Warner Bros. // 1982 // 101 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Judge Katie Herrell (Retired) // November 27th, 2009
Welcome to the land where "smurfing" is a verb.
Papa Smurf and his multi-talented brood protect their toadstool village from the hands of evil Gargamel and sidekick cat Azrael. They'll encounter other strange creatures throughout the five-episode DVD as this mythical series follows the travails of the pint-size blueberry-hued Smurfs.
First off, this DVD is nothing more than a repackaging of old episodes of The Smurfs. And according to one Amazon.com commenter (who had obviously viewed previously released Smurf DVDs) it is a random selection of five episodes thrown together to spin a profit.
I was hopeful that the Smurf cartoons of my childhood, which I watched and enjoyed then, would be punched up on this DVD through the advancements of modern cartooning. But that is not the case. The colors are no brighter, the audio no clearer, and the the advancing of my age makes the travails of the Smurfs seem silly and unbelievable.
The coloring of this cartoon has so much room for potential. I mean these are little blue things. They live in multi-colored toadstools and traipse through a verdant forest where they stumble upon fairy castles and bungalows for giants. But the colors, especially background colors, are fairly washed out. The coloring is fine when focused on the immediate action but when there's any sort of distant or vista shots it starts to look like a landscape hand-drawn with extra large markers.
The one "Enchanting Extra" on this DVD -- "Meet the Smurfs" -- does have a bit brighter coloring, but it also has a strange voiceover describing each of the characters. It might have been more contextually appealing to have Papa Smurf introduce his Smurf minions rather than an adult marketer's voice.
I was particularly shocked by the poor quality of the audio. Many of the Smurfs, and the other circulating characters have odd accents and the heaviest accents seem to string the words together like syrup. The words run into one another and there's no edge to any of the dialogue. In fact lower tones are lost into the background, especially when the audio is layered (with music, dialogue, and then sound effects of the actions), as it frequently is. The humanoid characters in the series have the worst voices of any of the characters. Women, men, and children (giants or not) all sound like they're talking through a ski mask. I'm sure some of that is intentional, like how the adults in the Charlie Brown cartoons all sound like "whah, whah, whah," but here the people have actual speaking roles which are all jarring to the ear.
I realized the third layer of sounds -- noises like banging on a door or splashing in water -- are all accompanied by a visual effect, like dust spiraling up or the water rippling. This is probably a teaching mechanism for young children to associate a sound with an action and it also likely the product of working with cartoons that are limited in motion and facial expressions. It's like the old "Ker-Pow" graphics that accompanied super hero cartoons. It's interesting to think how far cartoons have come in displaying minor details when watching older cartoons such as The Smurfs.
I was amazed by the number of times the word "smurf" is used in one form or another. The word is a verb, a proper noun, an adjective, and a mood description. I think it might actually be confusing for young children to try to constantly figure out how smurf is being used in any given instance.
But then again this cartoon, like most cartoons, is all about suspending reality. These talking Smurfs, with no Mama Smurf in sight, are constantly in danger of being kidnapped or having their village destroyed, or they might become hypnotized by a magic flute (in the episode "Sleepwalking Smurfs"), encounter a baby giant ("The Littlest Giant"), or stumble upon a magic kingdom ("All's Smurfy That Ends Smurfy").
If the original is what you're looking for, this is original Smurfs -- unaltered, undoctored, unmodernized, except for the DVD format.
It's still the Smurfs! What a genius concept, little blue things who live quite sophisticatedly in the forest with every Smurf having a designated role. If you think modern day cartoons are too violent, adult, or subversive then The Smurfs will be right up your alley.
Review content copyright © 2009 Katie Herrell; Site layout and review format copyright © 1998 - 2014 HipClick Designs LLC
Scales of Justice
Studio: Warner Bros.
* Full Frame
* Dolby Digital 2.0 Mono (English)
* English (SDH)
Running Time: 101 Minutes
Release Year: 1982
MPAA Rating: Not Rated
* Official Site