Blue and All-New

Animation Magazine - - Features -

Sony Pic­tures An­i­ma­tion’s new fea­ture Smurfs: The Lost Vil­lage goes back to the char­ac­ters’ Euro-comic past to craft an ad­ven­ture sure to sur­prise even the lit­tle blue guys’ big­gest fans. By Tom McLean.


Smurf world is big­ger (and more gen­der-bal­anced) than any­one had thought. The film also fea­tures the voices of Mandy Patinkin as Papa Smurf, Ariel Win­ter, Ju­lia Roberts, Ellie Kem­per and Michelle Ro­driguez.

A Clas­sic Look Among the pro­duc­tion are some Smurfs su­per fans, in­clud­ing char­ac­ter de­signer Pa­trick Mate and pro­duc­tion de­signer Noelle Tri­au­reau, both of whom grew up on the comics in France.

“For us, it was al­ways the start­ing point, the comic books,” says Tri­au­reau, who along with art di­rec­tors Dean Gor­don and Marcelo Vig­nali, brought a painterly qual­ity to the movie. “This movie, be­cause it’s more of an odyssey, it’s more of a trek, fig­ur­ing out sig­na­ture col­ors for lo­ca­tions was re­ally help­ful for us. Also there’s a sig­na­ture color with a few main char­ac­ters.”

Trans­lat­ing the Smurfs to full CG an­i­ma­tion was both easy and dif­fi­cult. “For­tu­nately, the Smurfs are de­signed with a di­men­sional qual­ity in mind,” says As­bury. “If you look at Peyo’s roughs, be­fore he did the line work with his pen, they were ac­tu­ally very sketchy and shaded, and you re­ally got a sense of di­men­sion from his draw­ings.”

The big­gest prob­lem turned out to be the Smurfs’ eyes. Peyo drew the eyes to­gether, as a sin­gle white shape. Early de­signs sep­a­rated the eyes, but the char­ac­ters didn’t look right. An­i­ma­tion su­per­vi­sor Alan Hawkins says a few mock­ups that put the eyes to­gether made easy the cre­ative de­ci­sion to go that way, even as it com­pli­cated the tech­ni­cal side of things.

“We wrote out a bunch of maps and a bunch of mattes that would al­low us to cre­ate dif­fer­ent looks and dif­fer­ent shadow den­si­ties as the eyes came to­gether,” says CG su­per­vi­sor Mike Ford. “We just kind of worked around it and tried to get a re­ally good es­thetic that, again, al­ways leads back to Peyo.”

Moves Like Mickey In fig­ur­ing out how Smurfs move, As­bury went back to Mickey Mouse, whose de­sign is sim­i­lar to Smurfs’, and the shorts The Brave Lit­tle Tai­lor (1938) and Mickey and the Beanstalk (1947). Hawkins says the an­i­ma­tors stud­ied Mickey’s per­for­mance in the Brave Lit­tle Tai­lor, even ro­to­scop­ing it to dis­sect the specifics of the tim­ing. “You re­ally see the shapes,” he says. “Once we got this fig­ured out it re­ally in­formed a lot of the rest of the film as far as the gen­eral tim­ing goes.”

The movie ar­rives in the­aters April 12, and As­bury thinks it has a chance to change some peo­ple’s minds about the Smurfs. “If they don’t know any­thing about the Smurfs, they might be sur­prised how rich the story can be,” he says. “If they do know about the Smurfs, I don’t think they’ve ever seen them pre­sented in quite in this way be­fore and I think we pre­sented it in a very pos­i­tive, good way.” [

Mandy Patinkin voices Papa Smurf in Smurfs: The Lost Vil­lage, a new fea­ture from Sony Pic­tures An­i­ma­tion that evokes the orig­i­nal Smurfs comics by Peyo.

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