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YOGI BEAR

Grin And Bear It
Mr. Ranger isn't gonna like this…

If Yogi is the unstoppable force, Ranger Smith is the immovable object in his path. With all his rules and regulations—plus a never-ending supply of signs advising PLEASE DON'T FEED THE BEARS—Smith is the law in Jellystone Park. Which means, in addition to devising ever-more-ingenious ways of helping himself to forbidden food, Yogi must always think of ways to evade this protector of park patrons—a man he respectfully addresses as "Mr. Ranger, Sir,” when he's caught red-handed…red, as in cherry pie.

"Yogi is the bane of the ranger's existence. Smith is trying to entice visitors to the park, where Yogi does his best to steal their food. It's a constant battle,” Brevig states.

Tom Cavanagh sees Smith as "a man who loves the great outdoors, all its flora and fauna, and lives for his park. He was raised by his father to be a park ranger, and comes from a long succession of Rangers Smith, so he's committed.”

"Tom is so good at portraying the long-suffering good guy you root for,” the director continues. "He's funny, but at the same time you have to take him seriously. Ranger Smith is a touchstone for the audience. He's the only person in the story you can relate to as almost a normal guy, dealing with all the crazy characters around him. And, like Smith, Cavanagh has a wonderful way of being consistently enthusiastic, warm and charming, while reacting to things like Yogi accidentally dropping a rock on his head.”

The actor compares Smith's relationship with Yogi to "having a brother or a friend who always gets into trouble and makes a mess, but you still like him. For all his bluster, Ranger Smith doesn't have the heart to stay mad at Yogi. The truth is, Yogi does entertain him, though he'd never admit it.”

"They're kind of harmoniously interconnected; each one justifies the other's existence,” says Aykroyd.

Perhaps the funniest thing about the ranger is his touching belief that, one day, Yogi might actually heed his advice, stop raiding campsites and start acting like, well, a regular bear. So he is none too pleased to discover that the park's biggest liability is going to be the star subject of a documentary by filmmaker Rachel Johnson, one of several new characters "Yogi Bear” introduces to Jellystone. The last thing that bear needs, Smith feels, is attention. It will only encourage him.

But the ranger's reservations are soon swept aside by the undeniable impact Rachel makes on him. Not only is she beautiful and smart, but her most ardent interests happen to be the same botanical and zoological realms that consume his own waking hours. A woman who knows a Datura Stramonium from a Lygodium Palmatum…and looks like that? What are the odds?

Anna Faris, who plays the role of the visiting filmmaker, says, "Rachel is passionate about animals. She's lived with all kinds of wildlife to film her documentaries and now she's at Jellystone because she heard they have a couple of talking bears. This is supposed to be a rare thing, as opposed to completely impossible. The fact that they can talk at all doesn't really seem to faze anyone.”

"We'd seen Anna's work and thought she was wonderfully funny, and would be perfect for this kooky character,” says Brevig. "Rachel wants footage of Yogi and Boo Boo in their ‘natural' habitat, which is ridiculous because they live in a furnished cave complete with a TV set.”

It turns out that Rachel and Smith have more in common than their identical dogeared copies of The North American Wilderness Guide. Since her career keeps her mostly in the wild, Rachel's unfamiliarity with human company proves a good match for the smitten ranger's awkward attempts at conversation. Says Faris, "They're both nerdy, but in a good way.”

When Rachel learns the park is in peril, she offers to help. And Smith can use all the help he can get, since his over-enthusiastic and over-confident deputy, Ranger Jones, can be more of a hindrance.

Cast as Jones, T.J. Miller believes, "The problem is that the deputy, who carries a collection of Boy Scout merit badges as proof of his worth, wants to be an expert on everything. He's an interesting character because he's a combination of goofiness and a drive for power. Simply put, he wants Smith's job but he's not ready for it.”

"It's a tricky role because Jones is fooled by the mayor into helping him,” says Brevig. "T.J. and I worked to figure out the exact tone, because we didn't want Jones to be a bad guy. He's just gullible and the mayor takes advantage of that, so we're rooting for Jones to do the right thing, even when he makes the wrong choices.”

Brown is played by Andrew Daly, who gives the mayor's villainy a casual feel, explaining, "He's just going about his business. He has a long list of things to do today, and destroying Jellystone Park is only one of them. He's not doing it out of any hatred of nature or vengeance against anyone, but rather because it happens to suit his agenda.” "What I love about Andrew's performance is that he so delights in everything he's saying, especially if it's evil. He has such a twinkle in his eye,” Brevig says.

Supporting the mayor in his intent to turn Jellystone's majestic Redwoods into a lumberyard is his Chief of Staff, played by Nate Corddry, a role identified by a title alone because, Daly notes, "The mayor doesn't know his name. He regards him as a piece of office equipment, like a copier, and doesn't know anything about him as a human being.”

"The plan is to come into this big, beautiful park and chop down all the trees, which would not be a good thing for picnickers or talking bears,” says Corddry. "But the Chief of Staff is the mayor's right-hand man. Whenever he hatches an evil plot, it's my character's job to deliver.”

Brevig sees the mayor and his flunky as "a pair of dysfunctional characters who don't realize how goofy they are. The fun of watching them is that they're not very good at what they're doing. They're bad guys, for sure, but they're really bad bad guys.”

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