Welcome to ‘Voices from the Screen’. In this new section of HeadStuff’s animation coverage, our writer Joseph Learoyd will celebrate the careers of famous voice actors.
Jim Cummings was born in Youngstown, Ohio in 1952, before moving to New Orleans later to paint floats for Mardi Gras amongst other jobs. He then relocated to California and managed a video store in the early 1980s before launching his voice acting career. Cummings, although often overlooked in name, has been a staple of animated voice gold for decades now. To list every animation that he has voiced would take up more space than I have here. For many of us, Cummings was the voice of our childhood, even though we didn’t know it.
His first VA role is said to be as Sultan the Tiger in Sultan and the Rock Star, a made for television drama film. He would go on to land a number of voice parts in 1988’s Scooby Doo and the Reluctant Werewolf before voicing Razoul in classic Aladdin in 1992. Also, in ‘88, he replaced Hal Smith as the voice of Winnie the Pooh, going on to voice Tigger as well, predominantly in The Tigger Movie.
Cummings was known for standing in for other voice actors and being able to match himself to their style seamlessly. One notable instance of this was him providing lines for Jeremy Irons’ Scar in The Lion King song ‘Be Prepared’. This was as Irons had developed vocal problems during recording. Cummings also voiced the hyena, Ed, in the much-loved movie. He would go on to do more similarly demanding voice work, such as providing Christopher Lloyd’s character’s singing in Anastasia.
Cummings also voiced Pete in A Goofy Movie, a number of characters in Hercules and Dennis in Tarzan. As such, he quickly became the go-to voice actor for Disney when additional talent was needed. After the success of 2000’s The Tigger Movie, he showcased his skills even further by voicing characters in Aardman favourite Chicken Run and a number of Looney Tunes in Tweety’s High Flying Adventure. In the latter, he cemented himself as the voice of the Tasmanian Devil for years to come and will voice the character in the upcoming Space Jam: A New Legacy. In terms of other more recent work from Cummings, he voiced Ray the firefly in Disney’s 2009 critical and commercial hit The Princess and the Frog.
Jim Cummings doesn’t just do voice work for films. Many may know him better as the voice of many major characters on the small screen. He has played Gummi Bears, Transformers, as well as a variety of mutants in the ’87 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles series. He was also Lurch in the ‘90’s Addams Family cartoon and provided voices to Marvel animated series like Spider-Man, Iron Man and Fantastic Four. He was also the narrator in Animaniacs and lent his vocal talents to Dr. Robotnik in Sonic the Hedgehog and the titular character in Darkwing Duck.
Thanks to this diverse and vast set of roles, Cummings has more than proven he can play everything from the wacky and zany to the calm and collected. By changing and manipulating his voice with such ease, he adds joie de vivre to the characters he plays – making them iconic. Some say that the voice is what truly brings a character to life, and Cummings has so far breathed life into a vast cast of colourful creatures. He has even voiced video games characters in everything from Fallout to Skyrim.
Voicing Winnie the Pooh and Tigger in 2018’s Christopher Robin, Cummings was perhaps the reason for the movie’s success. It made nearly $200 million worldwide at the box office, becoming the highest-grossing entry in Disney’s Winnie the Pooh franchise.
To this day, Cummings continues to work in the industry, paving a way through the who’s who of animated celebrities. Even with his plethora of voices listed here, it is only a small section of his stellar filmography. Jim Cummings may not be a well-known name, but he is a well-known voice.