For 'Yogi Bear' Parodist, A Suitable Penance?

Bear Trap: Things don't end well in this "alternate" final scene created by animator and graphic designer Edmund Earle.

The 3-D kids' comedy Yogi Bear opens tonight, and the critics' reviews have been brutal — as of the earliest Friday screenings, the Metacritic average was an unenthusiastic 32.

Reviewers weren't anywhere near as rough on the hapless ursine, however, as the "alternate ending" that set the Internet on fire early this week. We'll spare you the grim details (though you can watch them unfold at left, if you like). Suffice it to say that the YouTube hit is a homage to the Oscar-nominated 2007 Western The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford — and that it involves Yogi's sidekick Boo Boo, a "Wanted" poster, and a double-barreled shotgun.

And as creator Edmund Earle told NPR's Robert Siegel, it sparked a bit of a recoil.

"Warner Bros. was actually very nice and pragmatic about it," Earle says. "They said they supported my doing work like this; they didn't want to stifle any creativity. They just wanted to make sure that disclaimers were up so that people wouldn't blame Warner Bros."

Don't think Earle, a 25-year-old CGI animator working in New York, is a Hanna-Barbera hater. His parody, which took months to put together, was partly about paying homage to the Jesse James film.

"Assassination of Jesse James is a very honorable, artistic film," he says. "Its cinematography is off the charts. A lot of people complain that it's a long, boring film, but it's good in small doses — and the cinema is to die for."

But the parody, Earle says, is definitely also a commentary on Hollywood's propensity for mining classic properties for new cash and mangling golden memories in the process.

"A lot of people have said they don't like seeing Yogi Bear killed," he says. "I don't feel like I've 'killed' Yogi Bear in this; I feel like I have laid to rest the new marketing tool created out of Yogi Bear, the original."

Anyone who thinks Earle still owes the character an apology can take comfort in knowing that he'll be paying for his parody in a concrete way — by forking over the price of a New York City movie ticket.

"I plan to see it tonight, when it premieres," he says. "I feel I owe them that much."

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