Tuesday 14 December 2010

That Movie and This Book

The day is soon arriving when we will all be pulling out our eyes in the hope the pain will end. No, I don’t mean Christmas dinner with the in-laws. I mean that movie.

And, much like the ubiquitousness of anything to do with Christmas, you can’t get away from the publicity campaign to push you into theatres later this month to see that lump of coal in your stocking—a film that purports to feature Yogi Bear.

The movie has outraged fans of the old cartoons in so many ways, they’re uncountable. But now the publicity is doing the same thing.

The one playing the larynx of the title character, Dan Aykroyd, is making the circuit. He chatted with David Germain of the Associated Press, who opens his story with this:

Dan Aykroyd has been rehearsing for the lead voice in "Yogi Bear" for half a century.

Then Aykroyd relates his tale of running past drunken politicians from across the bridge in Ottawa timberwolves to get home from elementary school to watch the handiwork of people like Carlo Vinci, Art Lozzi and Warren Foster.

And Daws Butler.

I loved Dan Aykroyd on Saturday Night Live. But if Dan Aykroyd has really been rehearsing Yogi’s voice for 50 years, all I can say, as the kids put it these days: FAIL.

Even more stunning is the barefaced (I’m avoiding a pun here) comments by the movie’s director, as quoted by Mr. Germain:

I didn't want them [the actors] to imitate the characters. I wanted them to be the characters as you remember it, especially people who know the characters from their childhood.

Say what? You “don’t recognise” something as “you remember it”? That sounds like the kind of double-talk you’d hear out of timberwolves drunken politicians from across the bridge in Ottawa.

The director also comes up with this bit of understatement:

Dan’s version isn't actually identical.

50 years ago, Yogi could be seen twice every Wednesday in Ottawa: at 5 o’clock on CBOT (channel 4) and 7 o’clock on WCAX (channel 3, Burlington, Vt.). Yet Mr. Aykroyd’s childhood memories of the verbal nuances of Daws Butler have somehow been replaced by those he heard on the set of Caddyshack from Rodney Dangerfield. Or maybe it’s the director’s fault that Aykroyd’s Yogi sounds like he’s ready to pull on his tie and complain he gets “no respect.” You can read the AP piece for yourself HERE.

So, kids, before you run home from school past timberwolves or drunken politicians to watch cartoons, here is today’s lesson.

This is not Yogi Bear.

This is Yogi Bear.

What does the real Yogi think about all this? Perhaps this sums it up:

For Yogi Bear, the glass is always half full and every day is a gift ripe with opportunities, new friends, and tasty treats. The Tao of Yogi is one of love and tolerance: love thy neighbor, harbor no ill will, and share your gifts, and life will reward you with goodies. Live by these rules and you can't go wrong. Happiness is Yogi's message, his reason for being, and Life is a Pic-a-Nic is his manifesto.

Those are publicity notes from a new book by Yogi himself, assisted by a long-time acquaintance of his, Earl Kress. And that isn’t an exaggeration. Earl was a friend of the wonderful Daws Butler. I wish Earl resumed his blogging because I’d love to read more stories about the people he knew/knows in the animation industry. Nevertheless, Earl’s a busy guy with a resumé far greater than mine, but has taken the time to pass on the names of some of the stock music in the original Huck and Yogi cartoons. If you’re interested in the book, you can go HERE. The cover art’s really nice. Sure is better than CGI, isn’t it?


  1. What happened to Warner Studios, once the creator of some of the best cartoons? This movie, the horror....

  2. I read this on IMDB under the "Yogi Bear" movie listing:

    "Many students of Daws Butler (the original voice of Yogi Bear) sent Dan Aykroyd tapes of Butler explaining how to do Yogi's voice. Aykroyd refused to listen to any of the tapes, preferring to do his own take on the classic character."

    A fine plan!


  3. I don't know if "many" did, Tom. I know one did.

  4. The timber wolves and drunken politicians part was epic. I like Aykroyd too on SNL and Ghostbusters, but this, no.

    If Hollywood directors want to make movies about these characters, then at least keep everything that was likable about the characters in the first place rather than destroy them with lousy CGI.

  5. One of the more distressing trends to hit animation over the past couple of decades is the ridiculous insistence of studios to cast big-name actors rather than cartoon actors. While many onscreen actors are also good at cartoon voices, they're two distinct occupations. Most of the blame for this can be laid with Disney, but Dreamworks and other contemporary studios have jumped on the bandwagon as well.

    That said, there must be a couple of capable voice actors who could voice our two favorite bears for this project (not that that would make their presentation in CGI any less visually repugnant!). I never cared for Daws' original replacement voice as Yogi, Greg Burson. But in recent years I've heard some nice Yogi renditions in CN/Boomerang interstitials and even John K's controversial shorts. (Stephen Worth, perhaps?)

  6. To me, one of the the really sad things about it is...since Hollywood has been casting " A-Listers " in the roles of these " Dream Works ", " Pixar " type films for so long, we are quickly coming up on a generation who knows nothing else. I read in an article how wonderful it was that Aykroyd had taken the character and " made it his own ". His own? I think the task would be to nail down the sound of the original Yogi's voice. Come as close to Daws version as humanly possible. Not reinterpret the character. The only time I heard Burson( A Student of Daws ) voice Yogi, was in a Scooby Doo movie; " Arabian Night's '. It's sad that his last years were plagued with such bad personal and health issues.

  7. The extent to which studios favor the name before the voice -- even when they don't make the opening credits -- is scary. You know how Amy Poehler, Anna Faris, and Christine Applegate were all hired to voice the Chipettes in Alvin: The Squeakquel? Yeah, I didn't either!

  8. Hollywood's basic idea today is to take a well-known character, cut corners by using CGI instead of traditional 2-D animation so you can shovel a few more bucks to hire "names" as the voice actors, and then give the characters an "edge" to appeal to today's kids, even if that completely goes against what the character was originally about.

    I should add that the last part as far as Yogi goes, can be traced all the way back to "Yogi's Arc" from the 1972 Saturday Superstar Movie -- the character has been subject to being stuck in inappropriate stories designed to fit the trend of the day for the past 38 years. It's just you would have hoped the people making the movie wouldn't fall into that same trap and actually base the story on what made Yogi popular in the first place. Warners would have been better off simply remaking Hanna-Brbera's 1964 feature in CGI, so we'd at least get a few good songs out of it.

  9. I wondered if I was the only one who read the director's comments (regarding Mr Ackroyd's "reinterpretation") as a backhanded apology for hiring an actor who cannot do Yogi's voice right.

  10. The impression I'm left with, Daniel, is Akyroyd auditioned for the director .. and won the audition with that voice. If that's the case, it's not really the actor's fault, is it?

  11. I still see the horror to made Yogi Bear as a CGI/furry-ish character and released by peoples who never meet his real creators. It's better if today's Warner don't mind to the characters who wasn't created at their studio because theyr certainly don't know the HB studio history more than us, the fans!

  12. I understand that everyone hates Dan Akroyd's performances, there is far too much gravel, to say the least. Surely he isn't too much worse than that guy in the late 1980s though, Greg Burson?

  13. It almost goes without saying that I'd give more credence to the new Yogi book than the Hollywood-by-committee CGI treatment about to be released. It's nice that Earl Kress -- as someone who was acquainted with Daws -- is responsible for the book. Just don't let him try and do justice to Snagglepuss' voice, if the performance contained in the "Legendary Sound of Daws Butler" extra on the Huckleberry Hound Show DVD release is any indication.
    Bob Schaeffer