I closed my eyes when Jim Cummings sat down and spoke about Disney’s latest live action film, Christopher Robin. I immediately envisioned Winnie the Pooh. This experience was surreal and emotional. Jim has voiced Winnie the Pooh since 1988 after voice actor Hal Smith. The famous bear’s iconic voice definitely takes me back to my childhood and of simpler days.
My daughter and I had the honor of meeting and talking with Jim along with a few other writers. Jim occasionally broke into poor bear’s delightful voice and his other characters. Jim is sweet, down to earth and has Pooh-like qualities about him. He was joyful, gracious and it’s obvious that he loves what he does. Cummings has a long list of voice credits including Sonic the Hedgehog, the Tasmanian Devil and Pooh’s buddy Tigger. My daughter asked him what other character he liked besides Pooh and Tigger. His response was Eeyore! He feels that Eeyore has great lines. He liked Eeyore so much that at one point he even auditioned to voice him.
Not only does Jim voice Pooh, but he also voices Pooh’s bouncy friend Tigger. He officially took over for Paul Winchell after Paul suffered a stroke. Paul told Jim that, “I want you to take care of my little buddy for me.” Jim agreed and has voiced Tigger ever since.
Here are highlights from the interview:
When did Jim know he had a knack for voices?
“I was the annoying kid in the back of the class. I was always in plays and things. I always thought at 12 years old that I didn’t want to be the Prince, I wanted to be the Ogre or the Wizard. I’d always do bad impressions of my relatives much to the joy of my other relatives, who thought I was doing a bad impression of them. Then it wasn’t so funny.”
What is your favorite phrase from Pooh or Tigger?
“‘You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem and smarter than you think.’ It’s positive, just a positive bringing thing. And I do like the one that people say, ‘Nothing is impossible.’”
Did it feel very different playing Pooh and Tigger in “Christopher Robin” versus his other Winnie the Pooh projects?
“We pulled it back a little bit, a little less animated, a little less bodacious not in Tigger’s case necessarily. He’s still pretty bouncy. But Pooh is a little more centered. A little bit laid back. People ask for a difference. That’s really the only one cause you want him to still be Pooh.”
Were you happy about the script when you read it? Was there anything that you wanted to change?
“No, I actually do ad lib a lot but no, I thought it was great. I just think the idea is so cool, Christopher grows up and they kept it right in the timeline, from the ’20s to the ’40s. He would have grown up, and he would have gone to war then would have come back just like all that stuff that happens. It was kind of genius I think, you know. Then he becomes jaded a bit and loses touch with his childhood memories and even his family. Pooh slowly works his way back into his life and very suddenly, yanks him right back to where he needed to be under the wood.
CHRISTOPHER ROBIN IS IN THEATERS FRIDAY AUGUST 3!