With Disney animations, it’s not just the producers and animators who make the animated features amazing; the voice actors are also vital to a character’s persona. Whether they’re laughing with glee, sharing their wisdom, or recounting their dreams, the characters we know and love wouldn’t be the same without their voice actors.
Many talented voice actors have contributed to Disney films, but one voice actor is particularly noteworthy. Whether you’ve watched The Lion King, Winnie the Pooh animations, or The Princess and the Frog, you’ll probably recognize the voice of James “Jim” Cummings. A talented voice actor, Jim Cummings continues to take on all sorts of roles in animated films and shows.
Jim Cummings’ voice acting career with Disney started out small with the 1985-1986 TV series Dumbo’s Circus. A live-action puppet show, the series featured a grown-up Dumbo starting his own circus. Jim played the role of Lionel the Lion, Dumbo’s hardworking assistant at the circus.
Handling everything from popcorn to tickets, the Brooklyn-accented big cat played a big part in the show. Due to his success with Lionel, Jim also took on other roles in the show such as Fira the cat, and Disney started using him for other shows and films as well. One of his next big breaks would bring a beloved Disney character to life: Winnie the Pooh.
Winnie the Pooh and Tigger, Too
Pooh has been a popular franchise with Disney for decades, and one Pooh-themed show remains popular, still appearing on Disney+ today: The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh. Originally running from 1988 to 1991, the show had multiple seasons and continued to play in reruns on the Disney Channel for years later. It featured Pooh, Tigger, and other inhabitants of the Hundred Acre Woods having fun and whimsical adventures with and without Christopher Robin.
However, Pooh’s original voice actor, Sterling Holloway, no longer had the right voice to play Pooh, so Disney needed to find someone else for the job. Jim Cummings successfully passed the casting call, and he played the silly bear throughout the series. But that wasn’t the only voice he ended up playing on the show. At first, Paul Winchell, Tigger’s original voice actor, played Tigger, but Paul was also busy with hunger relief missions to Africa. Therefore, Jim filled in for Tigger’s voice. By the third season, full voicing for Tigger had switched over to Jim.
This was just the start of Jim Cumming’s work in Winnie the Pooh productions as the voice for Pooh and Tigger. Over the years, Disney has made many movies starring Pooh, from direct-to-VHS/DVD releases like Pooh’s Grand Adventure (1997) to theatrical releases like the 2011 Winnie the Pooh film. And for many of these movies, Jim has continued to voice Pooh and Tigger, helping children enjoy their fun and zany personalities. In addition, Jim provided their voices for other Pooh shows like The Book of Pooh (2001) and My Friends Tigger & Pooh (2007-2010). He even voiced Tigger and Pooh among others in the video game Kingdom Hearts.
One especially challenging Pooh assignment Jim took on wasn’t in animation at all, but with a toy. The My Interactive Pooh toy could hook up to a computer to download programs. These programs let Pooh play with kids in various ways, ranging from playing games to singing songs. In addition, Pooh could say your own name, and this meant Cummings had to record thousands of different names. But the toy was a success, even winning an award from Esquire magazine.
Not only that, but Jim Cummings also played an important role in the success of the 2018 live-action film Christopher Robin. In it, the grown-up Christopher Robin interacts with digitally animated versions of his precious childhood stuffed animals. Jim was originally just going to voice Pooh, but he also ended up playing Tigger’s role as well. His vibrant portrayal of the characters earned a lot of praise from viewers, who nostalgically remembered similar voices from past adventures with Pooh and Tigger.
Around the same time he was doing voices for The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Jim Cummings was also involved in other Disney television shows, including the classic TaleSpin. A strange pseudo-sequel to The Jungle Book where Baloo is a plane pilot and Shere Khan is a wealthy millionaire, TaleSpin remains popular with fans for its humorous antics and exciting adventures. It also featured plenty of memorable characters – both counterparts to Jungle Book characters and entirely original characters – and Jim helped voice some of them.
In the show, Louie ran a popular nightclub and pilot pitstop that Baloo often stopped at, and Louie sometimes even joined Baloo on some of his adventures. Jim helped give Louie his laid back yet troublemaking nature that made him a hit on the show. In addition to Louie, Jim also played a couple of the villains, most notably the sky pirate Don Karnage. Notorious for his bombastic hamming and cunning plans, Don Karnage threatened Baloo and his friends in the pilot and many later episodes. He became a fan favorite, and we can thank Jim for giving us such a fun villain to love to hate.
But TaleSpin hasn’t been Cummings’ only appearance in Jungle Book-related animations. For the Jungle Book 2 in 2003, Jim played several roles, including Kaa and Colonel Hathi. He even was nominated for an Annie Award for Best Voice Acting in a Feature Production (though he did not win the award). In addition, Cummings voiced a kid version of Kaa in the prequel TV series Jungle Cubs; he also voiced a couple baboon antagonists.
Jim Cummings really got to take center stage in the 1991-1992 television series Darkwing Duck, where he played the titular character. Living a normal life as mild-mannered Drake Mallard, by night he scampers about as Darkwing Duck, the terror that flaps in the night. Vain and prone to showboat as a superhero, Darkwing nevertheless had a heart of gold and would fight to stop evil at every turn. Jim even won an Annie Award for Best Voice Acting for Television for his performance as Darkwing Duck. Cummings later reprised his role as Darkwing in the 2018 DuckTales show for a few episodes.
In addition to Darkwing, Jim voiced other characters in Darkwing Duck. For instance, he played Drake’s annoying neighbor Herb Muddlefoot Sr. as well as villains like the evil genius Professor Moliarty. But his most infamous role aside from Darkwing was the superhero’s parallel archnemesis Negaduck, who closely resembles Darkwing and is in fact an alternate version of the hero from another dimension. Ruthless and sneaky, he proved a great threat for Darkwing time after time. All these characters and more made Darkwing Duck a very fun show.
Goofy Fun with Pete
Darkwing Duck wasn’t the only show that Jim Cummings earned an Annie Award in; he also won one for his act as Pete in Goof Troop. 1992’s Goof Troop focused largely on Goofy and his son Max, but it also involved the family’s neighbor Pete, who had his own son named P.J. (Pete Jr.). Pete has a reputation across Disney animation as a sneaky and bad-tempered scoundrel, and while Pete was more civilized in the show, he was still selfish and sly. These personality traits made him an interesting foil for his close “friend” Goofy, who he often tried to trick for get-rich-quick schemes.
Cummings’ effective portrayal of Pete didn’t end with Goof Troop, though. He also played Pete in later movie sequels such as The Goofy Movie and An Extremely Goofy Movie. And that was just the beginning of Jim’s acting as Pete. For example, in the TV show House of Mouse (2001-2003), Pete served as the main ongoing antagonist, always trying to close down Mickey’s dinner club. Jim also voiced other characters in the show like Humphrey the Bear. Jim was even Pete’s voice for the Kingdom Hearts series, where he is a recurring if ineffective villain. And that the only Cummings-voiced video game series with Pete, either; he’s also appeared in Epic Mickey.
One of Jim Cummings’ first appearances on the big screen in a Disney theatrical release was with Aladdin in 1992. He didn’t play a big part in the film, just providing voices for Farouk (an apple vendor) and Razoul (captain of Agrabah’s royal guards).
Even so, Jim did a good job with Razoul, enough that he continued to play him for the sequels as well as the television series. And from this point forward, Jim started to have more prominent voice acting roles in full-length feature films.
Hyenas and Lions
Just a couple years after Aladdin, Jim Cummings got cast for Lion King in 1994. Jim certainly gave a notable persona to the goofy yet still menacing hyena Ed, whom he’s also played in other features like Lion King 1 ½ in 2004. Jim Cummings also voiced Zazu’s assistant Gopher, who later reappeared in the TV show Timon & Pumbaa. But unexpectedly, he also got to play another role in a brief yet memorable scene for the movie.
During the chilling song “Be Prepared”, Scar’s voice actor Jeremy Irons overdid it when shouting “You won’t get a sniff without me!” and lost his voice temporarily. So in the song’s spectacular finale, Jim filled in for Scar, performing the new role masterfully. The song is definitely a highlight in the movie, and we owe it to Cummings for helping it close with a bang. In fact, he ended up playing Scar again in the direct-to video sequel Simba’s Pride in 1998.
A Firefly’s Sacrifice
Another big voice appearance by Jim Cummings was in the 2009 Disney movie The Princess and the Frog. In it, he played the supporting character Ray the Firefly. Eccentric yet wise, Ray enjoyed singing. He also had a crush on the Evening Star, which he nicknamed Evangeline.
Throughout the adventure, Ray helped protagonists Naveen and Tiana search for a cure to their curse, and he ultimately died fighting off monsters serving the villain Dr. Facilier. Afterwards, Ray became a star in the sky, nestled close to the Evening Star. It was yet another marvelous performance by Jim.
From Sky Pirate to Space Pirate
If you liked Jim Cummings’ showboating as Don Karnage, then you’ll love his acting in Star Wars as Captain Hondo Ohnaka. A quirky yet charming Weequay pirate and smuggler, Hondo is always trying some crazy scheme to get rich. Despite his roguish personality and the trouble he brings, Hondo does have a bit of a good side, and he has assisted Obi-wan, Ezra, and other Jedi and heroes on many occasions.
Jim first played Hondo during the Clone Wars (running from 2008 to the present). He got into crazy shenanigans, from holding Count Dooku (and Anakin and Obi-wan) for ransom to teaming up with bounty hunter (and old lover) Aurra Sing. But that was just the start of Hondo’s exploits. He reappeared in Rebels (2015-2018), where among other adventures he aided the Rebellion in freeing the planet Lothal from the Empire. And here, too, Jim provided Hondo’s memorably chipper voice.
Hondo also appears at the parks in Galaxy’s Edge’s exciting simulation ride Smugglers Run. There, an animatronic Hondo greets guests and recruits them for a dangerous mission delivering supplies to the Resistance – the Resistance gets its parts, Hondo gets his money, and everyone walks away happy. This rendition of Hondo also received Cummings’ voice. So across the different eras of Star Wars, you can hear Jim’s voice as Hondo in all his hamminess.
Jim Cummings has also done a lot of voice acting outside of Disney, most notably for the Warner Bros.’ Looney Tunes franchise. He got started with Looney Tunes by playing Taz the Tasmanian Devil (and a few minor characters) in the animated show Taz-Mania. Running from 1991 to 1995, the show featured Taz living with his family and getting into all sorts of trouble. From then on, Jim came to voice Taz and other characters for more Looney Tunes features.
Cummings’ Looney Tunes filmography includes TV shows like New Looney Tunes (2015-2020), movies like Bah, Humduck! (2006), and even video games like Acme Arsenal (2007). He’s also had the chance to play other popular Looney Tunes characters at times. For instance, in the Looney Tunes Show (2011-2013), he voices both Taz and Beaky Buzzard. And for the 2000 film Tweety’s High-Flying Adventure, he voiced Taz, Yosemite Sam, and the gangster Rocky among others. So if you’ve watched cartoons with Taz or other Looney Tunes characters, there’s a fair chance you might hear Jim Cummings voicing them.
Even with all these different voice acting roles, we’ve only scratched the surface with Jim Cummings’ rich history in animation. And with Jim continuing to star in movies, shows, and games, his accolades with Disney and beyond will only continue to grow from here. So next time you hear Tigger, Darkwing, Hondo, or other amazing characters, know that Cummings made their voices possible.
What’s your favorite character who’s been voiced by Jim Cummings? Please let us know all about them in the comments.