He’s the voice of choice for Pooh by Louis B. Hobson (Calgary Sun, February 15, 2005)

He’s the voice of choice for Pooh
Louis B. Hobson (Calgary Sun)

February 15, 2005. Jim Cummings is acutely aware he has had some pretty big vocal cords to fill. Cummings, who is one of the most prolific voice artists for animated films, counts Pooh bear and Tigger as two of his most famous alter egos.

Pooh was originally voiced by British character actor Stanley Holloway, who was nominated for an Oscar for his 1963 performance as Alfred P. Doolittle in My Fair Lady.

Tigger was first brought to life by Paul Winchell, who was not just a voice actor, but the inventor of the first artificial heart and a battery-powered automobile.

"I don’t know whether to be more humbled by that artificial heart or Stanley’s incredible career," says Cummings, who is helping to promote Pooh’s newest big-screen adventure, Disney’s The Heffalump Movie, which opened Friday.

Cummings himself is no slouch.

He’s celebrating his 20th anniversary as a voice actor and he works almost non-stop.

Not bad, considering he didn’t get his first job until he was 31.

"I was working in a video store in Ohio. One of my best customers was a director of B-grade horror movies. I let him listen to my demo tape and he offered to pass it along to Don Bluth."

Bluth, a former Disney animator, had started his own company to create The Secret of NIMH.

In almost record time, Cummings got an answer from Bluth.

"He told me he wasn’t working on anything at the moment, but would pass the tape on. I thought that meant get lost, but three weeks later, I got an audition with the Disney channel for its new show Dumbo’s Circus," recalls Cummings, who says he quit his day job and never looked back.

This was what he had dreamed when he was a young man in New Orleans working as a deckhand on a riverboat, playing drums in a band on Bourbon Street or designing and building parade floats.

Over the years Cummings has had some taxing assignments.

For the video game Army Men, he voices "all the good guys and all the enemies.

"There are many times I’ve had to argue with myself because I’m playing duelling characters especially in the Taz-Mania videos. It’s like mental ping-pong."

Cummings says he has little trouble coming back to his more famous characters, such as Pooh and Tigger, Ed the laughing hyena in The Lion King or Kaa the snake in The Jungle Book.

"The established characters are easy to recall. I don’t know why, but they come back to me instantly when I need them.

"It’s the one-time-only characters that I don’t remember where the voice I used came from."

Cummings is most proud of his Pooh movies because "the Winnie the Pooh stories and characters are true classics."

"They are a beautiful tradition and I get to be one of the torch-bearers for a new generation."

He says adults and children love A. A. Milne’s characters "because they view the world through honey-coloured glasses and because we all have a Pooh or Tigger, Rabbit and Roo in our lives somewhere."