Jim Cummings is a voice-acting legend. He’s been the voice of Winnie the Pooh on-screen since 1988, as well as playing Tigger and hundreds of other characters in iconic Disney movies like The Lion King (as Ed, the crazed hyena) and shows such as Star Wars Rebels (Hondo Ohnaka). He’s the person you hear as A.A. Milne’s ursine creation in the new CGI/live action movie Christopher Robin, which has its home entertainment release this week.
But he’s not Andy Serkis, which means he wasn’t required to go full Gollum and do motion capture as Pooh on-set, despite the new movie rendering the other most famous bear in the world Paddington-style rather than the usual 2D drawings.
“I know I’m short, but I’m not that short!” Cummings laughs when asked by Yahoo Movies if he had to wear a mo-cap suit on set.
“We would do the recording first and they’d take that and they’d animate to it and they played it on set for the actors on set to react and react with and then they CGI-ed in the character,” he continues. “Then back to the drawing board, back to the studio, so they would refine it and we changed many, many lines and the storyline kinda budged around a little bit.”
So is he saying he never met co-star Ewan McGregor during production?
“We met a lot during publicity and premieres and everything but I was never on set,” he admits.
Which might sound strange to some, but is par for the course for a voice actor like Cummings. “I’ve sung harmony with people who weren’t in the room, so yeah!” he reveals.
Cummings once again takes double duty in the McGregor-starring Christopher Robin, in which a grown-up Christopher’s childhood animal friends set out to rescue him from his midlife crisis, playing both Pooh and Tigger.
The performer’s tones have played characters as varied as an alien pirate in a galaxy far, far away and a hyena to Spider-Man villains and Transformers. His IMDB profile lists 538 different projects as an actor. But while dancers protect their pins at all costs, the actor has never insured his golden cords.
“I thought of it years and years ago. It’s really an expensive thing,” he says. “Rather than insure it, I take care. You know, I’m a fairly healthy guy and I’ve never smoked or drank, you know the whisky and cigarettes voice, whatever…that’s not me.”
But with over 500 different appearances, do voice actors ever do Easter eggs? Has, for example, Winnie the Pooh ever secretly appeared in a non-Pooh project?
“Not on my watch!” he laughs. “Well, I can say this…I do the Cheshire Cat [in video games], he sounds like Pooh, but it’s not the same. It’s in context, believe me.”
Christopher Robin is available on DVD, Blu-ray, and digital download now.
Expect it to be a high entry on the Official Film Chart this week, and find out what’s number one right now below…