"La, la, la, la, la, la [insert clever-phrase here]." (Have a go at filling in that blank in the comments section... keep it clean please.)
We recently had the opportunity to attend an edit bay visit for the upcoming live-action/CGI adaptation of the classic and beloved Peyo children's comic-strips The Smurfs. Most of us are likely more familiar with the Saturday morning cartoon version of the little blue-ones - but the creators of The Smurfs movie assure us that they are drawing primarily from the original source material.
Fun fact! Peyo came up with the name for his creatures when he momentarily forgot the word for "salt" at a dinner with a friend and very politely requested they pass the "Schtroumpf" to which his friend responded, "Here's the Schtroumpf — when you are done schtroumpfing, schtroumpf it back."
They spent the weekend working "schtroumpf" into a variety of uses (as both descriptors and nouns) which led to the creation of the phrase "smurfy" - via the magic of translation, of course.
Now, on the the latest iteration of The Smurfs.
We were greeted with all manner of Smurf cutouts, plastic figurines, balloons and dolls (one of which may, or may not, have found its way to a new home looking out the rear-view window of my car) at the beginning of our visit. We were then shepherded into a theater - wherein we were shown nearly twenty-minutes of footage from the film (in both 2D and 3D). Intermittent "glasses on, glasses off" instructions were provided.
The footage looked very similar to what you have seen in the trailers. Though The Smurfs aims to be a "for all audiences" film, our best assessment (based upon what we were shown) is that the film works more as a children's movie: in the same way that Alvin and the Chipmunks is a laugh riot to most little ones (and just plain befuddling to adults) or how The Teletubies are endearing to toddlers (and terrifying to everyone else - because they are trying to control our brains).
Small children are very likely to enjoy this film, though there is one section with Azrael (Gargamel's minion) that boarders on cat-abuse - which animal lovers may find perturbing.
We went from the screening directly into roundtable interviews with stars Hank Azaria and Jayma Mays (Glee) followed by producer Jordan Kerner and director Raja Gosnell -- please see the footage of the interviews below:
Jayma Mays and Hank Azaria
Producer Jordan Kerner and director Raja Gosnell
From there we were given a quick lesson in Smurf animation, I dubbed mine "Tai Chi" Smurf (he was very wise). We asked the animators which nicknames they gave each other throughout the course of production - some of them are not fit for print (though they are highly amusing) and we are able to report that both "disappointing" Smurf and "passive aggressive" Smurf were in the mix.
From animation we were taken into the V.O. booth for an opportunity to bring a Smurf to life. It's me against Katy Perry for the voice of Smurfette in this rapid fire tour through the world of voice over (guess who wins :)).
Check out the video below:
As you can see from the interviews the filmmakers clearly have a lot of affection and respect for both Peyo as well as his creation - and the cast had a good (if somewhat confused) time making this film.
We certainly had fun with our brief foray into the world of tiny and blue.
As to the final film audiences will be able to weigh in on the results of the team's collective efforts when The Smurfs opens in theaters on July 29th.
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