Justin Timberlake, on crutches from his accident on the Now set, and classic funnyman Dan Aykroyd met with us recently in L.A. to talk about the blast they had voicing the characters Yogi and his side-kick Boo Boo in the new, 3-D, animated-live action film Yogi Bear based on the ever-popular 1960’s cartoon TV series.
Justin Timberlake and Dan Aykroyd, from different generations, grew up with the TV versions of the characters; cute cartoon bears who lived in Jellystone National Park and were always trying to steal “pic-a-nic” baskets from tourists.
Both entertainers support getting out into the great outdoors as well. If you didn’t see the Yogi Bear cartoons on TV as a young child as far back as the 1960’s, you probably caught them in re-runs. Timberlake sure did. Dan was devoted the first time around.
By now we’ve all heard about Timberlake’s on-set leg injury. Aykroyd is all friendly, asking Justin, “Could it help to stretch one leg out?” Justin indicates that he’s okay.
Yogi Bear cast chats!
SheKnows: Justin, how did you hurt yourself?
Justin Timberlake: Just kickin’ ass. No. It was a soft tissue injury on set.
SheKnows: Hope it’s better soon. What made you want to be part of this fun film?
Justin Timberlake: I grew up with Yogi and Boo Boo. I don’t think the director knew that I was going to be in character the whole time as Boo Boo. They are iconic characters and they’re awesome. I laughed at them as a kid. So I think nostalgia was probably the biggest reason I did it.
Dan Aykroyd: It’s not only Justin’s voice, it’s Justin’s chops as an actor and comedian that pulled this off. The character is sweet and really dry. Boo Boo is the rational, Dr. Watson brains of the duo. Sherlock [Yogi] comes up with the schemes but it’s Boo Boo who calms him down.
SheKnows: How did you get connected to the film, Dan?
Dan Aykroyd: Two years ago, I saw they were making Yogi Bear. I said to my agent, “We have to track this because I love the character and I also used to do some acting and they’re going to need an actor, just not a voice.” I went in and had a wonderful audition.
Yogi & Boo-Boo: Why we love you
SheKnows: Why are these characters so iconic and loved?
Dan Aykroyd: These characters are long-established in the American culture from the 1960’s. [I wondered how Justin knew the characters] when he did the voice and he really had it. I was like, “You weren’t alive in the 1960’s,” but I forgot re-runs. He was building his career as a young man and started as an entertainer at about nine years old so cartoons were on then to relieve the stress of what Justin was up to at that time. We both took refuge in the characters. You can multiply that by a generation of baby boomers and the people who came after. They were well-written and well done and had a lot of heart and sweetness and that made them endure.
SheKnows: How hard was it to do such iconic cartoon voices? Did you try to stay close to the already established voices?
Justin Timberlake: These characters were so well thought out when they were created. To get the voice of Boo Boo, I had someone on hand with the old 1960’s and 1970’s cartoons with the original Boo Boo voice and I would sit and listen to it between takes. And it would take me about 15 or 20 minutes to really get into it by doing really geeky vocal stuff but to get my palate to the right level for the character. Then I would go back and re-record everything that I’d recorded in those 15 minutes or first half hour because you just get in the pocket of the tone and inflection. I’m really killing any sort of coolness that I had before I came here [we all laugh]. It was sort of a Laurel and Hardy type thing. I did it in a dry way to offset how bigger than life the character of Yogi is.
Dan Aykroyd: I think we wanted to get as close in terms of the characterizations that were there originally because it is a re-tribute to the great Hanna-Barbera franchise. So we wanted to be true to that. [Justin] can’t help who he is and I can’t help who I am so I think you’ll hear in the characterizations that a lot of our own personality comes through in the voices; a lot of our vocal skills, ability and power. Justin’s dryness is incredible. He channels this character [Justin is grinning]. It’s really Yogi Bear and Boo Boo. It’s a two hander with the incredible support of a fine cast.
Justin Timberlake: An interesting thing about the process of voicing these characters, and so genius of the director to do, was he had Dan and I come in and record together. We had two or three sessions together because we did look at this like a Batman and Robin sort of a duo, so it really made a difference with the rhythm of the banter between Yogi and Boo Boo. There’s a really nice relationship that they have. We both felt like we were honored to pay tribute to characters that both of us [loved]. We understood also that these characters were going to be introduced to young minds for the first time so we were encouraged to give them a new spin and obviously there are some jokes in the film that are a little more modern and will play better with young people. Other than that, I was just excited to wear [Boo Boo’s] bow tie [laughs].
Yogi Bear: National Park mascot?
SheKnows: What would both of you say to encourage families to visit our National Parks and the outdoors? [note: in the movie, Jellystone Park is in danger of closure due to low visitation].
Dan Aykroyd: I would say put up the texting, turn off the Blackberry, put up the laptop. Get rid of it for at least a long weekend; four or five days once or twice a month. We are ruining the attention span of this generation. It’s time to get back to nature. It’s time to get out and see that there are other creatures out there other than our friends being texted and sexted. I personally encourage it.
SheKnows: Is that feeling partially due to you growing up in rural Canada?
Dan Aykroyd: I grew up on the edge of a national park and used to watch Yogi in the afternoon after walking a few miles through this park. There were timber wolves, creeks, snow drifts, a bad highway; it’s like the story your grandparents tell [old people voice], “I walked six miles through the snow.” Well I did! [laughs]. The only joy was coming home at 4:30 as the light was fading and there was Yogi on TV. It was my joy so I always had an appreciation of nature. I pass it on to my children. This generation is gonna change the world. We really do have to put up the electronic devices and get back to nature.
Justin is jamming
Justin Timberlake: I’m sorry. I was texting someone [laughter]. I’m kidding! I did a film about the birth of social networking [The Social Network] and it drove me sort of crazy even playing a part in that movie. It was way beyond my brain span. Ironically, I grew up in Tennessee on the edge of a state park so I spent a lot of time outdoors and Dan put that really eloquently so I would go off of what he said.
SheKnows: Justin, was the voice of Boo Boo something you would do around the house [as a kid]?
Justin Timberlake: At the risk of ruining my social life again, I’ll answer. Funny enough, I kind of learned how to sing when I was a kid imitating singers on radio; Al Green and Michael Jackson and Don Henley. But, also I am an only child and I was obviously really bored so I would entertain my parents by doing impersonations of Scooby-Do and Boo Boo and all the cartoon voices. Yeah. Now you know that about me.
SheKnows: There are valuable messages in this film. In your opinion, what are they?
Justin Timberlake: There are two great themes that offset each other [in the film]. Young people can be caught up in technology but we’re using 3-D technology to “school” if you will, kids on the environment. We need trees to breathe, and money isn’t the most important thing in the world. This is a great way to reach young minds.
Dan Aykroyd: The original Hanna-Barbera cartoons always had a little message at the end; helping friends and staying together. Always those little moral, or social or ethical lessons in the cartoons. That’s why I grew up the way I did.
Justin Timberlake: We had so much fun doing this and it really made a difference that Dan and I got to work together. It was so much better than when actors come in one at a time and do the parts. It was a very good collaboration.