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YOGI BEAR

Jellystone Park
Production began on location at Woodhill State Forest, a popular mountain biking destination covering approximately 36,000 acres, west of Auckland, New Zealand. "It was important to me that the actors were in a natural setting, especially on a film with CG characters,” says Brevig. "We could have used a lot of green screen but we wanted to capture the spirit of the outdoors, so we dragged our fancy technical equipment out to where the beauty of nature actually exists and filmed it there.”

"Luckily, since our production schedule began in November, it was the New Zealand spring so we had stunning scenic locations and perfect weather,” says De Line. That's not to say Woodhill didn't need a bit of sprucing up to become the world of Jellystone. For starters, Brevig states, "It's a pine tree plantation, where they grow pine as a lumber crop, meaning equally spaced trees planted in neat rows.” To this base, production designer David R. Sandefur and head greensman Russell Hoffman added locally sourced mature Japanese cedars, which closely resemble California Redwood, plus nearly 10,000 ferns, multiple flats of grasses and mosses, truckloads of rocks and logs, and bales of pine needles. Hundreds of potted plants from nurseries were interspersed with transplanted conifers to create a lush canopy.

The lake on which Yogi stages a hilariously ill-conceived waterskiing and fireworks show was shot at the Whakamaru reserve in the country's central North Island, between the cities of Rotorua and Taupo. For the film's climactic whitewater rafting scene that propels Yogi, Boo Boo, Ranger Smith and Rachel through the rapids, the production used nearby Waikato River, where they created perilous rapids by coordinating with a local hydroelectric plant that uses the river to provide electricity to the region. When it opened its floodgates at the Aratiatia Dam at daily two-hour intervals, the filmmakers took advantage of the rushing water to launch their raft.

"People can attest that I did some of my own stunts for the whitewater sequence,” Tom Cavanagh announces with mock bravado. "Not because I was daring, but because at one point the raft carrying the stunt guys flipped, so we just got into the next one. Was it smart? No. Was it fun? Yes…in an absolutely terrifying way.”

"It was a little insane, but wonderful. It was beautiful out on the water and I think those were my favorite days of the shoot,” Faris agrees.

The scene was completed against a blue screen. Visual effects supervisor Betsy Paterson says, "We got a lot of footage on the river but there are always bits and pieces to add. Then we had to put Yogi and Boo Boo in. They needed to look scared; they needed to look like they were holding on for dear life. So we fit them in between Ranger Smith and Rachel and gave them some fun things to do.”

Jellystone's other points of interest include the bears' cave and the ranger station, for which Sandefur had his work cut out for him. "The cartoon was so stylized and surreal. The landscapes were sort of abstract and the color palette was all over the place. It bore no resemblance to reality. Here, the bears have to exist in a live-action world, yet, when we're in their environment, like the cave, we want to pay homage to details from the cartoon. So it was a real challenge to reconcile the two,” he explains.

Of course, any Yogi fan knows that what makes his and Boo Boo's home so special are the one-of-a-kind upgrades Yogi has made on the place through the creative repurposing of items found in—and pilfered from—the park. Sandefur furnished the bears' lair with what he calls "fantastical objects fashioned from ordinary items that, in theory, he could have lifted from campers, trailers and park personnel. I wanted to retain a fantasy aspect to it, but I couldn't just start dragging things in there that made no sense.”

Sandefur employed the Rube Goldberg school of design in constructing Yogi's outlandish inventions, like a pie-delivery catapult or The Basket Nabber 2000, a pedal-driven glider with tent fabric for wings, canoe paddles as propellers and a red wagon for landing gear. Says Brevig, "David was brilliant at assembling these contraptions so they actually seemed to work…until they didn't. There's always a problem with Yogi's inventions. He tends not to think them all the way through so something always goes wrong.”

Another familiar spot for fans is the ranger station, a log cabin with the look of a 200-year-old building that was built on site, from the ground up. "Everyone who saw it wanted to buy it,” states Cavanagh, who includes himself among them. When production wrapped, the cabin was purchased and relocated by a company that operates a tourist railway in neighboring Rotorua.

Consistent with Sandefur's design parameters, costume designer Liz McGregor also aimed for a look that wasn't obviously retro but, rather, defies dating. "I was working with a very specific image of Ranger Smith from the cartoon series, as well as the National Park Service's actual uniform, and decided to amalgamate the two,” she says. "All the insignia was based on NPS badges and designs but reworked to read ‘Jellystone.'”

Brevig visited California's Yosemite National Park in preparation for "Yogi Bear,” and reflects that "Jellystone is kind of the idealized version of these places around the world and all that they have to offer. One of the interesting things about our parkland is how time essentially stands still there, and we tried to replicate that in the movie. From the opening frame, audiences should feel as if they're in Yogi's world and in Jellystone Park, the most gorgeous park imaginable, with a couple of bears who are determined to keep it that way.

"I hope everyone who sees it will remember the feeling they had when they watched the original cartoon,” Brevig concludes. "I hope that they'll be able to share that feeling with their kids.”

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