When we received our interview list for Christopher Robin, I just about squealed when I saw Jim Cummings was listed. To be able to be part of an exclusive interview with Jim Cummings, THE voice of Winnie The Pooh, Tigger, Darkwing Duck and Hondo Ohnaka from Star Wars: Clone Wars and Star Wars Rebels just about did me in.
The Voice Of Winnie The Pooh
Before Jim entered the room, he gave us a taste of that iconic Winnie The Pooh voice. We all melted as we felt the 5 year old in each of us scream with delight. When asked how Jim comes up with the voices he’s created himself, and perfects the voices he’s inherited (like Winnie The Pooh and Tigger), he says is all about sculpting.
“I always think of it as sculpting. Pooh and Tigger were established a long, long time ago,so those you just nail. It has to sound like him and from there you’re a character actor, so you’re playing the character. “
“But, the new ones like Darkwing Duck, you work with the animators, the producer, the writers. It’s a sculpting process, it’s kind of like audio sculpting, It’s like a sculpture you can hear.”
New Generation of Winnie The Pooh Fans
Jim jokes that a new generation of Winnie The Pooh fans pops up ever 3 years (ha!), but that it’s such a positive experience to see the looks on little kids’ faces when he speaks to them in the voice that warms every heart.
“It’s an honor, a privilege to bring (Winnie The Pooh and Tigger) forward to new generations. I’ve jokingly said, ‘a new Winnie the Pooh generation is every three and a half years, because there’s a brand new set of Pooh fans.’ It’s joyous. One of the best things about my job is when I’ll do a voice for a little child and then they realize, ‘wow, he doesn’t really look like Winnie the Pooh.’”
Preserving His Voice
Jim voices so many characters we know and love, so I was curious as to how he preserves his voice. I was sure he must do daily exercises, drink some kind of magical concoction, or had a fun ritual to take care of his asset of a voice. He shared a very simple answer.
“Well, I enjoy staying alive, you know. It’s a big plus, right off the bat here. I never smoked a cigarette yet, and I don’t drink whiskey. So, I got a great voice.”
“I just don’t abuse it. I’ll go to a football game or a concert, and I’m not yelling; that’s not me, there are people for that. It’s an instrument, you know. So, I take care of myself.”
Advice For Future Voice Actors
When asked if he had advice for anyone who may want to follow in his footsteps, Jim gave some key advice about impersonations and the secret to creating new characters.
“If you do a perfect impression of somebody everybody knows, that’s cool. If you do an impression of somebody super famous that everybody knows, and don’t sound anything like him, that’s a new character. And, if you do a perfect impression of somebody nobody knows, your mailman or someone, that’s a new character.”
“We’re just character actors that you don’t see. It is a voice, and I get the idea of saying ‘voice actor’, but really, it’s a character and that’s how they sound when they talk. So, I think there’s a mindset there that can be used.”
It was such a pleasure to be part of this interview. Jim Cummings is just as animated, lively and lovely as you can imagine.