By Anthony Breznican, USA TODAY
Dan Aykroyd is bringing back a wild and crazy guy from his youth, but it’s not one of the “swinging Czech brothers.”
Aykroyd voices the newly digitized Yogi Bear in a 3-D film, set to open Dec. 17, re-creating a childhood influence that nudged the Saturday Night Livea nd Ghostbusters star into comedy.
Even when his parents tried to put a limit on his after-school cartoon consumption, “I would sneak and watch them, and my brother would watch. Of course it became ingrained,” he says. “When I heard they were doing this project, I called my agent and said I would love to be a part of this, because it’s a part of me, all those voices.”
Aykroyd co-stars with Justin Timberlake, 29, who voices Yogi’s diminutive, long-suffering sidekick, Boo Boo.
Both came aboard because of their ability to mimic the original sound of the Hanna-Barbera characters: Yogi’s affable bluster and Boo Boo’s nasal pinch.
“Justin, it’s little known, used to imitate cartoon characters when he was younger,” says Yogi Bear director Eric Brevig. “He said when he was learning to sing, doing vocal exercises or singing lessons, part of what he did was imitate these characters. So he came in with a prepared Boo Boo voice that he’d been doing all his life, too.”
Aykroyd, 58, needs zero coaxing to break out his imitation, answering his phone with the talking bear’s familiar “Hey, hey, hey … “
Yogi, as voiced by the late Daws Butler in the early 1960s, was a takeoff on Art Carney’s Ed Norton from The Honeymooners— itself a character heavily influenced by the Borscht Belt and vaudeville comics.
“It’s about hitting certain notes, going back to those old Lower East Side rhythms, the Catskills, Jersey, Upstate New York,” Aykroyd says. “It’s the Yiddish language, essentially, being spoken in English. It’s the ‘setup, delivery, punch’ that sitcoms live on today. That’s where the origin of American humor is.”
Children who go to the family comedy will see just the antics of a silly talking bear. But parents may simply be relieved to see Aykroyd paying homage to their treasured original.
“I have kids, and I remember the characters from when I was young,” Brevig says. “I really wanted this to be a movie that doesn’t make parents feel like they’ve been marginalized by changing the characters, and trying to make them hip and different from who they are.”
Yogi is still smarter than the average bear. Pic-a-nic baskets, consider yourselves warned.
Want to visit Yogi and a real Jellystone Park? There are over 70 locations in the U.S. and Canada!