The Smurfs and the Magic Flute (a J!-ENT DVD Review)
July 8, 2012 by Dennis Amith
The 1976 animated film classic “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute” finally makes its way onto DVD! Directed by Smurfs creator Peyo, this family film will entertain young and the young at heart!
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DVD TITLE: The Smurfs and the Magic Flute
THEATRICAL DATE: 1976
DURATION: 71 Minutes
INFO: Windowboxed, Stereo
COMPANY: Shout! Factory
RATED: General Audiences
RELEASE DATE: August 14, 2012
Directed by Peyo
Adaptation by Peyo, Yvan Delporte
Based on the characters and comic book by Peyo
Music by Michel Legrand
Edited by Nebiha Ben Milad, Michele Neny
Art Direction by Paulette Melloul
Featuring the voices of:
A magical flute is just what Court Jester Peewit needs to play delightful tunes that make everyone in the kingdom dance – until the dancing turns dangerous. Sir Johan tries in vain to recover the musical instrument, but a thief named McCreep beats him to it, intending to use the flute to steal gold from the King’s subjects. It’s the Smurfs-to-the-rescue when Papa Smurf devises a plan to create a second magical flute, and Peewit and Sir Johan go on a great adventure to find McCreep, win the musical duel and save the kingdom!
Generations have grown up with “The Smurfs” as far back as of 1958. Originally created as a Belgian comic strip by cartoonist Peyo (pen name for Pierre Culliford), the origins of the Smurfs began in the comic series “Johan and Peewit”.
“Johan and Peewit” revolved around a brave young knight named Johan, who is often trying to keep his friend Peewit (a practical joker and terrible musician and singer) out of trouble. The setting of “Johan and Peewit” is around the middle ages, during the time where a king ruled and sword-and-sorcery existed.
A story titled “The Flute with Six Holes” was published in 1958 in Spirou Magazine and this story was the first to introduced the smurfs. And sure enough, the characters became so popular that the Smurfs received their own storyline a year later in the same magazine.
And since then, the Smurf franchise has continued to be a successful worldwide, including here in America thanks to the comic books, animated series and toys.
Back in 1976, the film “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute”, directed by Peyo, was released in the theaters. The Belgian film would later be released in theaters in the UK in 1979 and later in America in 1983. And the film would become a box office winner in the U.S., grossing over $11 million dollars, the highest for a non-Disney animated film (until the 1985 animated film “The Care Bears Movie” would best the record).
While the film was released on VHS and LaserDisc back in 1984, the film has not been released in America on DVD until now.
In August 2012, “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute” will be released on DVD courtesy of Shout! Factory. It’s important to note that this release is the UK version, so names of Johan are John and Peewit’s name has been changed to William. Other name changes include Grouchy Smurf, who’s name is now Grumpy and Hefty Smurf was changed to “Strong-Man Smurf”.
“The Smurfs and the Magic Flute” takes place in the Middle Ages and a merchant has come by to sell music instruments to William, the court jester. But known for being a terrible musician and singer, the king dismisses the merchant and in the process, the merchant forgets his flute with six holes.
The king discovering the flute decides to throw it into his fireplace before Peewit can find it. But when he does, a green smoke starts coming from the flute.
Peewit discovers the smoke and puts out the fire, only to discover the flute and starts to play it. But when he does play it, everyone starts dancing.
Meanwhile, a man named Matthew McCreep has learned from the merchant of how the merchant left his special flute in the castle and immediately, McCreep goes to the castle and steals the flute from Peewit.
Because the flute can be used for evil by rendering people to fall asleep, the king sends his knight Johan and Peewit to find Matthew McCreep and retrieve the flute before McCreep can use it to put people to sleep and rob them of their money. But McCreep uses the flute against them and is able to escape.
Needing some help against McCreep, both John and William visit Homnibus, the wizard, who tells them that the flute was created by the Smurfs and in order to get a new one to counteract McCreep’s flute, they must to to the village using his spell.
So, Homnibus sends both Johan and Peewit to the Smurfs and hope that Papa Smurf can craft a new magical flute for them, in order to stop McCreep. Meanwhile, McCreep has used the magic flute to steal over 7,000 gold pieces and now wants to hire people with the money he has made to create an army and go to war against the king.
Can John and William convince the Smurfs to create a new magic flute?
VIDEO & AUDIO:
“The Smurfs and the Magic Flute” is presented in 1:85:1. In truth, the film is actually letterboxed. So, The original animation was created with a monaural mix and made in color (eastmancolor). The video quality looks good considering the animated film is over 35-years-old but by no means perfect. There is edge enhancement used, thus the stair-stepping on the edges, .there are also many white specks. Fortunately, the white specks are small and the edge enhancement is no surprise for a DVD release. But with that being said, the film does look good on DVD.
But while the film was released on DVD in the UK, it was also released ala HD on Blu-ray. And one can see the criticism that the UK Blu-ray release received, so I’m not surprised that the HD treatment for “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute” is not happening in the US. But a transfer would definitely give us better detail and clarity, but I’m sure the white specks and possibly the edge enhancement would cause some videophiles to be cautious of a Blu-ray release for the US.
But overall, the Shout! Factory DVD release is still a long awaited DVD that fans have wanted. The animation still holds up very well in 2012. The painted backgrounds are beautiful to look at and the animation manages to bring Peyo’s character designs and artwork from the comic strip to animated film.
While colors are good, the Smurfs are a bit darker shade of blue than the TV series but I did enjoy how beautiful the background art was and it is a very color film and for children watching it, I’m sure they will enjoy it.
As for the audio, the animated film presented in the Shout! Cast DVD version is the UK version, not the American dub version. So, aside from the name changes made in the UK release, the audio quality can be heard, but I can see some people hoping subtitles were included, as some Smurfs may be difficult for some listeners.
The British accents aren’t difficult to understand but some viewers may be disappointed that English subtitles are not included and that some Smurfs talk with a high pitch voice. So, the voices of the Smurfs, including Papa Smurf is far from what people may be familiar with him, if they watched the animated TV series or even the live-action film.
I have never heard the American English dub but I didn’t mind the British dubbing at all. As long as you get over the voices that one must be used to hearing in the American airing of the animated series of the ’80s, I wasn’t disturbed by it. But for those who did grow up with the original film with the American dub, I can understand if they are disappointed that the American English dub was not included.
“The Smurfs and the Magic Flute” comes with the following special feature:
- The Smurfs’ Story – A text-based page about “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute”.
- Character Guide – A text-based guide on the primary characters of “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute”.
- Glossary of Smurf Terms – A text based guide on smurf terms such as “a smurf”, “to smurf”, “to get smurfing”, “to be smurfed”, etc.
- About the Smurfs – A text based guide about the Smurfs.
- Gallery – Artwork for “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute”.
Before there was Gargamel, before the appearance of Smurfette and before “The Smurfs” would air on television back in 1981, there was the animated film, “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute”.
This classic animated film that was directed by Smurfs creator Peyo and premiered in Belgium back in 1976 was a hit in several countries, including the United States.
But for many of us who grew up with the animated series, it’s important to remember that before the Smurfs was a series or a comic book strip, Peyo conceived Johan and Peewit, his two popular characters that he created before the Smurfs. So, in many ways, as the Smurfs made their first introduction back in ’58, this animated film was to celebrate his two characters plus the Smurfs being brought to the big screen via in animated form. And so, the best way to explain to fans of “The Smurfs” who grew up with the ’80s animated series is to forget about how you imagined the Smurfs, especially the voices, when viewing this animated film.
For one, the film utilizes the 1979 UK version of the English dub, so Papa Smurf and all the other characters speak with a British accent. While I never saw the original and knew that the voice acting would be different from the voices that I was accustomed to back in the ’80s, I was not bothered by the fact the characters spoke with a British accent. But I know those who did watch the film back in 1984, would probably be the viewers who would feel disappointed that the DVD did not included the American English dub.
And another reason for some fans to be disappointed was the name changes used in the UK dub. On the DVD cover and on the character guide of the special features, there are references to Sir Johan and the court jester Peewit, but for the UK version, Johan became John and Peewit became William. And some Smurfs names have been changed as well.
But as far as quality goes, the film does look good considering the age of this film and I doubt that this film will receive extensive restoration considering the costs involved to remove all white specks in each frame. And while the UK “Smurf” fans did receive a Blu-ray release (from another company), due to the criticism the UK release had for its quality, not sure if the Blu-ray would be released in the U.S. As for special features, it would have been nice to have a featurette but most of the special features are text-based aside from the gallery which are images.
As for parents who are curious about purchasing the film for their child, the film is safe. My 9-year-old son watched this film along with me and he enjoyed it. He didn’t grow up watching the TV series like I did, but because of the live-action film and the iPad game, that is where he is familiar with the Smurfs and for the most part, he enjoyed the film. And he did recognize characters from the live action film that are on “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute”.
Overall, I know that aside from parents purchasing this DVD for their children, there are Smurf fans who have been wanting this DVD to be released in America. While some may object to the UK dub being used (especially because of the British accents and the name changes), this is probably the only way people will get a chance to watch “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute”.
So, while this may not be what some “Smurf” fans have wanted, those who have been waiting a long time for this DVD release and are open-minded or parents wanting a safe animated film for their children, will enjoy this DVD release of “The Smurfs and the Magic Flute”.
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