The late, late-night talk-show host Craig Ferguson has an interesting theory about the inherent differences between journalists and performers. And it comes down to one, simple rule of thumb: Journalists like Eeyore and performers prefer Tigger.
Why, one might wonder, is the Glasgow-raised stand-up comic pontificating on lovable A.A. Milne characters in the classic Winnie the Pooh? His latest - in a string of many voiceover jobs in children's animated films - is as the pompous Owl in Disney's new movie Winnie the Pooh, which made its debut last Friday.
"These characters are a basic window into the type of person you are," explains the 49-year-old comedian-turned psychologist. "Journalists are a kind of sad, wandering soul. A rather sad beauty like Eeyore. And I'm a kind of bouncy, needy maniac, like Tigger, so that fits, doesn't it?"
There is something to Ferguson's logic. Growing up, he adds his favourite Pooh character was the bear's right-hand man, Piglet. "But I would have been grossly miscast to voice either the pig or the tiger with ADD," he chuckles on the phone line from his home in Los Angeles.
"Owl was the right fit for me, and I've always been drawn to the idea of the informed idiot, who is completely unaware of his flaws or shortcomings."
Ferguson says he jumped at the chance to return to the Hundred Acre Wood because "I loved Winnie the Pooh when I was a kid.
"It was read to me and I watched the shows and movies in the sixties as a tot," says the hard-working actor, writer (he's penned two books, Between the Bridge and the River, and an autobiography, American on Purpose, as well as several screenplays), and director (2003's I'll Be There). "And I loved this particular incarnation of Winnie the Pooh because it's hand-drawn animation, which is a lovely, gentle way to tell the story. It's a respectful, clever and gentle telling of Pooh. [Directors Stephen Anderson and Don Hall]did not want to make some kind of 18- to 30-year-old Transformer version of Winnie the Pooh. It's a gentle, beautiful story told at the pace which children enjoy."
Ferguson likes the fact, too, that his own kids - son Milo, 10, and five-month old Liam - can actually view this work. "Obviously, not a lot of what I do is suitable for young kids. I mean the baby's not quite up to watching anything yet. I entertain him by making blubbering noises. Actually, when I think about it, that's what I do in the show at night."
In recent years, Ferguson's been in big demand as the voice in countless kids' films, including Gobber the Belch in How to Train Your Dragon, and its upcoming sequel. But he says he doesn't think it's his distinctive Scottish brogue that lands him the parts, but rather the fact that he's unfailingly punctual.
"It's a small community - where everyone knows everyone else's work habits - and I think word's got [out]that, hey, here's an actor who really shows up on time. Let's use him again," says the comic, whose cast mates in Winnie the Pooh include narrator John Cleese and Tom Kenny ( SpongeBob SquarePants) as the worry-wart Rabbit.
The origins of Winnie the Pooh - named after a Winnipeg-born black bear that Milne's son Christopher used to visit at the London Zoo and which became the name of the boy's stuffed bear - is a story that Ferguson adds he was told, over and over again, by the proud locals of the Manitoba capital while he shot the Canadian drama, Niagara Motel, in 2006.
"I spent some time in The 'Peg, and Winnie's Canadian roots were a hot topic. And like Pooh," Ferguson adds, "I have some Canadian connections myself, which is hardly surprising, given that I'm Scottish and my people built your country. I have relatives in Ontario. My mother's brother, Uncle Ronald, lives in Ontario."
The comedian will perform his new stand-up comedy show in Toronto on July 29 and in Montreal the next day, and says he's looking forward to getting the "adrenalin rush" that comes with performing live. "I tend to half-write the material, and then half-rewrite on stage in front of the audience."
Later this summer, once the stand-up tour is complete, Ferguson says he plans to take his family back to Scotland to visit relatives.
"After my mom died, for a while I didn't really know about going back. But despite the crappy weather, I like Scotland. And as I get older - I'm 49 for God's sake - I feel I should probably go back a bit more and see some people. It's important my kids know where I come from."
Correction: An earlier version incorrectly referred to Craig Ferguson's father. Robert Ferguson died on Jan. 29, 2006.
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