The film explores the adult life of Christopher Robin (played by Ewan McGregor), as a man who has pretty much forgotten about Winnie and his other childhood friends in order to balance the demands of his job and his family life.
Robin is soon reminded that all work and no play makes Christopher a dull, sad man - and he finds himself back in the Hundred Acre Wood reunited with his old friends, Tigger (Jim Cummings), Eeyore (Brad Garrett), Piglet (Nick Mohammed), Rabbit (Peter Capaldi), Kanga (Sophie Okonedo), Roo (Sara Sheen), Owl (Toby Jones), and, of course, Pooh Bear (also Jim Cummings).
Our Bonnie Laufer had the chance to catch up with legendary voice actor, Jim Cummings, (who has been voicing Winnie the Pooh for more than 40 years, and Tigger for nearly 20, inheriting the jobs from Sterling Holloway and Paul Winchell respectively). He shared his experiences working on the film and how it wasn’t a “bother” at all bringing our favorite old lovable bear to life.
ORIGINAL-CIN: Jim, what a pleasure to have the opportunity to chat with you today. You have provided over 500 voices for some pretty great characters over the years, but I think that Winnie the Pooh and Tigger have to be the most iconic.
JIM CUMMINGS: “Well first of all thank you, and yes Winnie and Tigger are probably the most recognized and loved of all the voices that I have done.”
OC: So what was it like for you the first time you ever heard your voice coming out of these characters?
JC: “I can honestly say that the first thing that I thought was ‘I could have done that much better!’ (Laughs)
“I don't know it's just the way of the world. We always think that we can do better. When I first landed the job in 1987, I was a little bit afraid because I was thinking, ‘What if I can’t keep it consistent? What if I don’t sound like how these characters should sound?’ I took the reins of Tigger from the great Paul Winchell, who - bless him - is no longer with us. I felt as though there was a pressure to maintain the level of “Tiggerosity,” you know, that type of thing.
“But time went on, and now they're just in the family and I feel at home with them. So when I see them on screen I don’t even hear my voice, they somehow feel very real to me.”
OC: I was going to ask you about that because, when you are doing Winnie the Pooh, your voice has to be a bit sadder, more complacent. But for Tigger, it’s about being happy and boisterous. What is that like for you to go from one to the other?
JC: “It actually helps that they're so different. I've often said that, if I were voicing Pooh and Piglet, that would be tougher because they both have a very wispy quality to them, and that would be harder to differentiate. However with Tigger, it’s guttural. He just bounces in, ‘TTFN!’ ( ta ta for now) and scampers off. He’s always laughing and loud. It’s a lot of fun. It’s not too hard.”
OC Well, maybe not so hard for you!!
JC: “It helps when you’re schizophrenic!” (Laughs)
OC: This new film Christopher Robin is quite nostalgic. It’s nice to see an older Christopher being reminded that sometimes it’s still OK to have some childlike qualities. What has been like for you to watch something like this?
JC : “I'm crazy about it. People ask me that question a lot when I sit down I'm in the audience. I mean, I know how it ends, don't get me wrong, but I really just get to sit there and enjoy it.
“I often wonder about directors like Steven Spielberg or our own Marc Forster (who directed this film) and think, ‘What are they thinking when they watch their movies?’ Do they go, ‘I should have done that, or I could have done it another way?’ Whereas I just sit down, grab my popcorn and my drink and I’m an audience member. I enjoy it and so it was so amazing getting to see this movie completed. I was a total fanboy.”
OC: That’s great, and it should be like that. It’s got to be wonderful to do all that voice work and then finally see it all come together.
JC: “It really is the best feeling in the world. We as voice actors never know how it’s all going to turn out but I can say that watching this film gave me all the feels - good ones!”
OC: Ewan McGregor does a nice job of playing the grown up Christopher. I am guessing though that you never did get to work with him or meet him during the shoot?
JC: “No, we haven’t met yet. Only our voices have met. But I am looking forward to meeting him in person. He was a perfect choice to play this role and I thought that he did a great job.”
OC What is it about Winnie the Pooh and his friends that makes them so special, and has sustained and brought joy to so many people for so many years?
JC: “I often say that they aren’t tied to a fad. They came from these sweet bedtime stories that A.A. Milne wrote for his son, and it's always going to be bedtime somewhere.
“They're not robots that turn into the lunch boxes, they are simple stuffed animals that everyone loves. They’re sweet characters and each has their own distinct personality. Pooh is the eye of the storm and Tigger is the storm, Eeyore is gloomy and Rabbit is persnickety. They're just prototypes that everyone can relate to. They’re types that aren't going anywhere.
“I think it’s a true honour to be associated, to be part of such a beautiful tradition. You can go to any country and you can say, ‘Winnie the Pooh,’ and everyone will know what you’re talking about. It’s a universal feeling.”
OC: Other than Pooh, are there any other characters in the film that you relate to?
JC:“Definitely Tigger. I’m probably a cross between Pooh and Tigger. I’m a little laid back, but I got a lot of bounce.”
OC: One last question that I have to know. Are you constantly asked by people to leave their voicemail messages for them?
JC: “Ha! All the time. It could be a full time job!”
OC: So how do you deal with that?
JC: "Well, I’m pretty close to starting to charge them, then I’ll really retire! (Laughs) But really, it's a joy! I like seeing the little faces light up on the little ones, and for that matter the big ones too! It’s never a bother, as Pooh would say."