Google “The Smurfs” and over 41 million hits come up, indicative of the popularity of the little blue folk. The Smurfs have epitomized the best of humanity since their first comic book by Belgian cartoonist Peyo in 1958. The Smurfs television series launched in the United States in 1981 and entertained a generation of children. Now the little blue family is back in The Smurfs, a film blending live action and animation.
After the evil Gargamel chases the Smurfs out of their village, they find themselves transported to New York’s Central Park. It’s a big, dangerous world for the original “blue man group,” and they’ll need some assistance and more than a bit of luck to get back to their village before Gargamel tracks them down.
Papa Smurf (voiced by Jonathan Winters) and his family invade the home of Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris), a married, over-achieving ad-exec whose wife is expecting their first child. The couple is concerned about his parenting skills — but who better to show him the ropes than Papa Smurf, the role model for all his children?
“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,” Harris says of his character.
Gargamel is played by Hank Azaria, who spent approximately 130 hours in the makeup chair over the course of filming, acquiring fake eyebrows and hair. There are also Gargamel’s huge teeth — which Azaria admits he often had difficulty keeping in his mouth. Gargamel’s only companion, his cat Azrael, was — barring a few CG-animated moments — also real. “I wanted to make the relationship with the cat like a bickering married couple,” Azaria says. “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 played Azrael, and their trainer brought a Burmese cat on set because the other cats hated him and would snarl when they saw him — giving an added measure of cat-itude to the role.
“The Smurfs” is available starting Dec. 16 on Video On Demand. Check your cable system for availability.
© 2011 CTMG, Inc. Courtesy of Sony Pictures Animation. Images are property of Sony Pictures Entertainment Inc.