Can you take a classic show and give it a good remake? Increasingly Hollywood seems to be telling us no, or at least they don’t care to. They like the name, they sort of like the concept, but between the everything for meeeeeeeee crowd, surface viewers looking to push an idea using nostalgia as a cheap marketing ploy while lying to the audience, and studios who don’t care either way so long as they have your money what you see is a poor imitation if not outright mocking of the very property they’re going after only because its famous.
Belgium cartoonist Peyo created the Smurfs as a one-time character in a story for the Johan And Peewit comic but he did such a good job creating them that they became popular enough to get their own comics. Later, American animation studio Hanna-Barbera thought they would be perfect for their Saturday morning offerings and NBC agreed. The show lasted quite a few seasons and still maintained a spot in people’s memories thanks to syndicated reruns and Cartoon Network/Boomerang. Sadly this led to a duo of movies where the Smurf journey to New York, forcing people to ask “why are the Smurfs in New York?” or “why is Hefty suddenly a terrible and insulting Scottish stereotype when the woods they live in are based on forests in Belgium and classic European fantasy stories”?, or my personal favorite “why is this live-action?” and we can’t forget “why the @#$%#$ did they make a sequel?” I have not seen these movies nor do I plan to. Ever.
A recent all CG movie introduced more female Smurfs because understanding how Smurf lore works is too much like work when there are feminists to placate, and yet all the Smurf girls moving to a different tribe (I haven’t seen The Lost Village and that one is on the “finally watch” list) actually makes a sort of sense so I’m of two minds on that one. In the actual fiction all you have are Smurfette (an artificial Smurf created by Gargamel, whose comic story is a bit more misogynistic than the HB version), Sassette the little girl Smurf, and Nanny Smurf. I’m not against more since they’ve been established without Gargamel’s magic but I’m not sure the addition is for the right reasons. Basically I don’t trust the entertainment industry to do something because the story demands it rather than the usual suspects who aren’t going to watch, play, or read it anyway. A topic for the future when I’ve seen the movie?
This leads to the new Smurf cartoon, which in the US is airing on Nickelodeon. Two stories (though not from the same episode) are currently available on the Nickelodeon Cartoon Universe channel (which at least appears to be legit) so consider this a sort of Friday Night Showcase with review as I give my thoughts on “Smurf-Fu” and “Clumsy Not Clumsy”.
Smurf-Fu (from episode 1)
Here’s where my distrust thing starts up again. We have some of the new girl Smurfs shown to be strong and fighters and all that. Yet for some reason Smurfette couldn’t be strong in her own way but has to now be a martial artist. It’s in the intro so I’m guessing it’s not just for this episode. I watched a promo video introducing the focus characters of the 99 Smurfs (plus the girls from The Lost Village) that shows she will also wear her more traditional dress and apparently using books to better herself is now part of her character, when it wasn’t before though she could use her head in a situation. She wasn’t the physical type like we see here. I’m questioning if this is for the story reasons, like they didn’t know what to do with her, or the insistence that every girl be a badass now (though men are allowed not to be, and for some of the more extreme arm of the usual suspects encouraged) but I don’t hate it. It’s just not the episode I would have started on. According to my cable guide this is the first story of episode one, the other being about Handy creating Clockwork Smurf–sorry, “Diaper Daddy”, to change Baby’s diaper. It’s harmless but I have trust issues on why things are chosen.
Clumsy Not Clumsy (from episode 3)
Yeah, they’re calling them “full episodes” but to me a TV show doesn’t last the length of a YouTube video. I know most of the old show episodes weren’t full length but this is a trend with kids half-hour shows and there were full-length episodes produced as well in the Hanna-Barbera days. This shares an episode with “Who Nose?” but I don’t know what that one’s about.
Overall it’s not bad. Even “Smurf-Fu” would have been fine as a later episode, so we see Smurfette in her normal state like we do here–NO, I DON’T MEAN GETTING CAUGHT AND HAVING TO BE RESCUED, SMART#$%! She does learn that she does need to rely on her friends while Clumsy learns that being clumsy is fine versus using a magical cheat that also puts your friends in danger. I don’t expect the show to be just like the Hanna-Barbera series (episodes of which are available on the official Smurfs YouTube channel, I’m assuming this series will eventually follow, if only the same ones from Nickelodeon Cartoon Universe) though it was nice to see the original song still being used. This was from a Belgium comic and is the third Smurfs TV show. (Yeah, I just found that out while researching this one. There was also a movie by another foreign animation studio adapting the Magic Flute story from Johan And Peewit that introduced the blue guys.) If they need to replicate anything it’s those comics.
I’ve read a few issues (I linked to reviews of two of them) and I’m not sure it does match up with the comics, while the Hanna-Barbera series were actual adaptations tweaked for a US Sat AM audience. That said, the show itself does seem to be fun, not necessarily insulting to the original, and the only oddity are the new bits of more modern tech, like the fire truck or in the promo Brainy is riding a cart reminiscent of a Segway. For the most part this isn’t a bad update of the Smurfs, and still rather fun. Could tone down the fart jokes but otherwise this is a fine addition to the Smurfs franchise. More episodes are available on Nickelodeon or whatever channel in your country is carrying it.