Hosts: Jeremy, Mike, Nicole
This is about slapstick comedy, mind-controlling flutes, and '80s anime voice actors working on the Smurfs.
Click [HERE] to throw a flute into a fire.
Before saying anything, let's preface this with a look at what my Christmas was like 30 years ago....
This explains what it felt like to have grown up in a period when Smurfs were everywhere in the US, no doubt spear-headed by the Hanna-Barbera series that took us for fools in enjoying a small sliver of Franco-Belgian goodness America just couldn't embrace well enough without that Saturday morning penetration. So yes, a full-length feature film on the big screen would be a big deal to us unaware of hold much older the film was or why it went the way it did simply out of unawareness of it's source material. The movie was released in '83 through Atlantic Releasing Corporation, probably best known for such classics as Teen Wolf and Starchaser: the Legend of Orin, but those are the only titles I bother to remember, I'm sure there's others such as their "Clubhouse Pictures" subsidiary. The movie wasn't given nationwide release on the same day/time, but rather the film was merely biked from city to city since I suppose it followed the "Kiddie Matinee" route and I recall it was only in the theaters for a week or two. The theater my mom took me to see it at was at a shopping mall about 3 miles from home, and one that no longer exists today (given the nature of malls dying and all).
Best memory I have was to see it at all that one time regardless of the differences in the characters (though I would've known of Johan and Peewit prior to this from the TV show a year before, that part wasn't too confusing) as well as the voices. I guess it was too much to try getting the familiar VA's to voice on this from the show for consistency (often you did have Don Messick, Lucille Bliss and others reprise their roles for Smurf-related ads back then for things like Chef Boyardee pasta or their own cereal). Papa Smurf really stuck out like a sore thumb to me with his cranky geezer voice than the lovable, friendlier tone that Messick used on the show. I thought Peewit's voice was far decent and prefer that to the H-B version in the end, not knowing who did the voice at all though his name does show up in the end credits of the movie anyway (thankfully not written as "Jimmy Flinders" as in some cases). He would use that same voice oddly enough for a character that never talked in a different comic series, Peanuts. He would voice Snoopy for a Teddy Ruxpin-like storytelling doll and for an animated special "Snoopy The Musical".
Strangely aside form the Vestron Video release of the film on VHS, there had been TV airings of it too, this time through Tribune Entertainment I believe (I'm sure stations like WPIX and WGN were given first choice with these). These TV airings were syndicated to stations across the country probably around '84 or '85. The one thing I remember the most out of this was the rather odd editing decisions that were done to ruin the film for me I felt, namely moving the appearances of the Smurfs by playing their "party" after preparing the flute by playing that long before Johan and Peewit came to their village. The end credits were also sped up considerably faster than before (a practice I would not see again until the end of the century), the only one bright spot I suppose was it's re-dubbing of Papa Smurf's voice, as I think they managed to get Don Messick to re-voice those lines for the broadcasts. Can only find these fragments of these airings on YouTube.
Strangely that wouldn't be the first time any footage of the film would show up TV. Several Smurf LP's of tunes often used footage of the Smurfs in the film to promote the records in commercials like these.
Strangely the whole music thing with the Smurfs was a big thing in Europe during the 1970's especially these brushes with a guy name Father Abraham, here's one of those 'hits'!
Aside from the Middle Ages setting of the story (which I didn't have a problem with myself), I always thought it was odd how in the US version of the film had a random character voiced by a women when it was a man originally in the scene where the king makes a bet over Johan during the jousting tournament. I suppose I could never tell since that character looked almost feminine enough to work though it was also a nice bit of gender bending for it's time.
The studio responsible for the film (whose original title translates as "The Six Smurf Flute" no doubt as a nice pun to the Smurf language we would encounter in the film itself) was a rather interesting studio for it's time that dealt with both TV and theatrical animation called Belvision. An early noted work of theirs was "Pinocchio in Outer Space", though they've also done animated projects featuring other familiar Franco-Belgian classics like Tintin, Asterix and Lucky Luke. They've also tackled doing work for foreign companies from time to time. Here's one interesting artifact that shocked me to see!
Although you mentioned the guy behind the TV cartoon's music composition (Hoyt Curtin), special mention outta be given to Michel Legrand for his performance on the movie's score too! He at least knows how to write tunes you can't get out of your head after you've seen the damn film, as it was for me, though I also recall being rather sad that Peewit didn't get the magic flute back in the end, since I suppose I related more to this guy than I did for Johan who obviously is meant to be the idolizing but humble page to the king (though he's referred in this film as a knight with the title of "Sir" when he normally isn't addressed like that). Peewit's name I suppose is meant to be a pun on saying "Pee Wee" but with the "t" being silent. While it's true that Peyo would care less of the Smurfs himself, he at least was willing to let them be developed into the marketing sensation they would be especially in the 1980's around here, though as some I know would suggest, Johan and Peewit is certainly one of Peyo's best during his career, though some of those earlier Smurf albums do contain some great little gems in social commentary like the way the Smurfs "acted like human beings" in King Smurf, or how they bicker and complain about having to comply with Papa Smurf's plan in The Astrosmurf. Many of these stories are still available through the publisher Papercutz.
Another Peyo creation that Papercutz also released is Benny Breakiron.
While true Gargamel or Smurfette weren't in the movie, they would eventually make their appearance in the Smurf comics none the less once work on that separate spin-off was put into gear. That's obviously the basis for how the first season of the show was like. Smurfette of course for anyone who may need a reminder was a creation of Gargamel as a decoy to trap the Smurfs. While I recall you guys couldn't find any Smurf episodes to watch on eBay, here's an episode from one guy who has up the first season so far (dig the opening theme tune).
That UK dub is pretty awkward to say the least, what with the name changes and everyone sounded so polite and snobby to me. Peewee (or "William") sound so normal it's hard taking him seriously as a little s--thead! I suppose that was all they could license these days if the American version is unobtainable.
Speaking of foreign toonage, I got a good list of movies I'd like to interest Jeremy in someday, but I'm not going to go into that right now, but if you like another movie from the same year that is also my favorite, might I suggest "The 12 Tasks of Asterix"? Here's just a sample....
Oh, OK one more! Here's two different cartoons that were co-productions between a Spanish company and the Japanese studio Nippon Animation. Both never really aired over here besides getting scant VHS releases by Sony, but the English dubbing on these was handled by Intersound using the same Harmony Gold/Saban/Streamline crew. Too bad they weren't picked up, as I could see Nickelodeon airing these back in the 80's. Pick out who's who on these!
Thinking of it some more, another Franco-Belgian property that tried to make it somewhere in the US thanks to the careless nature of a mammoth corporation was André Franquin's "Marsupilami". Not sure if anyone recalls that, but he was part of a series Disney had on CBS for a year called 'Raw Toonage" (alongside Bonkers and another segment).
Apparently that didn't go by very smoothly at all and a lawsuit occurred between the company owning the character and the Disney studio. Fred Patten talks about it in this post.
In some ways I suppose The Smurfs was a lucky fluke in a way based on having came out at the right time and place for such marketing to emerge as successful as it did, even if it did cloud our minds into thinking it was a Hanna-Barbera creation from the start (of course every episode does have Peyo's credit anyway and he is credited on the merchandising as well). Of course a lot of this can be thanked by one Fred Silverman for having taken an interest in a little blue Smurf doll he had gave to his daughter one day and thought it would be perfect for a cartoon show.
Strangely The Smurfs would not be the last Hanna-Barbera had in producing cartoons for foreign companies. Throughout the 80's there had been others that followed including the familiar copycat "Snorks" to the Welsh chidlren's hero "SuperTed", even a cartoon based on the Mexican comedian Cantinflas. Probably one of the more interesting ones to suggest was an adaptation of another Franco-Belgian comic by Rene Goscinny and Morris called "Lucky Luke" (about a lonesome cowboy in the west). 26 episodes were produced of this series though the best some Americans saw of it was this TV movie version. According to one Wiki source, the voice of "Bushwhack" (what they called "Rantanplan" in this version) is by Paul "Pee Wee" Reubens. That's a little interesting. Also we got Haim Saban and Shuki Levy as part of the music staff too, 'cause it's TOTALLY 80'S man!
I'm just excited about the return of Mike & Nicole!
(Ok, I guess they came back on the "Space Dandy" episode, but I am skipping that one until I get to the show.)