You can't take a movie with talking cartoon bears too seriously, but the live-action-meets-animation movie "Yogi Bear," opening Dec. 17, does have an environmental message. In the big-screen version of the beloved Hanna-Barbera 'toon about picnic basket-heisting Yogi Bear and his sidekick Boo Boo, a power-mad politician aims to sell Jellystone Park and turn its trees into mulch. Yogi (voiced by Dan Aykroyd), Boo Boo (Justin Timberlake), Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) and a documentary filmmaker (Anna Faris) join forces to save the park. The message "is about how important our natural resources are," says director Eric Brevig, who shot the film at a pine tree farm in New Zealand. "We shot it in the winter months and we needed it to be summer," he explains, adding that a real forest was ruled out because of maneuverability and logistics. "We couldn't get around and move tractors without causing damage. These trees were grown for lumber and any we did cut down we used for log cabins and sets."
"I hope the movie will give families a chance to start appreciating their surroundings," says Faris, a childhood Yogi Bear fan who does her green part by taking reusable bags to the grocery store — when she remembers to bring them in from her car. She'll be seen next in the comedies "Take Me Home Tonight" (March) and "What's Your Number?" (April), and she found 3-D green screen acting (with stand-ins for the CG animated bears) "a little tricky."
So did Cavanagh, though he's pleased with the results: "What I love about the 3-D technology in this movie is it shows off nature and the depth and beauty of it," says the actor, who grew up appreciating the outdoors in his native Canada and in Ghana, where his father worked for several years. Now living in New York, he takes public transportation and walks to get around. He's learned a lot about green practices from co-star Timberlake, who built a LEED-certified golf course in Millington, Tenn., near Memphis. Cavanagh will play a pro golfer in the Jan. 20 premiere of USA's "Royal Pains."
Watch Cavanagh, Faris and Brevig joke around in our exclusive video interview: