Ray release, we had the honor of sitting down with the voice of the heart of the film, Jim Cummings. Jim Cummings has been doing the voice of Winnie the Pooh and of Tigger since the late ‘80s. It was such a treat to see him effortlessly transition between his normal voice, that of Pooh and Tigger, and a slew of other characters he’s given life to over his long, successful career in voice acting.
Jim Cummings Interview — Winnie the Pooh & Tigger in Christopher Robin
Jim Cummings is a character all on his own. He was so much fun to chat with and you could tell he really enjoys what he does as a voice actor. He’s also crazy talented! As he spoke, Cummings would add voices and impressions all over the place. It was a riot! So, let’s get into a few highlights from the interview, shall we?
What did you think of the storyline for Christopher Robin?
I thought it was a great idea, you know. What if Christopher Robin grew up and turned into a person and got stuck working like the rest of us… It was just so magical. Pooh and the gang went out there and kinda saved him. Kind of returned the favor after all those waterfalls that he saved us from.
The recording process was a little different than it was for animated films. Cummings said he recorded everything in one day in London. This gave the actors something to react off and, later, they went back and re-recorded some lines.
Then we did it again. We re-looped it again and changed a lot of lines. You’d be surprised at how different it was from the very, very first initial recording. But we did that then rewound and did Tigger. It was a bit of a process. There was more looping (he never defined what this was) than in anything else I’ve ever done but it worked.
When did you first know that you could do voices?
I started off as a really annoying child. So, it was probably very early on… I was always that kid. And when I was a kid, I, I enjoyed being in plays. But, I would want to be the ogre or the hermit or the weirdo or the wizard instead of the little prince. So, I was probably unknowingly doing research for this now. Guys like me, we’re all just character actors really. We’re just doing characters, and that’s kind of what they sound like.
Of all the Disney characters you’ve ever done, which one do you relate to the most, and why?
Probably Tigger. Darkwing Duck maybe. I like Hondo Ohnaka from Star Wars Clone Wars. That didn’t used to be Disney but it’s a Disney character now. It doesn’t look good in mouse years but it’s a Disney character. And, honestly, Ray from Princess and the Frog is one of my favorites all-time. I guess I have like five. It’s like which of your five kids are your favorite? Well, all five. But, there are more. I always joke I’m Winnie the Pooh and the anti-Pooh because I’m Tasmanian Devil, too. No relation to Pooh, not in the 100 acre wood. He would just eat it.
When you’re recording for the film, do you all do of Pooh’s lines first and then Tigger’s? Or, if they’re having a conversation, do you go back and forth?
I’ve been Pooh since ‘87 and Tigger since maybe ‘89 or ‘90. We used to. Back then I would go back and forth. But, I just wanted to maintain a little more integrity. It’s really not that big a deal.We’d have to do it that if there were two separate actors doing it anyway because you can’t overlap. We’re schizophrenic and so are we. So, it works out. Just do all of Pooh and then all of Tigger. Tigger, [Tigger voice] he’s a little more raspier. He’s got a little hoarse in there. So you understand my position. I’m sure.
What’s your favorite quote for Pooh and Tigger?
I got a kick out of, “People say nothing is impossible but I do nothing every day.” I get a kick out of that one. There’s so many. He’s sort of like a zen philosopher.
How do you care for your voice?
When you go to a football game or a concert or something, I’m not the guy going, “YEAH!!!” That’s not me because it’s an instrument. If I was a baseball pitcher, I would be protecting this arm. I’ve been a singer my whole life since I was 13, been in bands and sang. I guess you get a little strength in there. But I’ve never smoked a cigarette yet… So, I imagine that helps. Because I’m so pure. Okay, no.
What was the favorite thing that you added to the movie?
In the See and Say game, say what you see game, going and looking out the window. It was all “dog, cat, barn” and I threw in, [Pooh voice] “I don’t know what that is.”
Jim Cummings Interview — Voice Acting Advice & Career
What advice do you have for young voice actors?
I always say if you do a perfect impression of somebody everybody knows. That’s good. Hold on to that. You never know and could use it. If you do an absolutely terrible impression of someone that everybody knows but they have no idea who it is, that’s a new character. If you do a perfect impression of your mailman or a librarian or something that nobody knows, that’s a new character.
Then you kinda mix them up and now he’s from France or from Germany. You just mix and match. I used to do, and still do, impressions of my aunts and uncles, some who are departed, and teachers. They loved that, by the way, the teachers can’t get enough that. So don’t tell them that. But, that’s kinda the way I did it. Be in a lotta plays and challenge yourself.
He would also read to his daughter’s when they were young. He would do so in character but said it wasn’t the best idea before bed because, then, they’re all ready to go.
I was sitting there reading The Three Little Pigs story to Olivia (one of his daughters) and I’m going, [all in character voices] “Little pig, little pig, let me come in.” “Not by the hair of my chinny chin chin.”
She said, “Yeah, Daddy, will you just read it? It’s really late.” You little weasel, I will. But these voices are gonna put you through college so you be grateful.
What’s your favorite memory since you’ve been doing this?
Ahh, boy, I can’t tell some of these stories. I’ll cry. I’ve called a lot of kids who were sick. The moms will get you. I can get through it with the child but then she gets on the phone and he hasn’t talked, he hasn’t cried. He’s only cried for years and years and now he’s laughing. So there are a lot of those.
He also recounted the experience of meeting an 11-year-old boy he met in Washington. The boy used to sit and watch Disney Afternoon and could pick out Cummings’ voice each time. So, the boy’s therapist suggested that he meet Cummings. After meeting him, the boy asked him to do various impressions of obscure characters from different shows for over 45 minutes straight. When Cummings talked to the parents, the mom couldn’t stop crying. The boy never spoke this much and actually stopped talking when he was three years old. He was now 11. Wow!
As you can tell, it was a fantastic interview! Here’s a bit more about Jim Cummings and his work over the years. I’m sure you’ll recognize many of these characters and will be surprised by just how often you heard his voice during your childhood. I know I was! If you Google the full list of which voices were credited to him, it’ll blow your mind!
During his illustrious career, he has worked extensively for Walt Disney Studios, voicing classic characters such as Winnie the Pooh, Tigger, King Louis, Kaa the Snake, Pete and many others. His many other classic credits include “Darkwing Duck”; “Bonkers”; Fat Cat and Monterey Jack on “Chip ‘n Dale: Rescue Rangers”; Don Karnage on “Tail Spin”; and too many others to mention here.
Not limited to the small screen, Cummings has acted in many blockbuster feature films for DreamWorks, including “Shrek,” “Antz,” “Kung Fu Panda: Secrets of the Furious Five,” “Hook,” “Bee Movie,” “Balto” and more. His credits read like a top list of animated and live-action films, including “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,” “The Princess and the Frog” and “Gnomeo & Juliet,” to name a few. He has been Emmy®-nominated five times over, as well as had five nominations for the prestigious Annie Awards.
Christopher Robin will be on Digital and Blu-ray November 6, 2018
- https://twitter.com/disneystudios (#ChristopherRobin)
I was invited on an all-expense paid media trip as a guest of Disney in honor of the Nutcracker and the Four Realms movie. All opinions are my own.