For those of you who know and love Dan Aykroyd from his Saturday
Night Live days, "Yogi Bear" may be Aykroyd's most "wild and craaaaazy
guy" yet. The resident trouble-maker of Jellystone Park is up
to the same tricks you knew and loved from the animated cartoon,
only with one extra dimension and one superstar-voiced sidekick
(Justin Timberlake voices Boo-Boo). Aykroyd was in Chicago to
promote the film's release this week - the official Chicago-area premiere is at the
Hollywood Palms cinema in Naperville on Friday). We grabbed a few
minutes with Chicago's favorite funnyman to chat about "Yogi
We even got him to deliver a holiday
message in character:
"Yogi Bear" premieres Friday, Dec. 17 in 3-D where
available. Rated PG.
Yogi Bear is a pretty
iconic character in American kid culture? How do you stay true to
the Yogi Bear we all remember as kids but keep it
I think of it like a layer cake. You
start with the original, and then you put your own substance and
personality and body in and a little feeling in the voice from
yourself. I did a little acting in my time and I chased this part.
I actually called my agent and said "I want this part, and I want
to audition for it" and I was very fortunate to get it. But I took
it on with a sense of responsibility and honor because people do
remember the original and I think we captured that.
Did you watch Yogi Bear
as a kid?
Oh, yes. As a kid growing up in
Ottawa, Canada, where the sky turns dark in the winter at about
3:30, Yogi bear was my fire, my hearth, when I would come home. I
would immediately turn on the TV while I thawed out.
I've heard you and
Justin Timberlake described as the Batman and Robin of voice-acting
in this movie. Is that fair?
That's not inaccurate. Yogi and Boo
Boo are a great American comic duo. I think you could compare them
to Jake and Ellwood or Abbott and Costello or Laurel and Hardy.
One's a hysteric and one's much calmer. They have a great dynamic,
and the message that was always a part of the Hanna-Barbera
cartoon, which is that you stand by your friends whether they're
right or wrong and loyalty is really important in friendship. And
working with Justin...You know, Justin approached [Boo-Boo Bear]
the same way I approached Yogi and we were able to build a
relationship. We worked together three-quarters of the time [in the
studio] and had a lot of fun.
You've certainly made a
mark here in Chicago over the years - what are you looking forward
to while you're back?
I love being back here. I'm going to
be hanging over at House of Blues. I'll probably go over to Wise
Fools' Pub, Kingston Mines, Blues on Halsted, Buddy Guy's Legends
tomorrow night - Kim Wilson's there so I'm going to go catch him.
Of course I have memories of Chicago. I think about John [Belushi]
every day, but more so when I'm here.
You're voicing the
Scarecrow in the upcoming film, "Dorothy of Oz." That's two classic
family roles in a row: Are you getting a little nostalgic here in
your later years?
I'm honored to take these parts on.
When you consider the iconic status of both Yogi Bear and the
Scarecrow. Dorothy of Oz is based on the original writing of L.
Frank Baum and in it, Dorothy comes back to save Oz, because
everything's been left in the hands of the scarecrow, and that's
not such a good idea. But it's really a joy at this point to be
able to pick up these classic roles that people grew up with and
still connect with.
At the risk of assigning
an underlying ethos to an animated bear that steals picnic baskets,
is there a lesson to the movie, about connecting with
Absolutely. [Jellystone Park in the
movie] a real park in New Zealand, and it's just beautiful. I think
the message is: Put up the electronica, put up the laptop, put up
the blackberry, put up the texting, put up the tweeting, put up the
Facebook, for at least a long weekend in the summer. Leave all that
at home and get out.
Get a dipper and bend the handle and
look up in the sky and see the Big Dipper and contemplate the
universe. How did the forces of the universe know that we would go
camping and bend the handle of the dipper not to burn ourselves and
we look up and there's an exact replica? These are the things to
contemplate. Put away the electronica, put out the Judaica, and get
back to our roots and nature.
See more of Liz's stories here.
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