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article imageDan Aykroyd voices his childhood memories for the 3D 'Yogi Bear' Special

By Earl Dittman     Dec 17, 2010 in Entertainment
After school, Dan Aykroyd ran two miles to his Quebec home to catch the daily showing of Yogi Bear. Almost 40 years later, his childhood dreams have come true as he lends his voice to his furry hero in the 3D live-action/part-CGI comedy 'Yogi Bear.'
Who would have ever imagined that Dan Aykroyd -- one-half of The Blues Brother, an original Saturday Night Live cast member, a fearless Ghostbuster (he could be reprising the role of Dr. Raymond Stantz in a planned third Ghostbusters film, scheduled to begin filming later this year), the alien Baldar Conehead and the star of close to ninety films -- would give a cinematic voice to the heroic bear of Jellystone Park in the jolly, perpetually hungry, big bear's big screen debut? It's true, Canada's favorite son, actor Dan Aykroyd, has recorded the voice for Yogi Bear, the pic-a-nic, basket-stealing bear, in the first motion picture bearing his name – the Eric Brevig-directed 3D extravaganza that mixes live action with computer animation -- Yogi Bear.
In Yogi Bear, Dan Aykroyd is thejoke-filled voice of Yogi, Jellystone Park's notorious troublemaker, and Justin Timberlake gives his multi-million dollar. smooth as silk recording and sell-out concert vocals to Yogi's faithful and longtime little buddy, Boo Boo (the voice of reason in Yogi's constant plans to acquire the lunches of park visitors). “Getting to do Yogi Bear is like a childhood dream come true for me,” confesses Aykroyd, who, along with SNL's John Belushi, is considered one-half of the 20th century's most hysterical and inventive comedic duos. “I've been offered the chance to play a lot of comic geniuses in my career, but when I was asked if I wanted to be the voice of Yogi Bear, I knew I had found the role I was born to play. I would have done the film, no matter what, but luckily, it's a really funny and exciting script. I got the best of both world's.”
Yogi Bear shows off his many skills in  Yogi Bear
Yogi Bear shows off his many skills in 'Yogi Bear'
Warner Bros
In the hilarious, wildly fun 3D comedy Yogi Bear, Jellystone Park is in danger of being sold by the greedy mayor to loggers, meaning that Yogi, Boo Boo, the park's overseer Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) and a whole lot of animals that call the park home will be forced to relocate. And, families will no longer be able to experience the natural beauty of the outdoors Jellystone has always provided. Faced with his biggest challenge ever, Yogi must prove he really is "smarter than the average bear," as he and Boo Boo join forces with the film's live-action cast – Anna Faris as visiting nature documentary filmmaker Rachel Johnson; Tom Cavanagh as the diligent Ranger Smith and T.J. Miller as Smith's over-enthusiastic deputy, Ranger Jones. “The film has a really important message that I think both parents and kids will understand and enjoy,” explains Aykroyd, whose next film gig is adding the voice of the Scarecrow in the animated Oz sequel Dorothy Of Oz). “Our kids represent our future, and a movie like Yogi Bear is perfect for them. It'll make them laugh and remind them, and their parents, about the environment and our future. I'm so proud to be a part of this film.”
Joining his cast mates in Los Angeles to discuss the release of Yogi Bear, Aykroyd explains his deep bond with the furry Hanna-Barbera character, why Yogi has stood the test of time, his love of nature and his thoughts about doing a Yogi Bear sequel.
Dan Aykroyd in the recording studio laying down vocals tracks for  Yogi Bear
Dan Aykroyd in the recording studio laying down vocals tracks for 'Yogi Bear'
Warner Bros
Did you want to bring something different to the persona of Yogi Bear or did you try to stay close to the lovable bear we all know? “I think we wanted to get as close, in terms of the characterizations that were there originally, because it is a re-tribute to that great Hanna-Barbera franchise. So we wanted to be true to that. But he can't help who he is and I can't help who I am, so I think you will hear the correct characterizations – but a lot of our own sort of personality comes through in the voices and a lot of my and Justin's (Timberlake) own vocal skill, ability and power. Justin's dryness is incredible. He channels this character and you'll see that it's really Yogi Bear and Boo Boo – it's a two-hander with an incredible support cast of fine actors and actresses.”
Yogi Bear abd Boo Boo plan their next picnic basket heist
Yogi Bear abd Boo Boo plan their next picnic basket heist
Warner Bros
Why do you think that Yogi Bear has endured all these years? And what touchstones did you want to make sure you brought to your performances? “Well, the characters of Yogi and Boo Boo are long established in American culture from the 1960s. I remember walking home from school and thinking, 'Is my little story going to be there?' My joy of coming home from school everyday was watching Yogi Bear at four o'clock in the afternoon. And when Justin did the voice and the character, I was like, 'Where did you come from? You weren't alive in the '60s.' Of course, I forgot about reruns, and he was building his career as a young man. As you know, his history, really, as an entertainer, started at nine years old. And the cartoons were on then to relieve the stress of what he was up to at that time. So, we both took refuge in the characters, so I think you can multiply that by a generation of baby-boomers and the ones who came after and that's why the show was so iconic, because it just penetrated. Plus, it was so well-written and well-done, even with the flat panel animation of the time, because the characters were well-drawn and they had a lot of heart and a lot of sweetness – that made them endure.”
Yogi Bear and Boo Boo take flight for picnic food
Yogi Bear and Boo Boo take flight for picnic food
Warner Bros
What would you say or do to encourage people to go out and visit our national parks? “I would personally say, 'Put up the texting, put up the Blackberry, put up the lap top, and get rid of it for at least a long weekend or four or five days, for at least once or twice a month.' We are ruining the attention span of this generation and it's time we got back to nature, it's time to go out and see that there are other creatures out there, other than our friends who are being texted and sexted. So, this is a very good question. I personally encourage it. I grew up on the edge of a national park, and I had to walk to school for two miles, there and back, and that's when I used to watch Yogi in the afternoon, after walking through this park. Timber-wolves, creeks, snow drifts, a bad highway – just like the stories your grandmother and grandfather told you, 'I used to have to walk six miles through the snow.' Well, I did! Honestly, the biggest joy was coming home at 4:00, as the light was fading in Quebec, Canada, and there was Yogi on TV. It was my joy. So I always had an appreciation for nature and I passed it on to my children. But we really do have to put up the electronic devices and get back to nature, and I think that's part of what we are trying to say here today.”
Dan Aykroyd as Baldar Conehead in  Coneheads
Dan Aykroyd as Baldar Conehead in 'Coneheads'
Paramount
Of course, you and Justin had to record your vocals in a recording studio since you were both CGI characters in the finished product. But did you like the fact that most of the Jellystone Park scenes of the movie were filmed outdoors and not on a a studio soundstage? Did it thing it added anything special to the the overall feel of the film? “I wish I could answer that, honestly. (laughs) Two years ago, I saw that they were making Yogi Bear, and I said to my agent, 'We've got to track this, because, first of all I love the character and also, I used to do some acting, and they are going to need an actor – not just a voice.' (laughs) So, I went in and had a wonderful audition and I had the faith of Donald (DeLine) and Karen (Rosenfelt), the producers, and everybody else that I would get the part. And my agent calls and says, 'Guess what? They are shooting in New Zealand, and you are going to get a first-class ticket there and back, your wife can go and have a great time.' I can honestly say that I have never been to New Zealand in my life. I thought I was going to New Zealand. But I think it was the agent. They tell you things like that, sometimes, just to get you – I mean, I'm sure it was the truth at the time. So, no, I never made it to New Zealand, but I am not bitter about it. I thought the park was beautiful and so was the lake, of course, it reminded me of where I grew up in Canada. Just the whole message again about getting out and appreciating nature – this generation has got to save the world. We were seeing this morning, out of Washington D.C., we are seeing environmental change that is just disastrous in terms of the ice at both poles of the planet. It's not up to us anymore. It's up to that new generation, now, to get out and realize what they have. Try to get more rural, I guess, and get out into the country and bring that ethos back to the city. Maybe this movie will help, a little bit. Certainly, it's entertaining, and that's the bottom line.”
Director Eric Brevig with Yogi Bear and Boo Boo
Director Eric Brevig with Yogi Bear and Boo Boo
Warner Bros
Yogi Bear ]downplays the importance of money, wealth and greed and pushes the importance of the environment. Did you relate to the money angle of the film, Dan? “I never had any money (laughs) – it was all cash flow. It flows and you get your fingers into it for a little while and then it flows away. That's all I know about money. I don't know? It flows, might be a river, but you can never, ever keep it. As an artist, I can't keep it. That's just life. Take the man who dies with a cent in the bank is the foolish man, I think. So I guess I am going against the conservators. I'm a real spend thrift.”
Would you like to do a Yogi Bear sequel? “Well, I don't know? I'm not sure? That's something we'd have to negotiate. (laughs) You know what? Absolutely, in a heartbeat.”
Yogi Bear opens nationwide in theaters across North America on December 17, 2010
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