Comic Book: The Movie Spotlight (January 29, 2004)

Comic Book: The Movie Spotlight
Hanging with Cummings, Kenny and Hamill.
by Sketch Longwood

January 29, 2004 – I haven’t covered much for IGN since I got lambasted for giving a semi-positive review for Amy Heckerling’s Loser, did a nervous streaming media interview with Wesley Snipes for The Art of War and had my interview with Christopher Guest for Best in Show re-written by a zealous editor who had just seen Hannibal and filled the article with several references to man-eating pigs. [Editor’s Note: That was several years ago and the editor in question is no longer with IGN.]

But then IGN FilmForce interviewer Kenneth Plume called and offered an interview opportunity that took place at a party for the movie given at the Playboy Mansion and suddenly, I was back on the case for IGN. The movie, a pseudo-documentary directed by and starring Mark Hamill, comes out this week on DVD. At the Playboy Mansion, I had the opportunity to chat with a couple of the voice actors-turned-onscreen actors who participated in the film – Jim Cummings and Tom Kenny – and then Hamill himself.

The first person I chatted with (over the noise of the wild party and the various surrounding screens showing clips from the movie) was Jim Cummings, first known to me and many other luddites as the hyena in Lion King who wasn’t Cheech Marin or Whoopi Goldberg, but then once you know his name, you see him show up in the credits of just about every animated film (most recently: Sinbad) and TV show. He’s currently the voices of both Winnie the Pooh and Tigger the Tiger, but plays a drunken rabble-rouser in Comic Book: The Movie.

IGNFF: We were recently shuttled through DreamWorks Animation on a tour and everywhere we went, it was like, “Jim Cummings is in this, right?”

CUMMINGS: (laughs) I wish. I wish I was in all of them!

IGNFF: I haven’t seen Comic Book, so who are you in the movie?

CUMMINGS: Honestly, I think my buddies invited me to be in this movie because they thought it would be really fun to have Jim Cummings – voice of Winnie the Pooh – be this really loud, obnoxious drunk at a party. Completely wrong, un-typecasting. So, here I am! And I’m not drunk, but I am at a party. It was great. It was a lot of fun. No script, which is good for me because I never really say the lines the way they’re written anyway. The writers either love that or hate that – knock on wood – so far, so good. They keep hiring me back.

IGNFF: In a movie like this, are you even allowed to say, for instance, Winnie the Pooh as Disney is so litigious and there are so many copyright lawsuits always flying around?

CUMMINGS: Oh, well, with me – it’s not like I was playing myself. So, it didn’t come up. I’m on safe ground. It’s just “Jim Cummings the actor” not representative of…I’m safe.

IGNFF: With so many voices in your repertoire, why did they latch specifically onto it being funny to have Winnie the Pooh being a raging drunk?

CUMMINGS: I don’t know that they did, but they did, so I’m here. Mark’s a friend, Roger’s a friend, Jess, Billy, Tom. “Hey, we’ve got a party scene. Want to be in a party scene? Oh…you can be a drunk! You want to be a drunk guy? Great!” Is there a script? “No.” Perfect! I’m there.

IGNFF: Where was the party scene filmed?

CUMMINGS: The party scene was filmed at Jess Parnell’s house supposedly “in San Diego” after the Comic-Con. So, all will be revealed in due time!

IGNFF: When did you start doing Winnie the Pooh officially?


IGNFF: As it’s such an iconic character, did they tell you how close you had to stay to the original or was there any flexibility at all?

CUMMINGS: You have to be right on. That’s the whole idea. Sterling Holloway was the original, though he’s no longer with us. He was the greatest and I’m just the latest. Paul Winchell was the original Tigger – I’m Tigger, too.

We broke up the interview for a moment as I had just remarked off-hand that my little nephew loved Tigger and, spontaneously, Cummings offered to record a message on my tape recorder as Tigger for him, using his name and everything. I accepted, Cummings went into Tigger-mode and I later played said message onto my sister’s answering machine. To this day, my little 5-year-old nephew will say, “Remember when Tigger called me???”