January 10, 2011
Seeing as I have no memories of my own first trip to the cinema as a child, it is somewhat comforting to now have the memory of my two nephews’ induction into the spectacular world of moving images and refined sugar. This was also the first time I have, since entering adulthood, watched a “kids’ film” with any real understanding of its target audience’s reception (this is unsurprisingly a lot easier when you’re surrounded by said audience). And what could be more perfect than seeing the visual realisation of one of my own childhood favourite cartoons made into a contemporary 3D, CGI-fest for a new generation?
Yogi Bear (2010) follows a simple enough storyline whereby the selfish, feckless Mayor Brown (played to great comic effect by Andrew Daly) has impoverished city funds through dodgy personal expenses and now needs to find a quick cash injection to cover his ass before the upcoming election. Deciding to sell-off the beautiful but too empty too often Jellystone Park to loggers, Ranger Smith (Tom Cavanagh), along with; nature enthusiast/documentary filmmaker and love-interest Rachel (Anna Faris), Yogi (voiced by Dan Aykroyd) and his loveable sidekick Boo Boo (voiced by Justin Timberlake); must find a way to stop them. The “message” in the film is both simple and acceptable enough as it promotes the preservation of natural wildlife, suggesting natural environments and sustainability are preferable to primarily capitalist concerned city spaces. It may not have the subtlety or nuance of a Studio Ghibli film (whose “messages” are similar) or even the technical nouse of the admittedly more adult-aimed Where the Wild Things Are (2009), expressly using CGI for the two lead bears, but, as kids’ film, it is certainly harmless and entertaining enough.
What’s most interesting however, is that the film is presented in 3D. With so many recent 3D presentations being children’s films it is evidently the case that studios are indeed serious about continued use of the technology. The only reason they would continue to pitch it at children is if they are hoping for its longevity. Whilst many adults (and critics) remain suspect about the success of the medium, an entire generation are already being trained to see in this way. It is also worth noting that they manufacture a smaller size in 3D glasses now to cater specifically for young children. Whilst my own nephews failed to keep their glasses on for the duration (it was after all their very first time in a cinema and the film itself is short and sweet with a run-time of just eighty minutes), it certainly seemed that a majority of the children in the audience did so with aplomb. And whilst a far cry from the cartoon of my own, now all but forgotten childhood, Yogi Bear, insofar as capturing its target audience is concerned, seemed to me, smarter than the average film.
Written by Tara Judah for Liminal Vision.