Conveniently timed to coincide with the upcoming theatrical debut of Smurfs: The Lost Village, Sony has released The Smurfs (2011) on UHD. The disc includes a new transfer and a new Atmos soundtrack while carrying over all of extras from the 2011 Blu-ray release on the included 1080p disc. While some of the information below about the film itself can be found in my 2011 Blu-ray Review, read on for my thoughts on the upgraded video and audio
The Smurfs debuted on North American television as a Saturday morning cartoon in 1981. Created by Peyo, the Smurfs, a population of adorable blue creatures who were named per their occupations or personalities, with Papa Smurf their wise leader. Their idyllic existence was only occasionally interrupted by small, simplistic problems and an evil wizard named Gargamel, whose “henchman” was his cat.
Like most PG rated fare, The Smurfs will appeal to families. Fans of the 80’s cartoon will be pleased that the film sticks very close to the original concept and tone (even down to the La la la la la la Smurf song and their habit of using “smurf” as an all-purpose verb). The film opens in the Smurfs’ mushroom village, hidden in a medieval forest. As they prepare for the Blue Moon Festival, Papa Smurf (voiced by comedian Jonathan Winters) has a disturbing vision involving Smurfs in cages, seemingly brought on by Clumsy Smurf (Anton Yelchin) who leads their enemy, the evil wizard Gargamel (Hank Azaria), to their village. As Papa Smurf, Clumsy, Smurfette (Katy Perry), Brainy (Fred Armisen), Gutsy (Alan Cumming), Jokey (Paul Reubens), Greedy (Kenan Thompson), Vanity (John Oliver), Baker (B.J. Novak) and Grouchy (George Lopez) are running away, Clumsy makes a dangerous wrong turn—and as some of the others attempt to save him, they’re all sucked into a portal that drops them (along with Gargamel and his sinister cat, Azrael) in Central Park.
In New York City, Patrick Winslow (Neil Patrick Harris) a creative director at a cosmetics company, with a very difficult boss (Sofia Vergara) and a pregnant wife at home (Jayma Mays) is having a tough time coping with all the stresses in his life. The last thing he needs is a gang of overly-cheerful, blue, forest creatures invading his life, nor the evil wizard chasing them. Nonetheless, the two worlds collide when Clumsy Smurf accidentally messes up Patrick’s work, which inadvertently gives Patrick a chance to give parenting a test run, while the Smurfs try to figure out a way to get home safely. Really, it´s not very complicated at all, but the animation and the acting (reaction shots especially) make it somewhat interesting along with some “70’s sitcom” style self-awareness and self-deprecating humor. I for one, wish there was more humor. But the youngest among us will appreciate the high cute factor.
The Smurfs is truly visual eye candy. Framed at the 1.78:1 aspect ratio, this 1080p transfer is bursting with color. The colors are so rich that hues come through brilliantly, no matter the hue or shade. The blue color of the Smurfs has never looked more vibrant. Saturation levels are top notch, showing an improvement over the 1080p disc, which was already impressive. The image looks stunning throughout. Again, showing an improvement over the Blu-ray. It may be a result of improved color timing. The CGI Smurfs are surprisingly well rendered, even during special effects sequences. Black levels are perfect, and edge delineation is strong. Skin tones appear natural throughout. Any blemishes, wrinkles or other imperfections are clearly visible in medium or close-up shots. Depth is very good here, with movement appearing fluid, and a true sense of dimensionality intact. The image is perfectly clean.
The updated Dolby Atmos audio really packs an impressive punch. From sounds of the Smurf forest, to their work around the village, sounds of everyday envelop the soundfield. All seven channels are used throughout the presentation, whether for action beats or abient sounds. The mix is well prioritized to take advantage of the channel separation. Dialogue is clean, clear, and concise with appropriate volume levels.
Additional audio options listed are Spanish, Chinese Mandarin, Chinese Putonghua, Chinese Cantonese, Korean, or Thai Dolby Digital 5.1, with an English audio descriptive track in 2.0. Subtitles are in English SDH, French, Spanish, Chinese (all three), Korean, and Thai.
While there are no true new extras on Sony’s UHD release of The Smurfs, it does include the usual UHD extras including the Cast & Crew tab which includes still photos of the cast and crew as well as the usual assortment of Moments (2160p, HDR, Atmos): Gargamel & Azrael (6:03), Memorable Moments (5:35), Smurfy Moments (8:05), and Magic (6:51). All of the previously released extras (discussed below), are available on the included 1080p Blu-ray, as well as a UV digital code.
- Smurf-O-Vision: Second Screen Experience (HD, 1:21) Using an iPod Touch, iPhone, or iPad, users may watch the movie on their television screen and experience additional content via the synced device’s screen simultaneous with the film. Both the Blu-ray player and the device must be connected to the same WiFi network and interact via WiFi Sync. Users without a WiFi connection or without one of the above devices may watch Smurf-O-Vision on their television screens, playing over the movie. Also included is a dedicated introduction to Smurf-O-Vision Second Screen.
- The Smurfs Fantastic Adventure Game (HD) A three-level game that challenges players to rescue Papa Smurf from Gargamel by using their remotes to control Clumsy across the playing area.
- Audio Commentary: Director Raja Gosnell delivers a well-spoken and even commentary that covers a broad range of information. He discusses the story, the film’s advanced digital effects, the challenges of shooting the film as-is and as the movie may have been, directing in a sometimes completely CG world, the shooting process and filmmaking schedule, scouting and shooting locales, the work of the cast, and much, much more.
- Audio Commentary: Producer Jordan Kerner, VFX Supervisor Richard Hoover, and Writers J. David Stem, David N. Weiss, Jay Scherick, and David Ronn handle this track. They briefly discuss the characters’ viability as a Saturday morning family entertainment option in the early 1980s and move on to cover the ins-and-outs of the 2011 movie. Much of the information overlaps between this track and the director track, but there’s still some good information here.
- Deleted & Extended Scenes (HD, 7:41) Goat Man, Gargamel Throws Azrael Through Door, Gargamel Enters FAO Schwarz, Girl Talk — Extended, and Original Lullaby.
- The Smurfs: Comic Book to the Big Screen (HD, 8:15) A short but informative piece that begins by looking back at the original source material and examines the complex process of creating digital Smurfs and ensuring that they’ll remain true to their roots, appear physically credible, and look good on film.
- Smurf Speak: Meet the Cast (HD, 9:26) The film’s voice cast discusses and reacts to the movie.
- Going Gargamel (HD, 9:57) A piece that looks at Hank Azaria’s amazing performance through cast and crew interviews, including with Azaria himself. The piece also looks at the Gargamel makeup application process and his work with multiple real and digital Azraels.
- Blue-Pers (1080p, 0:25) A very brief gag reel.
- Happy Music Montage (HD, 1:49) Scenes from the movie set to music.
- Progression Reels (HD, 9:14) Smurf-olution, Growing a Village: Generating Complexity for a Smurf-Sized World, Building and Lighting a CG Smurf, Image-Based Set Reconstruction and Lighting, and Anatomy of a Portal: Effects and Lighting.