As seen on screen: New life for ‘Lion King’ (September, 16th 2011)

by Madeleine Marr

Get out your glasses. The Lion King is rearing its hairy head again, in 3D, this time. The animated classic will be out in theaters Friday and then in Disney Blu-ray Hi-Def and Blu-ray 3D Oct. 4.

Voice actor extraordinaire Jim Cummings ( Princess & the Frog, Winnie the Pooh, Aladdin), who plays villainous hyena Ed, loves talking about his crazy character.

“You know, I just have no idea why when they thought of a raging, semi homicidal lunatic they thought of me,’’ Cummings says by phone from L.A.
Cummings worked extensively with Lion King director Rob Minkoff back in 1994.

“We had a great time figuring Ed out,’’ says Cummings. “At first we thought he was going to be a running sight gag because there’s certainly no dialogue.”

Minkoff told the actor to write down everything that he thought a hyena would feel: hunger, confusion, bloodlust, nervousness.

“Then when I said, ‘OK,’ he said, ‘Now do all of these things, but with laughter.’ ”

The Ohio native, 58, is pleased The Lion King getting a new life in 3D.

“It is what it is: an absolute classic,’’ he says. “It doesn’t need skateboards or giant robots. It’s a story of triumph, good vs. evil. When you throw in the animation and the beautiful music, well, it’s a movie for the ages.”

Of all the voices Cummings has done, he has a soft spot for Winnie the Pooh and Tigger. He just portrayed both characters in the most recent Pooh movie, which was out in theaters this summer.

“They come from this great, sweet, literary tradition,’’ he says of the AA Milne classic. “I feel like I’m the torchbearer. I’m very honored to help make fresh Pooh fans all the time.’’

His four daughters definitely appreciate him: “They think all kids have fathers who are crazy cartoon characters.”

Cummings is well aware that many people don’t know his face.

“I’m fun at drive-throughs,’’ he says, in the middle of a mean Michael Caine impression. “I record on at least three answering machines a week for friends. An occupational hazard.”