For people of a certain age, there can be little argument that the most recent big screen outings for the Smurfs were disappointing, to say the least. Thrusting the beloved little blue characters into an animation/live action hybrid scenario was, quite simply, ill-advised – even if Hank Azaria was obviously born to play the evil wizard, Gargamel. The fact that the 2011 and 2013 movies are the only Smurfish point of reference for a whole new generation of children is tragic – which makes the news of a fully animated re-boot from Sony Pictures Animation – titled Get Smurfy – most welcome indeed.
The Smurfs hail from a bygone era – first appearing in 1958, as the comic strip creation of Belgian artist Peyo. Peyo was the author of Johan And Peewit at the time, which was a story set in the Middle Ages, and featured a King’s Page and his sidekick. Published in an issue of Spirou Magazine in 1958, the story included an arc that saw the two heroes cross paths with a small, blue person in white clothes, and his little blue friends. The popularity of these characters determined the creation of a spin-off comic story, which led to many comic series, TV series, movies and merchandising opportunities.
Characterised by communal life and cooperation, Smurf tales have always been based in adventure and positivity – although this seemingly idyllic scenario is not without controversy. Even by the standards of 1958, the original world of the Smurfs is a fundamentally patriarchal one, in which the entire community is male, until the evil wizard Gargamel creates Smurfette for the specific purpose of causing tension and discord among the Smurfs. The leader of the Smurfs – the Marx-like Papa Smurf – takes Smurfette under his wing and actually changes her to make her more acceptable to his community. Over the years, two more female Smurfs were introduced, but the community remained a wholly male-centred one.
While 2011’s The Smurfs and 2013’s The Smurfs 2 made some attempt to modernize the role of female Smurfs in the story, equality was still sadly lacking in these stories. The upcoming Get Smurfy – being developed for Sony Pictures Animation – is rumoured to be tackling the issue head-on, by addressing the reasons behind the overwhelming gender imbalance. To that end, the voice of Smurfette is among the first batch of casting announcements for the movie – with Demi Lovato (Glee) confirmed as taking the role. Mandy Patinkin (Homeland) will voice the character of Papa Smurf, while Rainn Wilson (The Office) will feature as the voice of the evil Gargamel. President of Sony Pictures Animation, Kristine Belson, explained the methodology of ensuring a great movie.
“We have gathered together a group of filmmakers and artists who have grown up with these lovable characters, and Get Smurfy will be imbued with the same spirit of adventure that first made all of us lifelong fans of these little blue guys… and girl.”
Producer Jordan Kerner, who also worked on The Smurfs and The Smurfs 2, pointed out the ways in which Get Smurfy will differ from the previous two efforts.
“We felt it was important to take a very different approach with this origin story. It returns to the roots of Peyo’s creation in this CG-animated adventure. I hope it will delight not only fans but audiences worldwide. We couldn’t be more excited with the talented new cast we’re starting to assemble for our Smurfy reboot.”
Writers on the project include Karey Kirkpatrick (The Smurfs 2), Chris Poche (Flakes), David Ronn (The Smurfs 2), and Jay Scherick (also of The Smurfs 2), so there is some concern as to how different this new version will actually be. There is a new director at the helm, though, in the form of Kelly Asbury (Gnomeo & Juliet) – who expressed his excitement at presenting an entirely animated Smurf story.
“The continued popularity of the Smurfs is unmistakable, and this new outing will return them to the fully animated world that launched them.”
Can Get Smurfy successfully rehabilitate the out-dated, damaged reputation of the Smurfs? We will have to wait until its release date of March 31st, 2017 to find out.