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Disney has hit us with a major one-two punch of nostalgia this week; first came the trailer for Mary Poppins Returns and then came the trailer for Christopher Robin, knocking us into a puddle of emotion. For many people, the highlight of the Christopher Robin trailer, and the moment when we all got something in our eye, was when Pooh, who is being reprised by Disney veteran Jim Cummings, said "Christopher Robin." Having Jim Cummings return to the role his voice is synonymous with was critical to bringing this character to life for director Marc Forster, as he explained:
He lived this character for over 30 years, so for him, this is, sort of, part of his being at this point. It was important to me [to have] this nostalgic element of the voice and the feel. It was very important.
It is a good thing that having Jim Cummings voice Winnie the Pooh was important to Marc Forster, because I shudder to think of the alternative. If Christopher Robin had turned around in that trailer and Pooh had spoken in any voice but Jim Cummings', I suspect it would have inspired a major revolt and not the immediate outpouring of love and emotion it has enjoyed thus far. This is because, as Marc Forster told ET, Jim Cummings has lived with this character for 30 years, voicing Pooh in the animated movies, The New Adventures of Winnie The Pooh TV series, the 2011 film and even the Kingdom Hearts video games. He is Winnie the Pooh. This is a film built on nostalgia, bringing Pooh back into the lives of so many who are now grown up and taking them and Christopher Robin himself back to the simplicity and wonder of childhood. Marc Forster also said that this will be a very emotional movie (you don't say). The nostalgia and the emotion that comes with it only works with Jim Cummings as Winnie the Pooh.
Now as far as I'm concerned, it shouldn't even have been a question from the second this film was greenlit who would voice Pooh. But sadly, in this day and age, voice actors don't get as much work in big films. Prominent voice roles in animated fare often goes to live-action actors so the studio can slap a familiar name on the poster, something that kids could care less about. And despite his insanely long list of voice credits (seriously, look at his IMDb), Jim Cummings is not a household name. I know I'm fighting a losing battle in this belief, but at least, in this one instance, Disney knew that the familiarity and power of a voice was more important than the power of a name.
Jim Cummings will be joined by a new group of names voicing the residents of the Hundred Acre Wood, including Chris O'Dowd as Tigger, Toby Jones as Owl, Peter Capaldi as Rabbit, Brad Garrett as Eeyore and Nick Mohammed as Piglet. They join Ewan McGregor and Hayley Atwell for the Winnie the Pooh-meets-Hook film, Christopher Robin, arriving to melt our cold, jaded hearts on August 3.