DVD review (region 2)
Starring the voices of Francisco Colmenero, Lucille Bliss, Raúl Aldana
Release date Out now
Also available: The Smurfs Four Smurf – Tastic Episodes (1 August 2011)
The blue-skinned Smurfs are a collective of peaceful forest-dwelling creatures. But the evil wizard Gargamel and his cat Azrael hate their happy ways…
What with South Park’s recent Smurfy spoof of Avatar and the upcoming CG Smurfs movie, now seems like an opportune time to re-assess the long-running 1980s Hanna-Barbera animation, based on the comics by Peyo.
This box set contains all 27 episodes of 1981′s first season. Though ‘The Astrosmurf’ was the first episode to air, the set kicks off with Smurfette’s famous origin story – she’s brought to life by one of Gargamel’s potions, but turned into a blonde bombshell by Papa Smurf. This is apparently the first time the all-male Smurfs have come across a female (“Do you like what you see?” she asks in semi-seductive tones), though Nanny Smurf and the sisterly Sassette Smurfling popped up in later series.
The remaining episodes see one or more of the Smurf collective embroiled in various chaotic adventures (everything from looking after a baby dragon to fending off an attack from the mutated “Howlibird”), while the joy-hating Gargamel launches constant doomed attempts to locate and capture the jolly little fellahs.
Despite the odd, intriguing concept, the episodes (as with most animation) follow a fairly repetitive, reassuring formula. However, it’s held back from being one of Hanna-Barbera’s greatest ‘toons by the lack of truly iconic characters. Like the Seven Dwarfs, the Smurfs are differentiated by character traits (Lazy Smurf, Grouchy Smurf, Brainy Smurf and so on), but there are just too many of them to make much of an impact individually. Even Smurfette doesn’t really have a unique personality after her initial appearance (her job role in Smurf society appears to be “woman”) – she’s a far cry from Wilma Flintstone or Betty Rubble.
Ah, but is this lack of individuality the very point? Some critics have accused The Smurfs of being one big metaphor for Communism. The virtually identical Smurfs live together in a big forest collective, working together for the good of society… and is Gargamel the face of evil capitalism? Maybe, maybe not (Peyo wasn’t political according to his son), but when one Smurf pinches an egg from a hen with the words, “It’s for the social good and the needs of the many!” you can’t help but wonder.
Of course, any political allegory will go over kids’ heads, and nippers should enjoy the upbeat, colourful antics of these weird creations. For adults who remember watching the show as a child, it makes for an enjoyable nostalgia trip, though it does wear you down after a few episodes. The Smurf vernacular is oddly catchy too – you might just find yourself crying “For Smurf’s sake!” when you least expect it.
This 4-DVD box-set comes with character and episode guide booklets, and an OK 17-minute documentary, entitled ‘I Smurf the Smurfs’, in which writers, voice artists and fans muse on such burning questions as “What do Smurfs have under their hats?” (answer: er, frogs). Matt McAllister
It’s not quite the classic you might remember, but The Smurfs remains a fun, simple and upbeat slice of ‘80s animation.