Jim Cummings has been voicing both Winnie the Pooh and Tigger for almost 30 years! He was the most fun of our Christopher Robin interviews as he would alternatingly do various voices from his vast repertoire, from Winnie the Pooh, to Tigger, to Darkwing Duck!
In Disney’s heartwarming live action adventure, the young boy who shared countless adventures with his stuffed animal friends in the Hundred Acre Wood has grown up and lost sight of what’s important in life. Now it is up to his childhood friends to venture into our world and help Christopher Robin rediscover the joys of family life, the value of friendship and to appreciate the simple pleasure in life once again.
Jim had his work cut out for himself, voicing the calm and Zen-like Pooh, and also voicing the exuberant and bouncy Tigger. Just sitting and listening to the skill this man has with voices was mesmerizing for all of us in the room, we could have listened to him for hours just reading scripts of animated characters!
So how did it all start? Jim shared that he remembers playing monopoly and practicing voices from the Pooh universe, he had seen the earliest television shows with these characters when he was growing up in the 1960’s. The ground work for his voice work was laid out at an early age. It was also interesting to hear him describe how he creates a new voice for a role, he described it as a sculpting process:
“the new ones like I don’t know, Dark Wing Duck maybe you work with the animators, with the producer, with the writers who sometimes know what they’re talking about. And, so, it, you know, it’s a sculpting process, it’s kind of like audio sculpting, it’s like a sculpture you can hear. Dark Wing for example wasn’t the biggest guy in the world but he wasn’t tiny, he wasn’t a mouse. You know, they wanted him to be fairly bodacious and boisterous but not over the top like you know, he wasn’t goofy.”
It is a collaborative effort until the right voice is achieved! In the case of Winnie the Pooh, Jim replaced Hal Smith as the voice of Winnie-the-Pooh in 1988 (Smith had taken over the role from longtime actor Sterling Holloway in 1981), so the sculpting had already been done and it was up to Jim to imitate it properly, which he has done successfully for thirty years!
We also discussed Winnie the Pooh because he is such a wonderful character and Jim loves being associated with him:
“I think almost no matter how old you are, there’s a certain feeling of, it’s a pipeline to you at five. You know, or eight years old, it just seems like, ‘oh gosh, that reminds me of when I was,’ you know, and then you’re going, ‘oh, that’s, boy those were good times, oh say something again.’ You know, and it, it’s just a comfort. I think it’s like audio comfort, you know.”
Audio comfort. That is one of the feelings you will have when you are in the Christopher Robin audience listening to Pooh and Tigger as voiced by Jim. A remembrance of a quieter, less stressful time, when we were kids and only had to worry about who we would meet up with in the playground!
Jim also had some great insights into the Pooh character. I loved his comparison of Pooh to the Peter Sellers role in “Being There.” This character was in the eye of the storm and never knew it. He just kept going forward and he was calm and serene. Like Pooh. Which I could see Jim voicing in his sleep, he is the expert!
I thoroughly enjoyed Jim’s description of how he comes up with voices for new characters:
-successful imitation of a famous person is cool and
-an unsuccessful imitation of a super famous person = new character
-a successful impression of a non-famous person (mailman, etc.) = new character
Jim did share that he would mimic his Aunt Grace who had a gruff voice (he said she sounded like a boxer!), and he would get scolded, and say but she sounds like that, and people would laugh, and then he would get scolded again!
Lastly, we really wanted to know how Jim was able to bounce between voices without making a mistake, and since we were talking to an expert in the field, he gave a simple answer explaining that for him, voicing Pooh and Tigger, was like singing two different songs, Olde Langsyne and Silent Night. That makes perfect sense to me, but I am sure I could not expertly keep the voices separated the way Jim Cummings can!
For more information visit: Christopher Robin!
And here is a little extra:
And of course, our group picture:
Interview pictures courtesy of Louise of MomStart.com.