Jim Cummings & Brad Garrett on reuniting old friends in Christopher Robin
Inspired by the stories of A.A. Milne and the Winnie the Pooh animated films and shows based on them, the latest Disney live-action adaptation reunites a now grown-up Christopher Robin (Ewan McGregor) with his childhood friends. Eeyore, Kanga, Roo, Rabbit, Piglet, Owl, Tigger, and Winnie the Pooh are all there as if no time has flown by in the Hundred Acre Wood. For Christopher Robin, he’s been gone for too long and has placed work above fun more than anything.
Voicing the beloved characters are legendary voice actors Jim Cummings (Pooh, Tigger, Ray in Princess and the Frog, Darkwing Duck) and Brad Garrett (Eeyore, Krang in TMNT, Bloat in Finding Nemo, Fatso in Casper, Gusteau in Ratatouille). ComingSoon.net had a chat about Christopher Robin with the two about the film, their interpretations of these characters in a new story and carrying on their legacy.
Reuniting with Old Friends from the Hundred Acre Woods
Jim Cummings has played Pooh bear since taking over for original voice Sterling Holloway. So most of the versions of Pooh since the late 80’s has been Cummings in a variety of shows, theme park rides, and movies. Stepping into the shoes of a Pooh bear who isn’t just in an animated tale but instead meeting an older version of his friend was seamless for the actor.
“Pooh goes right up to Christopher Robin, the first time in however many years and says, Christopher Robin. It wasn’t like he had to wonder who the fellow in the hat was, so dapper and handsome. He knew immediately.” said Cummings about how he tapped into how Pooh would see Christopher Robin as an adult. “I think that’s part of the charm the fact that he did grow up and became somewhat jaded but as soon as he saw him, Pooh was right back in the hundred acre wood.The world can catch up to you and overwhelm you and you’re in pursuit of the paycheck–even Christopher Robin can fall into that.”
To Brad Garrett, getting to join the voice cast as the gloomy core of the group was something not lost on him as a fan, “Eeyore is obviously so iconic. When I got the opportunity I was very excited. Jim Cummings who does Pooh has been a buddy of mine for forever. We’ve done a couple TV shows together. He’s such a genius, he’s really on a level on his own.”
Working with the film’s director Marc Forster excited Garrett during the process of making the film: “The script out the gate was pretty amazing. And I got to see some of the animations early on and it’s just so incredible. When you have live action with it, you just forget it’s animation. The animals are as old as Christopher Robin and right away you have that believability of the relationships. It has a vintage vibe with the backdrop of London and Ewan is just so brilliant. It’s an emotional thing. It has something for everyone.”
Keeping True to the Characters
Cummings also reprises his role of Tigger and having years of experience with both beloved Disney characters has given the actor the gift of both knowing them best while still being able to get creative with his interpretations. On how he’s left his imprint on the characters, Jim Cummings explained how he keeps them fresh, “I tend to as Tigger do a lot of different malaprops.” Turning on the Tigger voice he delivers, “What prezactly is going on here?’ It’s like precisely and exactly put together. Things like that. You have to do it to keep it fresh so it doesn’t sound like Winnie the Pooh on parade like ‘Oh bother’, ‘smackrel of honey’. I think that sort of approach. I have a thing called pooh logic that I like to inject. There’s different things that have to be in character so you can’t stray too far. The adlib has to be in the moment. I always read the script as is and then I do a couple takes and I’ll throw a different curveball in. If it works it works if it doesn’t move on.”
Garrett’s way into crafting his interpretation of Eeyore was very personal.
“I related to Eeyore. That’s a lot of how I feel about myself, the world–especially when I was younger,” he explained highlighting how Eeyore and the rest of the gang are accessible to everyone. “They’re pure emotions. They’re so specific, so pure. You almost always know what character they’re gonna go through in a specific scene. If you look at Tigger, it’s that positive attitude, that no holds barred emotion. He’s a toddler. Pooh is always right in the middle. Some of his dialogue is just so brilliant, he’s got the humor, he’s grounded.”
In the film, we get many great callbacks including Cummings performing a song previously sung by original Pooh voice Sterling Holloway, “He does a bit of the ‘up-down, touch the ground, puts me in the mood’. Which I’ve never sung before.” he revealed about the nods given to the legacy of the characters in Christopher Robin. “It’s not a musical per say but it does have the interludes, I think those are touchstones for people and it brings them back. The sweetness, the wide-eyed wonder of Pooh, his approach. He’s still the eye of the hurricane–the hurricane is Tigger. Just knowing that he still has a sense of wonder and that zen approach to life. ‘People say nothing’s impossible but I do nothing every day.’ That’s pretty good logic. That will get you through. ‘I always get where I’m going by walking away from where I’ve been’.” he echoed in Pooh’s voice–which inspires awe and giddiness when you’re having an audience with Jim Cummings.
Garrett praised the faithfulness to the spirit of the world created by A.A. Milne, “Every character has something, every character has a sliver of hope. You need it as kids and you need it as adults. You wanna hold onto the kid in us, the kid in ourselves. It’s such a fast world and everything is immediate and everything is tenuous and scary. Kids are growing up so fast, the internet is giving little room for imagination because answers are given to you right away. It’s great to hold on to these characters and that iconic vibe. We hold onto that childlike art in us, I think a lot of actors grow up lonely. There’s a loneliness in my life as a kid that I think was very evident with Christopher Robin because it was really just him and his animal pals. That’s something I really hooked into when I was young. This film puts it all together.”
Continuing a Disney Legacy
For both actors being the guardians of Pooh, Tigger, and Eeyore is something close to their hearts. For Garrett, being the Eeyore kids will grow up with in Christopher Robin is an honor he describes as a real responsibility. “With Eeyore being so iconic I felt a bigger responsibility of how much of myself do I bring to this and stay true to this amazing character that everybody knows. Fatso in Casper was known from the television shows but it didn’t have obviously nearly the international recognition or appeal of Eeyore. Even with Fatso, I was able to change it up quite a bit. But with this, it really came with that responsibility and an honor to really do something that is so much of people’s childhood. Old and new and young and old.”
Known throughout the convention circuit as one of the best folks to meet, Cummings knows the importance of his roles in pop culture and is reverent to the Disney legacy he’s huge a part of, “It’s one of the blessings of doing what I do. Pooh and Tigger, I’ve been doing longer than any of them. So many people, they’ll come up and say ‘you were the voice of my childhood.’ People tell me that I raised them. It’s like– ‘Gosh, I hope I didn’t mess ya up!’” he joked jovially. “It’s just beautiful to know that it sticks around and is so meaningful. These things don’t go anywhere, childhood and adult memories. That’s why we’re here doing this again, certain things don’t go out of style. It’s not like he’s here fighting zombie robots. They came from bedtime stories. It’s kind of like Christmas. ‘Well didn’t we have one last year?’ ‘Yeah, we’re gonna have another one.’”
Christopher Robin opens this Friday!