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Yogi is on a break. So is Boo Boo. They're back in their trailer, rehydrating and surfing the net, waiting for their next call to the set.

Down the road, Ranger Smith has a big scene on his log cabin ranger station next to a camping ground of tents where the signs warn not to leave food out for marauding bears.

Strangely there is not a picnic basket - pronounced "pick-a-nic" hereabouts - in sight. Trees of a girth that suggest they have survived many, many Christmases dot the area. And, despite their lack of up-top foliage, many are being trimmed high up their trunks.

The porch of the cabin is aglow in the orange light of a sunset, though the real dusk is still hours away. It's for a scene where the Ranger - a far more buff fellow than the rotund cartoon figure - is trying to woo a cute nature documentary-maker over dinner. On the menu? Rack of spam.

But as always on film sets, the proportion of the time spent actually acting to everything else - mainly ensuring the hefty giant 3D camera, of the sort that shot Avatar is doing its thing - is tiny.

Welcome to another day at Jellystone Park. Or, as it's known to its usual native wild creatures, the mountain bikers of Auckland, Woodhill Forest.

It's roughly halfway through the New Zealand shoot for Yogi Bear, the mixed live action and computer-animated 3D version of the Hanna-Barbera cartoon which dates back to 1958.

The production has already spent time in Taupo, shooting whitewater scenes at the Aratiatia rapids, and in central city Auckland - (spoiler alert) at some point Ranger Smith is reassigned to the tiny "Evergreen Park" better known to us as Emily Place.

And they'll be here until mid-March, with more days at Woodhill and West Auckland's Studio West for scenes inside Yogi's cave.

Add in the three-month 3D shoot, the 200 mainly local crew with mostly American heads of department, the multiple locations and sets - as well as the ranger's station, Woodhill has Jellystone's famous stone archway gate - and this is clearly not a cheap and cheerful production.

Production designer David Sandefur said they have probably spent US$500,000 ($717,000) alone on getting Woodhill's relatively scrawny, grey-trunked plantation pinus radiata to look like a redwood forest in Northern California.

But it's the policy of the film's backers, Warner Bros, not to disclose budgets while shooting.

Still, the last film by Yogi Bear's director, the 2008 3D update of Journey to the Centre of the Earth reportedly cost in the US$45 million to US$60 million range and those Chipmunks movies were US$70 million-plus each.

But they have saved money on not having to fly the "stars" to New Zealand. The animated Yogi and Boo Boo are to be voiced by Dan Akroyd, a devoted Yogi fan, and Justin Timberlake.

Which means that their stand-ins, local actors Fraser McLeod and James Fletcher (aka Jimmy the Dwarf) are their furry avatars - they are there to be visual references for the animators of Los Angeles production house Rhythm & Hues.

And while the pair are a bit grizzly (oh, stop it) about having to share a trailer, they seem to be having fun. Especially the bear-like McLeod who is a big, red-haired ball of enthusiasm about being involved, albeit in a once-removed kind of way.

"It's ridiculous fun. Part of it for me is it's the realisation of an iconic character, this multi-generational iconic character that everybody loves.

"When I told people I was part of Yogi Bear they all did the same thing, which was this real warm, joyous laugh. "And to have a legitimate reason to do Yogi's voice - without annoying my friends - it's a gift, even we don't end up being seen in the film anyway. To be a part of this is insane."

As we talk Fletcher is on his laptop, claiming he is chatting to the other Boo Boo: "Justin, they just asked me a question about you. I said 'Shithouse. Average actor, sings karaoke level songs, reasonably good dancer, quite hot, quite funny ..."

Ranger Smith is played by Tom Cavanagh, most familiar here for his roles in TV shows like Ed, Providence and Eli Stone.

He says he had a word to McLeod about his seemingly invisible but vital role.

"He was out to sea a little bit about it. I said to him you know what? We are telling a story and if you attach meaning and importance to other things, no you are not in it. But if you are trying to tell the story which is what the success is going to hinge on - whether we tell it well, you are completely 100 per cent necessary for me and my performance on screen.

"He is going to do stuff that could be the Andy Serkis-like guideline for something and it is absolutely necessary. So he should be be proud of himself."

Unlike, his other co-star Akroyd, Cavanagh doesn't claim to be a big fan of the cartoon. Then again the Canadian-born actor spent much of his childhood in Africa, with no television.

"I came to much of the pop culture like Yogi quite late. Nonetheless, I am glad they made a Yogi so Warner Bros could do a feature film so I could be a part of it."

Even if he has some other concerns about his casting. "If you were to take a quick look at the pear-shaped Ranger Smith from the cartoon, this is a perfect example of how we see ourselves versus how others see us. They think I'm a pear-shaped Ranger Smith? Fine."

The film came to New Zealand mainly so it could make its Christmas 2010 release date, rather than for reasons of scenery, or lack of wild creatures in the woods.

Production designer Sandefur says he's had to enhance Woodhill's treescape.

"The raw forest alone is not very good at all, it's just a bunch of grey toothpicks." And he's tried to make the Ranger Station set look like a classic United States National Park which, like the cartoon, dates back to the post-war era, right down to the phoney trail maps of Jellystone sitting in brochure racks. More of a challenge, he says, will be getting Yogi's cave right.

"Yogi's cave is a very iconic thing in the cartoon and although this movie is grounded in reality it is supposed to be ..."

"A bachelor pad?"

"Exactly. How do you take a very dark, dreary space and make it cheerful and playful and with a little bit of a nod to the period the cartoon was in?

"You can't be in a world like this and all of a sudden walk into that environment and you feel like it's The Flintstones."

Director Eric Brevig, a one-time visual effects Oscar winner for Total Recall, is relaxed enough to laugh at the jest that Yogi represents the next Avatar. After all, same cameras, New Zealand shoot, actors playing animated creatures who aren't really there, a forest ...

"Yes exactly. I have to make sure they know the bears aren't blue ... and if we can just get 'Avatar' in the title we can easily add an extra billion." Brevig is a friend of James Cameron. He helped on some testing for the sci-fi blockbuster five years ago before shooting Journey to the Centre of the Earth using an earlier generation of the 3D camera system.

The main aim of Yogi Bear is, of course, more to be the next Chipmunks.

But Brevig says it's a comedy before it's a kids' movie, something he insisted on when the studio approached him with an early script he didn't like.

He wanted it to be smarter than the average cartoon adaptation.

"I said 'if we make it smarter and don't make it a kids' film but a comedy that the kids can have fun watching? It's the best of both worlds.

"So now it is a movie that doesn't talk down to kids. All the characters are adults in the movie - except for Yogi, who is a big kid."

A big kid who won't really appear in the movie until after the New Zealand end of the production wraps in a month's time.

Still, McLeod does a good Yogi voice when needed.

"Yeah, he does. Especially for a Kiwi," says Brevig.

"In some of the auditions you would hear someone attempting the Yogi voice with a very strong New Zealand accent. It was 'I'm smarter than the average buurrrr'. 'What? That's not Yogi'."