By Susan Osborne, CIP Long Beach Program Director
April 5th was an amazing day at CIP Long Beach highlighted with not one but two incredible guest speakers, voice over legend, Jim Cummings, and Wrong Planet founder, Alex Plank.
Jim Cummings has a very impressive resume of voice over acting roles. He is the current voice of Winnie the Pooh and Tigger and he’s appeared in hundreds of television shows and major motion pictures including The Lion King, Princess and the Frog, The Little Mermaid, Animaniacs, The Bee Movie, Darkwing Duck, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, and Transformers, just to name a few. Pretty much if you’ve watched any popular animated movie or TV show in the last twenty years, you’ve heard Jim’s work.
Long Beach Student Merritt is a huge fan, and when he suggested Jim as a speaker for our Internship Job Support class, most of us didn’t know who he was. So when we became aware of how well-known Jim is, no one thought it had any chance of becoming a reality.
But Merritt was determined, so together with Career Coordinator, Monique Trudeau, they researched and located the email address for Jim’s talent agent, Heather Virgo. Monique supported Merritt in composing the email to Heather, and to everyone’s utter surprise, Heather emailed right back asking if we’d like Jim to come on April 5 or April 12. The 5th was perfect because we were closed for our break the following week.
Jim is so cool even my 18-year-old son wanted to come to CIP that day. When Alex Plank, and his film partner, Noah Trevino, heard about Jim’s visit, they also wanted to come.
Jim’s visit lasted almost 2 ½ hours, and I know everyone agrees that the time we spent with Jim was more amazing than we could have ever imagined.
When I say that Jim is the nicest man on earth, it is no exaggeration. He completely connected to everyone, and the students especially felt at ease. Even our quietest student, made a relevant comment and did a pretty good impression of the Wicked Witch of the West.
A lot of questions were asked, and Jim sincerely answered each one. Some of these were insightful and offered Jim an opportunity to share his knowledge, wisdom and experience. Other questions not so much. Luckily, we took a lot of footage, and Social Thinking Instructor, Matt Smith, plans to use it for some “teachable moments” during individual modules with the students.
Since Jim was invited to speak at our Internship Job Support Class, we asked him to share his experience on how he became such a successful voice over actor. He was extremely generous in sharing his knowledge, and to each question, he gave thoughtful, warm and humorous responses.
His first word of advice to our students about choosing a career: write down ten things that they would do for free and choose something from this list. Jim went on to share insights into how the process of voice over acting works and how he got his start in the business. He did a lot of impressions. He shared some funny and interesting stories about characters that he voiced. Jim could not have been nicer or more respectful, and we were so incredibly lucky to have him.
At the end of his talk, Merritt presented Jim with three pieces of his framed artwork; Jim also received a script from Merritt that he had written himself. Student Drew gave Jim a framed piece of one of his beautiful, original artworks. Jim accepted everything with great appreciation. Needless to say, he completely made everyone’s day!
After a pizza lunch, Alex Plank spoke to the students. It turned into a great opportunity for them to ask Alex questions and get his perspective on college, careers, and dating. It was a small enough group so they all received personal advice from someone who has overcome some of the same challenges that they now face.
It turned out that both CIP and Alex planned on being at the Autism Speaks Walk on April 21; Alex videotaped the event with Noah, and CIP Long Beach had their own registered fundraising team for Autism Speaks.
Alex and the students hung out together at the Walk, and Alex offered advice and tips on social interactions. This seemed to be of great interest of all of the students.
Our day with Jim and Alex was memorable for everyone, a perfect way to end right before Spring break. Each of us left CIP with memories of Jim’s wonderful visit and students had the following Saturday with Alex to look forward to.
April has certainly turned into one of the most fun-filled months for CIP Long Beach!