Yogi Bear - Justin Timberlake
Justin Timberlake voice of Boo Boo, during one of the recording sessions © 2010 Warner Bros

What a diverse career Justin Timberlake has created for himself. He’s a Grammy Award-winning artist who moved effortlessly into acting jobs with critically acclaimed performances in The Social Network, Alpha Dog, Black Snake Moan and Southland Tales. He also showed off his other vocal talent by voicing Artie in Shrek the Third. But who knew he could phenomenally match the voice we all heard as kids, Boo Boo in Yogi Bear?

In the new live action/animated feature filmed in 3D, Yogi Bear (voiced by Dan Aykroyd) is still a notorious troublemaker at Jellystone Park, where he resides with his side-kick, Boo Boo. His biggest problem has always been finding new ways to steal campers’ picnic baskets, but now the park is going to be sold, and he and Boo Boo, along with Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh) must find a way to save it.

What made you want to be part of the film?

Yogi Bear - Justin Timberlake and Dan Aykroyd
Boo Boo (voiced by Justin Timberlake) and Yogi Bear (voiced by Dan Aykroyd) © 2010 Warner Bros

Back when I was in school, I’d procrastinate doing my homework by watching cartoons, and Yogi Bear was one of the staples of after-school televisions and Saturday mornings. Later, I found out that my parents grew up with it too.

So 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.

Was the voice of Boo Boo something you would do around the house as a kid?

At the risk of ruining my social life, I’ll answer. Funny enough, I kind of learned how to sing when I was a kid imitating singers on radio; Al Green, Michael Jackson and Don Henley. But, also I am and 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.

How would you describe Boo Boo?

Yogi Bear - Justin Timberlake
Boo Boo (voiced by Justin Timberlake) © 2010 Warner Bros

Boo Boo is definitely Yogi’s conscience. He’s the good angel on Yogi’s shoulder, always there to remind him of what’s important. But even as he’s the voice of reason, he does it all while being a cute little bear with a nasal-y voice.

How hard was it to do such an iconic cartoon voice? Did you try to stay close to the already established voice?

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 ‘60’s and ‘70’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 your 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 [he laughs]. 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.

Were you alone in the booth when you voiced this?

Yogi Bear - Justin Timberlake and Anna Faris
Boo Boo (voiced by Justin Timberlake) and Rachel (Anna Faris) © 2010 Warner Bros

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 had so much fun 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.

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 a bow tie [he laughs].

What would you say to encourage families to visit our National Parks and the outdoors and get off their computers?

Yogi Bear - Justin Timberlake
Boo Boo (voiced by Justin Timberlake) © 2010 Warner Bros

I’m sorry. I was texting someone [he laughs]. 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 [beauty].

There are interesting messages in this film. In your opinion, what are they?

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 how money isn’t the most important thing in the world. This is great way to reach young minds.

Judy Sloane

Judy is Film Review Online's regular Los Angeles based reporter.