Movies & TV / Columns

Jim Cummings Talks w/ 411 on Ducktales, Darkwing Duck, and Niko and the Sword of Light

August 12, 2017 | Posted by Jeffrey Harris
Niko and the Sword of Light - Jim Cummings

Recently, 411mania had the chance to speak with veteran actor and voice-over performer extraordinaire, Jim Cummings. If you’ve watched anything in animation over the last 25-30 years, there’s a good chance you’ve heard Cummings playing a key role. For the last 25 years for Disney Animation, he’s been the voice of longtime Disney cartoon villain and antagonist Pete. Additionally, he was the voice of the titular hero Darkwing Duck, who is actually set to make his return to animation in a new DuckTales series. Some of his other prolific credits include Ed the Hyena in The Lion King, Raymond the firefly in The Princess and the Frog, and Nessus the River Centaur in Disneys’ Hercules. Currently, Cummings is also working on Niko and the Sword of Light for Amazon Prime, where he portrays the story’s Narrator and several other characters. Here’s what the exceptional Cummings had to say about the new series and his illustrious career.

Jeffrey Harris: The show Niko and the Sword of Light has a tone that’s very imaginative and adventurous, and I was curious about your feelings on that?

Jim Cummings: I agree. I completely agree. I love Tom Kenny’s character. The overall talent of the show is really pleasing, and I love the animation. The guys who do the animation are half of the performance. They’re half the actor. If Niko was an actor, it would be Andre [Robinson] and whoever’s animating him. I think they’re doing a great job.

Jeffrey Harris: I saw you were recently at the Disney D23 Expo. How did you enjoy the experience and getting to meet the fans?

Jim Cummings: Oh my gosh. It was insane. That is probably the best con I’ve ever been to. It did so well — it’s like a museum compared to a flea market to a lot of the other ones that I had [been to]. It’s very Disney-centric obviously. But the thing about it now that it includes all the Star Wars and every Marvel character you’ve ever heard from, it’s pretty big. It was wonderful. I don’t really have this problem [of being recognized]. Maybe people recognize me every three weeks like the checkout girl, but D23? I could not walk the floor. I understand why guests would run out of the room because people would just say, “Hey! Come here!” God bless ’em, but it was just wonderful. We had a Lion King panel that reunited some of the cast members and producers. That was a ball, and it was also the 20th anniversary of Hercules. Went to that one. That was another ball. People were just so gracious and kind, and the setting isn’t bad either in front of Disneyland.

Jeffrey Harris: You have an IMDB page with over 500 credits for a career that spans over three decades. How do you speak of your longevity in the business?

Jim Cummings: I don’t know. I just keep showing up. What I love is that I’ve done this literally since I was four years old. I was getting in trouble and put in a corner for making dolphin noises. You know what, I’m just grateful. I thank god everyday really.

Jeffrey Harris: Did you grow up wanting to be in show business, or did you fall into it by chance?

Jim Cummings: No. I just wanted to be an actor or a singer or a drummer or an artist; a painter. I had done them all, and I’m still an actor. I never thought of it as show business, it was just me wanting to do stuff. It was very meat and potatoes, “I’m just going to do this!” I was talking to my wife about this a little while ago, and we were talking about this and talking about that. But we never even really thought about it. I don’t even know if I said it out loud.

Jeffrey Harris: When I saw you at D23 a little bit, I heard you doing some of Darkwing Duck and “Let’s get dangerous!” Is that a character you still get asked about a lot today? Even though it’s been off the air awhile, that’s another show that is very beloved.

Jim Cummings: Thanks. Stay tuned for DuckTales. You never know.

Jeffrey Harris: Are you giving us a little hint? Because Darkwing’s sidekick Launchpad is in the show, and Launchpad was carried over from the original Ducktales series into Darkwing Duck as well. So maybe Darkwing will show up in the series?

Jim Cummings: I have no idea what you’re talking about. People only ask me about that only three times a day. Let’s put it this way. We are not waiting on me. I’m ready to go.

Jeffrey Harris: For Niko, was this show done at Titmouse Animation, right? Because I think that crew is really one of the most brilliant group of creators in the business, so I was wondering how you enjoyed working with them?

Jim Cummings: Yes. I think they’re great. I think they’re wonderful. It’s one of those shows that has CGI and animation all together. I think it looks great. It’s really good. The camera angles — it’s sort of cinematic. It’s very, very well done I think.

Jeffrey Harris: Did your time living in New Orleans, Louisiana inform your takes on characters like Raymond in The Princess and the Frog and Catfish in Randy Cunningham?

Jim Cummings: Absolutely. Absolutely. I worked as a deckhand on a boat. I was born in Ohio, but a lot of these guys were born in Louisiana, where French was their first language. They learned English in school. It’s not a southern accent. It’s like a Jamaican accent turned on its head. It’s more like, *In a New Orleans accent* “So let me tell you what I’m gunna do. I put myself down dere to dat grocery store.” But I kind of had no choice but to glom onto it. You’re out on the water for like 30 days at a time. It’s like total immersion. It’s like learning a new language.

Jeffrey Harris: Thank you to speaking with us and congrats on your new show. You’re one of the best in the business.

Jim Cummings: Thank you for the thanks.

Thank you to Jim Cummings for taking the time to speak with us. You can check out his latest show, Niko and the Sword of Light on Amazon Prime Video. Also, it was confirmed at Comic-Con 2017 that Darkwing Duck will appear in the upcoming DuckTales TV revival. However, it has not been confirmed if Cummings is returning to voice the character. Fingers crossed.