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The Smurfs: A Magical Smurf Adventure DVD Review

The Smurfs: A Magical Smurf Adventure DVD cover art -- click to buy from Amazon.com Smurfs: A Magical Smurf Adventure (1982)
Show & DVD Details

Creator: Peyo / Executive Producers: William Hanna, Joseph Barbera /
Producer: Gerard Baldwin / Story Editors: Len Janson, Chuck Menville, Glenn Leopold

Story: Creighton Barnes, John Bates, John Bonnaccorsi, Doug Booth, Alan Burnett, Patsy Cameron, Claire Geber, William Hasley, Catherine Johnson, Richard Kadrey, Bob Langhans, Bob Nesler, Joseph Neustein, Frances Novier, Ted Pederson, J. Michael Reaves, Jeff Segal, David Villaire, Marc Scott Zicree / Story Supervisors/Concepts: Peyo, Yvan Delporte

Supervising Director: Ray Patterson / Directors: George Gordon, Bob Hathcock, Carl Urbano, Rudy Zamora / Assistant Directors: Bob Goe, Terry Harrison, Bill Hutten

Voice Cast: Don Messick (Papa Smurf, Azrael), Paul Winchell (Gargamel), Lucille Bliss (Smurfette), Danny Goldman (Brainy Smurf), Michael Bell (Johan, Lazy Smurf, Handy Smurf, Grouchy Smurf), Frank Welker (Peewit, Hefty Smurf, Poet Smurf), Hamilton Camp (Greedy Smurf, Harmony Smurf), Henry Polic II (Tracker Smurf), William Callaway (Clumsy Smurf, Painter Smurf), Alan Oppenheimer (Vanity Smurf, Homnibus), June Foray (Jokey Smurf), Marshall Efron (Sloppy Smurf), Henry Corden (Graco), Kenneth Mars (Yves)

Running Time: 191 Minutes (10 episodes) / Rating: Not Rated (TV-Y equivalent)
1.33:1 Fullscreen (Original Broadcast Ratio), Dolby Digital Mono 1.0 (English)
Subtitles: English (for Hearing Impaired); Not Closed Captioned; Extras Not Subtitled
Original Airdates: September 18, 1982 - November 27, 1982
Suggested Retail Price: $19.98 / DVD Release Date: July 19, 2011
Two single-sided, single-layered discs (DVD-5s)
Black Eco-Friendly Keepcase

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La, la, la-la, la, la, sing a happy song. La, la, la-la, la, la, smurf the whole day long.

Back in the fall of 1999, when I made sure to catch it weekly, "Saturday Night Live" featured a short sketch fake-advertising NBC's next big miniseries. In the tradition of "Merlin" and "Noah's Ark" came "The Smurfs", an ambitious, star-studded live-action production. The joke, of course, was that such an idea was ludicrous. "The Smurfs" was just one of the crazier cartoons of the 1980s, born out of a Belgian line of comics and European PVC figurines, and full of fantasy mythology.
The show was already being forgotten and here, NBC had gotten the likes of Sean Connery (Darrell Hammond), Al Pacino (Chris Kattan, son of real-life Tailor Smurf voice Kip King), and Garth Brooks (himself) to don blue make-up all over their upper torsos and replace verbs and nouns with variations of "smurf." You can watch the commercial here. It's still only mildly amusing, but I do remember it all these years later.

As you probably know, the Smurfs are actually returning to theaters at the end of this month, riding a wave of 1980s nostalgia nearly thirty years after The Smurfs and the Magic Flute played stateside. The new movie, simply titled The Smurfs, may seem even more absurd than that imagined NBC miniseries. Still, there is clear precedent for such a project in the two Garfield films, Yogi Bear, and the soon to be trilogy of Alvin and the Chipmunks. Like those, The Smurfs will place computer-animated leads in our live-action world, letting celebrities (among them, George Lopez and Katy Perry) voice them across from seen and therefore more culpable actors, Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, and, in the role of Gargamel, Hank Azaria. Naturally, the film will be exhibited in digital 3D.

Two of the ten episodes on the "A Magical Adventure" DVD call the show "Smurfs' Adventures", as a 1987 syndication package did. The merry music-making of the 19-piece Smurf orchestra gets cut short by a forest fire in "The Cursed Country."

The release of a major motion picture to over 3,000 theaters presents Warner Home Video with a golden opportunity to put out another Smurfs DVD. Demonstrating that childhood memories of this show aren't as vivid and fond as those of other TV cartoons, Hanna-Barbera Productions' "The Smurfs" (1981-1989) took its time to come to DVD, debuting in February 2008 and not selling well enough to keep being churned out at a regular rate. The 20-episode, two-disc Season 1, Volume 1 set was followed by a comparable release of the next 20 episodes. After that, Warner continued to sell the series in order but in single discs consisting of just five episodes. Three of those, sent to stores in 2009, got us fifteen episodes into Season 2, and then the studio stopped, doubtlessly knowing that the brand's awareness was to get a big boost in the form of a major family film. The new Smurfs will almost certainly get terrible reviews. It could do pretty good business, though Chipmunks-type numbers are definitely out of play this lackluster summer. And if people don't like the movie, well, then they can convince themselves that the animated TV series it was based on was much better.

To verify that, Warner gives us A Magical Smurf Adventure next Tuesday, July 19th. The original series' sixth and latest DVD release aims for a medium between the 5-episode platters and 20-episode collections. It contains ten episodes on two discs and carries a $19.98 list price. With consistency already off the table, the new combination should appeal more to casual fans and to passionate collectors than the prior discs did.

Like all "Smurfs" compilations, this one offers a mix of quarter-hour and half-hour episodes, each equipped with both opening and closing credits. Some of the episodes are also fitted with intros from Smurfette or Papa Smurf and "we now return to 'Smurfs'" commercial break transitions. All of these episodes come from Season 2, which debuted in the fall of 1982, though online episode guides indicate these are not consecutive shows by airdate. If you're wondering if this disc represents a significant chunk of the entire series' canon, it does not. The show produced 256 half-hours of content over nine seasons, a total of 421 episodes (330 quarter-hour and 91 half-hour) by this DVD's way of counting.

Johan and Peewee (Peewit), the young medieval adventurers whose Peyo comics introduced the Smurfs, accompany them on three adventures here. Gargamel is glad to catch the out-of-shape Greedy Smurf in "Gormandizing Greedy."

I'm assuming if you're reading this review, you already know about the Smurfs, but at the same time, perhaps you don't and were puzzled by the references to it in disparaging remarks on Avatar. The Smurfs are little blue forest creatures who dress in white and stand "three apples high." Smurf Village is said to house 100 Smurfs. The two most distinctive ones also appear to be the only Smurfs with hair: bearded elder Papa Smurf is the red-capped leader of the group and blonde Smurfette is the lone female. Everyone else is a one-note personality whose first name is an appropriate adjective and whose surname is -- what else? -- Smurf. Brainy Smurf naturally wears glasses, Vanity Smurf carries around a mirror with which he admires himself, Lazy Smurf is often found napping, and so on.

The Smurfs' nemesis is Gargamel, a balding, cloaked human wizard bent on capturing and boiling the Smurfs. In three of the episodes on this disc, the Smurfs align with Johan and Peewit, whose comic series launched by Smurfs creator Peyo in 1947 provided the world's introduction to the Smurfs in 1958. The two boys are Medieval adventurers, black-haired Johan the sensible one and shorter, odder, dim-witted, and more mischievous Peewit (called Peewee in subtitles and always pronounced that way) the one you're supposed to love.

Let us now take a closer look at the ten episodes found here...

The Smurfs don long white beards to convince an unbearded Lazy Smurf he's somehow slept through 300 years in "Smurf Van Winkle." The Feebles are a weak people who can barely summon the energy to tell their sob story in "The Magic Fountain." Lazy Smurf learns of his impending death at a going away party, in the mortality-tackling "Smurf Me No Flowers."

Disc 1

1. Smurf Van Winkle (14:13) (Originally aired November 13, 1982)
To teach Lazy Smurf a lesson and get him to do some work, all the Smurfs pretend they've grown old while he was asleep. The plan backfires when Lazy serves them a youth potion.

2. Revenge of the Smurfs (14:13) (Originally aired September 25, 1982)
The Smurfs get caught in the crossfire of a human war, bringing destruction to their village.
While rebuilding homes, a small group of them plots revenge on the humans.

3. The Magic Fountain (26:07) (Originally aired October 16, 1982)
In search of deep-sea driftweed, the Smurfs go sailing with Johan and Peewee and get stuck in a wild storm. Stranded on an island, they meet the Feebles, a weak people, and their tyrannical leader Graco. Johan, Peewee, and the Smurfs brave a giant, a hydra, and Gruesome Grotto in search of the magic fountain that will restore the Feebles' strength.

4. Smurf Me No Flowers (13:50) (Originally aired November 27, 1982)
Lazy Smurf can't sleep. When the rest of the gang mishears that nothing can be done, they prepare for his death by throwing him a going away party.

5. The Cursed Country (22:02) (Originally aired September 18, 1982)
In what seems to be their introduction, Johan and Peewee try to entertain a very bored king. A traveling carnival is no match for the excitement of a journey to retrieve Papa Smurf and others from imprisonment, slavery, and a fire-spitting dragon. This episode carries the title "Smurfs' Adventures", which was used on a 1987 syndication repackaging.

Brainy's unauthorized dealings with Gargamel turns his fellow Smurfs sick, yellow, and bird-like in "The Blue Plague." These pig truffle trolls do not take kindly to their truffles being taken in "A Mere Truffle." In "Sister Smurf", Smurfette and her new human friend Laura's fun girl time ends when a nasty old woman returns to the forest home they've cleaned up.

Disc 2

6. The Blue Plague (24:07) (Originally aired October 30, 1982)
With Papa Smurf off helping a frog prince break his curse, Brainy Smurf tries to be in charge and raises the wrath of Gargamel by taking his stinkweed. Gargamel strikes back with a potion that deals the Smurfs a sickness only he can cure.

7. The Ring of Castellac (25:45) (Originally aired November 6, 1982)
Johan, Peewee, and the Smurfs help a duke that escaped from wrongful imprisonment reclaim the throne that is rightfully his.

8. A Mere Truffle (24:21) (Originally aired November 27, 1982)
Gargamel's cat Azrael causes Tracker Smurf to drop nearly all of the much-anticipated truffles he sniffed out. When he takes the others with him to find more, he is struck by amnesia while the gang is captured by angry, protective porcine truffle trolls.

9. Gormandizing Greedy (14:06) (Originally aired October 9, 1982)
After he breaks some things, Greedy has to go on a diet. When he resists, he is caught by Gargamel in an episode alerting us to the dangers of overeating and not exercising.

10. Sister Smurf (12:09) (Originally aired September 25, 1982)
Fed up by the Smurfs' lack of attention to her, Smurfette runs off and befriends human girl Laura. Their fun is cut short when they are caught by a witch. This episode has the "Smurfs' Adventures" opening as well.

Watch a clip from "Smurf Van Winkle" on The Smurfs: A Magical Adventure:

VIDEO and AUDIO

The picture quality here is below Warner's usual high standards. Soft and faded, the 1.33:1 episodes (which have a thick, inconsistent border) look quite a bit older than their thirty years. Some episodes and parts of episodes look sharper and more vibrant, but none of them are good enough to consider a satisfyingly remastered TV DVD. At least, specific distractions -- interlacing, specks, and scratches -- remain pretty infrequent.

The audio comes in a simple single channel, and it has the unmistakable sound of cheap, aged television that hasn't been spruced up. Nevertheless, it's good enough to hear without trouble. Plus, it's hard to tell if any distortion is unintentional, the Smurfs having petite, unhuman voices to begin with. For a Warner animated DVD, this is unusually sparse on language options, offering no dubs and only English SDH subtitles on the show itself.

The short "Smurf Speak" details the many forms of the word "Smurf." Peyo has thoughtfully signed the bottom right corner of the predominantly white menus, reminding us the show wouldn't exist if not for the one-named Belgian comic strip creator.

BONUS FEATURES, MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Two short extras appear on Disc 2. "Smurf Speak" (2:15) teaches you the many uses of the word "Smurf", with show clips and a narrator. It's cute and could conceivably introduce some youngster out there to parts of speech.
"Smurftastic Moments" (5:00) counts down ten highlights from this set's episodes with a narrator, animated numbers, and some video editing effects. This too is a fun way to add value to the set with minimal effort and little original video.

Disc 1 opens with promos for "Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated": Season One, Volume 2 and Happiness is... Peanuts: Snoopy's Adventures. Disc 2 classifies a 1-minute trailer for the video game Lego Battles: Ninjago as a "special feature."

In a precedented Warner move, the disc count here is a desired effect, and not a necessity required by DVD capacity; the contents of the two discs could fit on one dual-layered disc as is, with no additional compression whatsoever. It'd be more convenient that way, but the release's perceived value would be lower.

The static menus take Warner's typical minimalist route, with characters set against white backdrops and the main screen accompanied by an instrumental version of the theme song.

A Magical Adventure is packaged in a standard, cut Eco-Box keepcase with a swinging tray inside and without inserts or slipcover. Even the discs have been subjected to cost cuts, placing the same green illustrations and credits on plain silver rather than the full-color labels Warner usually provides.

Peewee and Johan hope a little harp-backed song will get them the incriminating evidence they need from Lord Hercule in "The Ring of Castellac." Episodes of "Smurfs" end with this familiar star-swirling logo of Hanna-Barbera Productions.

CLOSING THOUGHTS

If you remember "The Smurfs", then it is probably less than you remember it being. Expectedly, the most memorable things about this series are the characters, universe, word replacement, and theme song. All of those facets hold up well, but you get the gist in about one or two 14-minute episodes. Any more than that and you'll recall that this is children's programming, best enjoyed by children of the '80s in the '80s. As such, you may struggle to stay interested today.

If you still hold some Smurf appreciation, picking up a DVD for your nostalgic fix isn't a bad idea. The 20-episode Season 1 volumes are a better value (to boot, S1V1 is currently one dollar cheaper than this on Amazon), making Magical Adventure your third best bet for such a purchase. And while I still like the series plenty, I think once you're in the market for a third DVD of it, you're just as well picking up some of the PVC figurines. But it looks like you can probably stay away from the new movie.

More on the DVD / Buy from Amazon.com

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Related Reviews:
The Smurfs: Season One, Volume One The Smurfs: Season One, Volume Two Saturday Morning Cartoons: 1980s
1980s Hanna-Barbera: The Jetsons: Season 2, Volume 1 The 13 Ghosts of Scooby-Doo Yogi's Great Escape
1980s Animation: Gummi Bears: Volume 1 DuckTales: Volume One Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Alvinnn!!! Edition
1980s Television: Silver Spoons: The Complete First Season Fraggle Rock: Scared Silly Voyagers!: The Complete Series
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Reviewed July 13, 2011.



Text copyright 2011 DVDizzy.com. Images copyright 1982 Hanna-Barbera Productions and 2011 Warner Home Video.
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