The Smurfs

The Smurfs

THE SMURFS, a film directed by Raja Gosnell. Picture courtesy Columbia Pictures. All rights reserved.

The Smurfs (2011)

Also Known As: The Smurfs in 3D

Opened: 07/29/2011 Wide

Wide07/29/2011
Showcase Cinem...07/29/2011 - 09/22/201156 days
AMC Loews Meth...07/29/2011 - 09/22/201156 days
Georgetown 1407/29/2011 - 09/22/201156 days
Columbia Park ...07/29/2011 - 09/08/201142 days
AMC Deer Valley07/29/2011 - 09/08/201142 days
Culver Plaza T...08/26/2011 - 09/15/201121 days
AMC Empire 2509/09/2011 - 09/29/201121 days
DVD12/02/2011

Trailer: Click for trailers

Websites: Home

Genre: Animated

Rated: PG for some mild rude humor and action.

Synopsis

The Smurfs make their first 3D trip to the big screen in Columbia Pictures'/Sony Pictures Animation's hybrid live-action and animated family comedy, The Smurfs. When the evil wizard Gargamel chases the Smurfs out of their village, they're forced through a portal, out of their world and into ours, landing in the middle of New York's Central Park. Just three apples high and stuck in the Big Apple, the Smurfs must find a way to get back to their village before Gargamel tracks them down.

Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation present a Kerner Entertainment Company production, The Smurfs. The film stars Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Sofia Vergara, and Hank Azaria as Gargamel. Directed by Raja Gosnell. Produced by Jordan Kerner. Screenplay by J. David Stem & David N. Weiss and Jay Scherick & David Ronn. Story by J. David Stem & David N. Weiss. Based on the characters and works of Peyo. Executive Producers are Ezra Swerdlow, Ben Haber, and Paul Neesan. Director of Photography is Phil Meheux, BSC. Production Designer is Bill Boes. Editor is Sabrina Plisco, A.C.E. Special Visual Effects by Sony Pictures Imageworks Inc. Visual Effects Supervisor is Richard R. Hoover. Costume Designer is Rita Ryack. Music by Heitor Pereira.

About the Film

In 1958, a Belgian artist named Pierre "Peyo" Culliford created the Smurfs for a comic book. The "Schtroumpfs," as they were called, were immediately popular -- generating a wave of letters to the editor demanding more -- and over the next fifty years, they became nothing short of a phenomenon, coming to life in comics, books, television series, films, videogames, live shows, and figurines (over 300 million sold). The characters' cross-generational appeal has only grown as children who grew up on the Smurfs -- including the Saturday morning cartoon -- are now parents themselves and introducing their children to the Smurfs for the first time.

According to producer Jordan Kerner, it's easy to see why the Smurfs have entertained people around the world for generations. It's not just that they're adorable -- they also represent a type of humanity at its best. "The Smurfs are an analogy for a nation," says Kerner. "They emphasize family and the importance of cooperation. More importantly, they always see the best in people first. The Smurfs really care for and look after one another."

Now, the Smurfs make their first trip out of their village and land on the big screen in Columbia Pictures and Sony Pictures Animation's The Smurfs. "It's very much a Smurf-out-of-water movie," says Raja Gosnell, who directs. "We took this Smurfy code of living and played it against modern-day New York City."

The story of Kerner's quest to bring the Smurfs to the big screen reaches all the way back to a breakfast meeting in 1980 with legendary NBC executive Brandon Tartikoff. Tartikoff suggested that Kerner read a book series based on the Smurfs, which Tartikoff was considering to develop into a show. Kerner was immediately captivated. Of course, Tartikoff would bring "The Smurfs" to Saturday mornings, with the Hanna-Barbera series running 256 episodes over eight years.

In 1997, Kerner sent the first of a series of letters to Lafig, the licensing agent for the Smurfs brand, expressing his interest in making a movie. And in 2002, after there was a draft of Kerner's successful, heartfelt adaptation of E.B. White's classic novel, Charlotte's Web, Peyo's heirs knew that the Smurfs would be in good hands.

Veronique Culliford, Peyo's daughter, says that her father gave his creation a universal appeal. "The Smurfs are all very similar, but each Smurf is unique," she says. "Everybody can recognize himself in one of the Smurfs. There is a Smurf for every personality. They are very kind, very social. They have all the qualities that people would like to have."

As Culliford notes, some things change in life, but the Smurfs are a constant reference point. "The stories remain popular across the generations because people will stay people. We remain as we are and the Smurfs mirror us in our lives. We can adapt to the years, to different technology, but who we are is unchanged."

Culliford and her family had wanted to make a movie of the Smurfs for many years. When it became obvious that Kerner shared their vision and enthusiasm, Culliford saw it as "magic. Jordan was the first person we met who wanted to make the same Smurf movie we wanted to make," she says.

It's a fulfillment of a long-time dream for Culliford, who has grown up with her father's creation. "The Smurfs arrived in 1958, my birth year," she says, "so the Smurfs have been part of my life from the beginning. I always lived with the Smurfs. My father worked at home, and when I'd get back from school, there would be Smurfs everywhere, and we would speak Smurf. For me, it's so natural to have the Smurfs around."

Kerner felt that this film was the perfect new form for the next iteration of the Smurf story, all of which was shot in New York City at such iconic locations as Central Park and Belvedere Castle, as well as FAO Schwarz, the Russian Tea Room, Rockefeller Center, and Brooklyn's Prospect Park.

Kerner adds that director Raja Gosnell's expertise and gentle touch -- not to mention his hands-on experience marrying live-action and computer animated characters in such films as Scooby-Doo and Beverly Hills Chihuahua -- made him the perfect choice to direct. "I just have to say that Raja is one of the smartest, most intuitive, kindest, wonderful people to work with," he says. "It was magical every day. We all wanted to make a film we would be proud of, and to help execute the vision he had for these characters."

The family wanted to preserve the Smurf legacy as true to form as possible--and so did Kerner. "The most important thing," Culliford adds, "is that the Smurfs stay the Smurfs. They're leaving their village for the first time, which is exciting.

There are many questions that need to be answered in the mythology of the Smurfs and Kerner sees them being answered in the framework of a franchise. Who are the Smurfs, really, and Where do they come from? How did Gargamel get there and why is he such a sour puss? Why did he create Smurfette?

One of the many continuing traditions is the introduction of new Smurfs. The filmmakers had the opportunity to imagine three new Smurfs for the movie -- Panicky, Crazy, and Gutsy, the last of which takes on a starring role.

About the Smurfs

With about 100 different Smurfs running around Smurf village, give or take a Smurf, it can be a difficult task to keep everybody happy. You have to have patience, brains, maturity...and perhaps a beard. As the wise leader of the Smurfs, PAPA SMURF truly embodies these qualities and knows how to handle his Smurfs. Papa can often be found with his spell book in his mushroom, concocting potions to protect his Smurfs from the evil wizard, Gargamel. When Papa's magic foretells of impending disaster, he faces his biggest challenge yet: going toe-to-toe with Gargamel and leading the Smurfs safely through New York City!

Comedy legend Jonathan Winters gives voice to Papa. "Papa is older and wiser. If Papa doesn't have all the answers, he certainly has most of them," says Winters.

"Papa is the leader, but he leads in a way that it's all about teamwork," Winters explains. "With Papa in charge, no Smurf is left behind."

Winters has a history with the franchise: he had been the voice of Grandpa Smurf in the Hanna-Barbera series.

There's something special about SMURFETTE. Whether it's her beauty, sweet voice, charming personality, or just the fact that she is the ONLY girl among 100 boys, she just makes the other Smurfs go absolutely gaga. Originally created by Gargamel to trap the other Smurfs, Papa's magic saved her and transformed her into a real Smurf. With a smart, savvy attitude, she'll prove what a pint-sized punch she has when she comes face to face with her creator.

As it happens, the filmmakers set their heart on Katy Perry for the role even before she spoke a single line of dialogue. "They had done a blind test where they took certain voices from previous interviews and matched them with the character," Katy explains. "They liked my voice without even knowing who it was, and when they found out it was me, they thought that would work out. My personality was just a plus!"

Katy found an affinity with the character she plays. "They asked me to add my nuance to it -- so I was able to be sassy and cute, a little mischievous and funny," she says. "It's really interesting, because I got to be a part of creating her character. It's really fun -- it's basically my voice with some rocks thrown in it, like I had too many cups of coffee."

Katy says that making the transition from world-famous recording artist to voiceover actress was an organic next step. "I use my voice every single day," she explains, "and I feel very cartoony at times, just in the way I present myself. So It was a natural progression -- something natural for me to do."

If it wasn't for bad luck, CLUMSY wouldn't have any luck at all -- wherever he goes, calamity is sure to follow. With two left feet and an oversized hat and ears, Clumsy's good intentions pave the road for trouble -- and this time the road he chooses leads the Smurfs into a strange new place, New York City. But everyone has a hero inside of him, and when his other Smurfs need him, Clumsy will prove that you can be more than a name.

Anton Yelchin's performance as Clumsy is a little different than the Clumsy that die-hard Smurf fans might remember. "I was familiar with Clumsy from the TV series, where he had that Southern twang," he says. "I went back and watched that, and then Raja, Jordan and I talked about it. We decided to make Clumsy a little simpler, a little sweeter. His voice is pitched higher than my normal speaking voice -- it's full of joy, optimism, and enthusiasm for life. Clumsy isn't trying to mess anything up for anybody -- he's just clumsy, and actually, he's tired of being clumsy."

"Clumsy is the heart and soul of the movie," says Gosnell. "His journey is the most emotional. He's kind of the put-upon younger brother -- in a way, the cause of all their problems -- trying to find his place in the big Smurf family. Anton has an incredibly youthful, soulful voice, perfect for our little Clumsy."

If every village has its idiot, every village also has a BRAINY. Overeager and a bit over-educated, he's a "know-it-all" who really doesn't know it all. Brainy is Papa's self-appointed right-hand Smurf, and even if he's annoying at times with his encyclopedia-like knowledge, he might just be the Smurf you want to cast a spell when Papa's not around.

Fred Armisen, best known for his "Saturday Night Live" characters, including President Obama, says Gosnell and Kerner made ideal collaborators. "They had a strong vision in mind for the character," says Armisen. "It's always a good thing to be working with people who care deeply about what they're doing."

Being a regular on "Saturday Night Live" surely puts Armisen around celebrities often enough. So who gets him star-struck? "Jonathan Winters," says the funnyman. "I was really psyched to meet him. My whole life, I've seen him on TV -- he was really cool."

Easily distinguished by his kilt, roguish sideburns, rugged good looks and Scottish accent, GUTSY has the bravado to take any risk. A guy who Smurfs first and asks questions later, he's quick to jump headlong into adventure for his fellow Smurfs.

"I felt very proud to be the Scottish Smurf," says Scotsman Alan Cumming. "It was a good and humorous responsibility -- that I would be representing all my nation's Smurf qualities."

Cumming was even able to bring some Scottish slang to the part: "One word I started to use was 'numpty' -- it means 'idiot,' like 'you stupid numpty, you big numpty.' I am singlehandedly reintroducing numpty -- not just to the English language, but to the world."

Gutsy was created for his role in The Smurfs. "He's our action hero," says Gosnell. "He's eternally optimistic and brave, our rough and ready guy, the first to charge into any situation."

Cumming has been known to "work blue" -- that is, get a little risque -- in his films for adults, but this is his first time being blue on screen, in a role suitable for the whole family. "It's fun to do a part that's light, just a laugh," Cumming says. "My niece and nephews are older now but they used to love it, like when I was in Spy Kids."

Cumming says that voice acting represents a unique opportunity for the actor. "It's so important, because your voice is the only human element in the character. When you start, there's no film, no animation, and only your voice to guide the character. I quite enjoyed that," he notes. "As you're creating the character, you get to try out different ideas. Gutsy came fairly quickly -- he's Scottish, but a gruffer kind of Scottish than my usual speaking voice. As you go on, you get into a groove and you find the character."

Though they recorded their roles separately, voicing a Smurf became a sort of badge of honor for the actors. "I met Katy Perry at a party, and it was funny to be able to meet someone and say, 'Oh, you're Smurfette,' and she goes, 'Oh, you're Gutsy.'"

Before you think that every Smurf is all about happiness, sunshine, and rainbows, you need to meet GROUCHY. He smurfs up on the wrong side of the bed......every day. He hates sunshine, rainbows make him sick, and happiness makes him unhappy. However, somewhere underneath all the scowling and grouching is a heart of gold....although, he probably hates gold too.

"The Smurfs is a worldwide franchise -- they're los Pitufos in Spanish -- so I saw the Smurfs bilingually, when I was growing up," says George Lopez.

Lopez says he simply dialed his own inner crank up to 11 to play the role. "I had no coffee, I picked the busiest time to get to the studio, I made sure I had bad breath. And I have a daughter, she's 15, and that'll keep you grouchy all by itself. When I first saw Grouchy, he had his arms crossed, eyebrows down, and I thought it was just a bluish resemblance to how I normally look."

Lopez has voiced several roles in films, and for The Smurfs, he re-teams with director Raja Gosnell (following their collaboration on Beverly Hills Chihuahua). "In doing voice work, I think the soul comes through," says Lopez. Like any on-camera role, the part is not only the words on the page supplied by the writers, but, as Lopez puts it, "the way you interpret it, as you would speak to somebody. You're not just reading a script -- you're connecting with the audience."

Know Your Enemy: Gargamel

If ugly had a name, it would be GARGAMEL. And if obsession had a face, it would look like Gargamel. This evil wizard is consumed by all things Smurfs: they're all he thinks about, all he talks about, and all he's ever wanted. A zero when it comes to magic and a negative 100 in the hygiene department, Gargamel is nevertheless always scheming up convoluted ways to capture the fabled Smurfs and drain them of their "essence" -- the key ingredient in creating the most powerful spells! Gargamel will do anything to capture a Smurf, including chase them into New York City, all in order to become the most powerful wizard in the world!

Hank Azaria takes on the role of the wannabe wizard. "Gargamel is evil and pretty proud of it," says Azaria. "He aspires to make the move from an awful wizard to a great one. That's why he is obsessed with Smurfs -- he needs their magical blue essence to make himself more powerful."

But Gargamel's relationship to the Smurfs isn't explained quite that easily. "I think he just hates the Smurfs -- they're such a happy family and he's so alone with only his cat. He's driven by just plain-old hate. He's a pretty juicy character on so many levels."

Settling on Gargamel's vocal characteristics required a mix of different approaches. "Gargamel's very theatrical -- not only does he want to be a great wizard, he wants to be worshipped and considered a genius. He wants all that good press," says Azaria. "We had a long discussion about whether he should sound Shakespearean and self-important, as if he was an old stage actor, or if we should make him more sarcastic instead of yelling all the time. In the end, you can't play Gargamel without screaming your head off. It just can't happen. The second you see a Smurf you have to lose your mind, or you're not Gargamel."

Of course, it wasn't enough for Azaria to sound ugly -- he'd have to look the part as well. Getting properly uglied up required hours in the make-up chair for Azaria. "It starts with the ears," he explains. "Gargamel has big old ears and a big old nose and there's a lot of painting that goes on to make it all even."

Then comes the hair -- though Azaria was able to make that process an easier experience by shaving his head. "They apply Gargamel's strange monkish hair, and then the eyebrows come on and then I pop in some big, weird buck teeth."

Those big teeth sometimes went flying out of Azaria's mouth during a scene. "They were hard at first," he says. "It literally took practice to talk with them. And they did occasionally fly out of my mouth in the middle of particularly screamy takes."

Gargamel's partner in crime is Azrael, his cat. And Azaria discovered that he had to not only figure out the relationship as characters in the story, but as live actors, working with a real cat, as well. "I wanted to make the relationship with the cat like a bickering married couple," says Azaria. "If you're talking to the cat, it makes sense. And if the cat has a sort of bored attitude about it, it's even funnier.

Four cats would play the role, and in certain scenes, the filmmakers chose to employ a CG-animated Azrael (animated by Tippett Studios). Azaria says that though working with live animals always requires patience, the payoff is easily worth the effort. And sometimes, feline fate smiles on the production. "The real cat would actually give us the perfect meow on cue," he says.

Our World

When Gargamel and the Smurfs come through the portal and into New York City, they enter the lives of Patrick Winslow and his wife Grace.

PATRICK WINSLOW is a young marketing executive for the New York City based cosmetics company Anjelou and is months away from starting his own family.

He's a nervous wreck about everything -- not least of which is his impending fatherhood and his new job -- and his nerves are going to take a beating when the Smurfs suddenly fall into his life!

Neil Patrick Harris plays the role. "Patrick is married with a child on the way -- he's an ad exec guy trying to make it in the business world, and he's constantly in fear of losing his job. So he's sort of in the very business-headed frame of mind, and that has both him and his wife a little concerned that he's not going to be a decent parent, or even be present for the birth of their child -- not only physically, but emotionally.

"When the Smurfs come into his life, he has to behave in a very patient, even parental way with them, and when he does that, he realizes the potential to be a great dad that he has inside," says Harris. "Grace is a more naturally maternal giver of wisdom to the Smurfs, while Patrick is an accidental participant who sees growth and change."

Working with director Raja Gosnell was both a satisfying and enlightening experience for Harris. "Raj did a great job -- he had to deal with so many weird little things happening all at the same time. Not only do you have all the ordinary stuff -- making sure the actors hit their marks and it's all lit correctly -- but you might have an animal in the scene, or maybe bowls on monofilament that in the final shot the Smurfs will be carrying around... Raj had to keep it all in his head so that when you see the movie, you never think about any of that -- it's just that the Smurfs are part of our world."

"Not only is Neil incredibly funny and charming, but he also delivered nuance to the role," says Gosnell. "His character and Papa have a few quiet moments together, and he makes those scenes surprisingly emotional. And when you remember that Neil was talking to a little wire when he filmed it, it's an indication that Neil is also very game. A large part of acting is responding to your fellow actors, so it's incredibly difficult to work opposite characters that aren't there. But Neil jumped on it and embraced it."

GRACE WINSLOW is a craft-furniture artist and Patrick's loving, supportive, 5-month pregnant wife. Her husband is a little rattled, what with the new baby, the new job, and the six mythical creatures that turn his life upside down... but the optimistic Grace will always be there to straighten him out.

Jayma Mays, who plays Grace, had watched the cartoons growing up -- maybe a little unwillingly. "My mom loved them, so she made me watch them with her," laughs Mays. "Just to get under her skin, I would always tell her that my favorites were Gargamel and Azrael! We had the sheets, we had the Smurfs glasses, the sippy cups, all that stuff. But secretly, I was a fan -- I loved the show -- but I was at an age that I couldn't admit that I liked something that my mom wanted me to like."

"For Grace it's so exciting that these little creatures have come into her world and her life," Mays explains. "She loves them and she loves their spontaneity and carefree outlook on life -- she enjoys her own life being thrown into the air a bit. That's something she's trying to convince Patrick -- it's okay to have fun and it's okay to be disrupted in your life. And since they're about to have a child, everything's going to be a bit disrupted for a while -- and the Smurfs help him get ready for that."

Gosnell says that Grace is a surprisingly tricky role. "You have to be both funny and emotional," says Gosnell. "She was the only actress who made us believe both sides -- her comedic skills are just fantastic, and she also had the enthusiasm and excitement that made us believe what we were watching was real."

ODILE is the tough, beautiful and determined owner of the global cosmetics company, Anjelou. She's quick-tempered, even quicker to change her mind -- and becomes a force of anxiety in Patrick's life when she promotes him to head a new marketing campaign for a new product... that launches in just two days. This diva CEO will do anything to ensure her company's success, even invest a little time in a misguided wizard who might just have the key for the next big skin care revolution.

As Odile, Sofia Vergara sought to draw a balance in her character, so as not to go over the top. "I wanted Odile to be believable, but also funny, strong and very focused on what she wants," says Vergara. "This is a woman who is really into what she does and she makes everybody around her know it."

Growing up in Colombia in the 1980s, Vergara says, "Everybody would watch the Smurfs. Even my son, who is 19 now, enjoyed the Smurfs when he was young."

"Project Runway's" Tim Gunn takes on the role of Odile's right hand man. HENRI is Odile's fashion-forward and quick-witted lieutenant who is always eager to stir the pot -- especially when it comes to Patrick! (The character was originally named Henry until Neil Patrick Harris turned him into the sophisticated Henri.)

Gunn stole the show behind the scenes. Costume designer Rita Ryack remembers, "Tim asked to keep his wardrobe upon wrap, as he hoped to wear the items on the next season of 'Project Runway.' I was thrilled. He even went so far as to refrain from sitting in his chair while on set -- he didn't want to wrinkle his suit!" Now that is a true fashionista.

The Smurfs also features cameos that make up a veritable Who's Who of contemporary New York City's most iconic personalities. For one scene in particular, an Anjelou cosmetics product launch, it was essential to make the party the must-attend New York event. Among the attendees were Joan Rivers, Liz Smith, Tom Colicchio, Olivia Palermo and Michael Musto. Each of them arrived in their own wardrobe in order to make them appear authentically themselves. Rivers, in particular, was a huge crew favorite -- when she arrived early for her call time, production scrambled to find her the perfect trailer. Executive producer Ezra Swerdlow was thrilled to share his space with the comedy legend.

 

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