TETON COUNTY, Wyo. (CAP) - The grizzly bear that attacked three campers in Yellowstone National Park last week had just seen a special sneak preview of the upcoming Yogi Bear feature film, according to park officials.
The park had hosted an outdoor screening for campers of the first 30 minutes of the upcoming Warner Brothers film, featuring Dan Aykroyd as the voice of Yogi and Justin Timberlake as his sidekick, Boo-Boo. Several campers and the park's certified wildlife biologist, Terry McKinney, reported spotting a grizzly bear and her three cubs looking at the screen from a nearby hill.
"At first it was cute, like they were really watching the movie," said camper Fred Schafer, 49, of Addison, Wisc. "But then the big one got this look on her face ... I can only describe it as disgust."
A bear matching the same description attacked the campers later that night, and according to McKinney, " it's possible that the bear found the movie, in human terms, offensive to her. You know, as a an actual bear, one that doesn't wear a hat and tie."
"I mean, have you seen the previews?" asked McKinney, referring to the trailer in which a computer-generated Yogi Bear dances to pop music and tries to steal a lunchbox from the live-action Ranger Smith, played by Tom Cavanaugh of TV's Ed. "I'm just a biologist, and it made me want to maul somebody."
If McKinney's theory proves true, it wouldn't be the first time animals were moved to disturbing behavior by their portrayal on the big screen. At a 2005 outdoor screening in Newburyport, Mass. of Valiant - the World War II carrier pigeon movie featuring the voices of Ewan McGregor and Ricky Gervais - the event ended abruptly when hundreds of pigeons defecated on the crowd, sending children screaming and running for cover.
The Yellowstone incident has sent shock waves through the industry, particularly its animation studios. At 20th Century Fox Animation, executives have once again postponed release of the long-delayed Gasbag Bear, the flatulent bear movie featuring the voice of Jack Black that it had hoped would compete with Pixar's next scheduled release, Amoebas.
"I'd hate to think one of our films could wind up being responsible for that kind of carnage," said one Fox executive who declined to be named. "Haven't cartoons done enough damage?" he asked, referring to the screening of Star Wars: The Clone Wars that spurred an angry mob to murder a George Lucas look-alike outside the theater.
For his part, Pixar Chief Creative Officer John Lasseter says that Pixar movies have never resulted in violence, rarely inspiring anything more severe than melancholy or, occasionally, ennui.
Not all subscribe to the theory that Yogi was behind the bear attacks, however. Cavanaugh, who stars as Ranger Smith, said last night from Yellowstone that the bear attacks following the screening "were just a sad, unfortunate coincidence." Then he was immediately mauled to death by a bear.
"Given that his latest career move was appearing in Yogi Bear, I'd say he's better off," commented New York Observer film critic Rex Reed.
- CAP News Staff