Shawn Levy Bringing the Berenstain Bears to the Big Screen
Though Stephen Colbert has warned us of the unrivaled threat bears pose to civilization, those of us who grew up with a certain bear family know that they are actually wholesome, loving and full of great lessons to teach children. I'm speaking of none other than the almost-50-year old family, The Berenstain Bears. The beloved book series, spawned in 1962, has taught generations of children not only to read, but about various life lessons and facts. Now USA Today reports that Walden Media and director Shawn Levy (Night at the Museum) will bring the bears to life in a comedy blending live-action and computer animation.
Levy will certainly have plenty to pull from as The Berenstain Bears library has over 200 titles to choose from for inspiration. The average story dealt with the parental exploits of the aptly named Mama and Papa Bear as they taught their children, Brother and Sister Bear, about the importance of honesty, friendship, love and much more. Later (after my childhood experience with the bears) the books expanded their teachings (and the Bear family) when Mama Bear became pregnant and added little Honey Bear to the mix.
If you're crying or visibly angry, hang on a minute, because Levy knows the legacy he's dealing with: "To stand that kind of test of time is pretty formidable. People read them as kids and can now read them to their kids. Any piece of culture that proves that enduring has something special in its DNA." Though Levy's most recent film is the more adult comedy Date Night, he's no stranger to family fare having directed both Night at the Museum films as well as the Steve Martin led remakes Cheaper By the Dozen and The Pink Panther.
As far as how his comedic sensibilities will jive with The Berenstain Bears, here's what Levy had to say:
"[The Berenstain Bears] happen to fit firmly within the wheelhouse of family-genre comedy I do, whether it's Cheaper by the Dozen or Night at the Museum. It's warm-hearted comedy about family, and a different kind of family. I'd like the film to be un-ironic about its family connections but have a wry comedic sensibility that isn't oblivious to the fact that they're bears. The comedy comes from this bear family coexisting in a more recognizably real world. I think the movie will be witty but never sarcastic."
Honestly, as someone who is increasingly maddened by Hollywood snatching up all my favorite TV shows and books and movies from my childhood and giving them a contemporary update, I think Levy's got a phenomenal grasp on how to approach the books as well as the right comedic tone to properly bring the old-fashioned stories to life in contemporary society. Anyway, there's plenty of time to see where Levy will ultimately take the project since Walden Media CEO Michael Bostick says a screenplay will be finished and in pre-production late next year, with the earliest release date being sometime in late 2011. Thoughts?