The Smurfs were originally conceived as a comic in the 50’s by Belgian artist Peyo, but most know the series thanks to those purveyors of subpar animation Hanna-Barbera. Truth be told, Hanna-Barbera pioneered television animation after running Tom & Jerry for MGM. The company put out so much content that it’s not at all surprising a lot of it was junk. They would find a formula that worked, like teenagers with a wacky animal sidekick solving mysteries, and run with it until it was no longer profitable. The Smurfs was one of their biggest hits of the 80s and followed a group of little blue men, and their one female, who lived in mushroom-shaped houses in the forest. Their antagonist, Gargamel, was out to get them because he wanted to eat them. Gross.
The Smurfs had a higher budget than a lot of the other Hanna-Barbera stuff, or at least it appeared to. The best thing about the show was the solid animation, bright colors, and shrunken world. Each character had a very simple personality, kind of like the seven dwarfs, so the show wasn’t particularly engaging, but it did possess an annoyingly catchy theme song made worse when the characters in the show “sang” it and the only words to it were “La la la-la la la.” It was still successful enough to spawn two Christmas specials that actually debuted in prime-time, along with several non-Christmas specials. The first of the two, simply “The Smurfs Christmas Special,” aired in 1982 and the second, “‘Tis the Season to be Smurfy” aired in 1987. And since A Cartoon Christmas already covered the first one, we’re going to talk about the second one here.
The special opens with a very snowy sky and some Smurfs riding a sleigh pulled by a dog with their Christmas tree tied down to it. They’re singing their own Christmas song to the tune of the Smurfs theme while a brief montage takes over depicting the various blue folk decorating for Christmas. Wild Smurf, who sounds exactly like Slimer and speaks in gibberish too (and yes, is voiced by Frank Welker), wants to help but Brainy Smurf seems to hold the lad in low regard. He hands him some garland to string up and he does so by swinging around like Tarzan and makes a mess of things. The other Smurfs start ragging on him, but Papa Smurf steps and lets them know they’re all being assholes. This is Wild’s first Christmas, so he has no idea what’s going on. Papa Smurf explains it before heading out to deliver a gift. The other Smurfs want to get down to exchanging gifts too, but they need to wait for Grandpa and Sassette to return.
We change locales and head to a human village where all the villagers are doing Christmas stuff and street vendors are hawking products in the streets. There’s a pretty neat multi-plane camera effect in use as the camera zooms in between the onlookers. This special actually looks pretty good, all things considered. Grandpa and Sassette, whom he affectionately refers to as Sassy, are observing what Christmas Eve is like for humans from under a fruit cart. An apple falls to the ground and Grandpa scoops it up for later, even though the thing is about as big as he is he seems to have no trouble carrying it with one hand. Sassy possesses a really annoying high-pitched and slightly distorted voice that is akin to fingernails on a blackboard. They start to make their way through town when Sassy notices a cut purse stealing a wealthy looking man’s purse. Grandpa, apparently an excellent athlete in his day, chucks the apple a good 30 yards with enough velocity to hurt the man’s hand, causing him to drop the purse.
That crisis averted, Grandpa and Sassy hide under an old toy maker’s cart as he starts leaving the square a bit down-hearted at not selling many toys. A little boy runs up to tell him he admires his toys, and the old guy doesn’t hesitate to gift him one as he’s seemingly delighted that someone took notice. Almost immediately the young boy’s father, well dressed and emerging from a horse drawn carriage, admonishes the boy for speaking with the poor and tosses the toy puppet to the ground where it breaks under the weight of the carriage as it rolls away. The old toy maker, wiping a tear from his eye, sets back on his way home. Sassy is upset at the sight and doesn’t understand and Grandpa Smurf has little to say that can comfort her. A nearby woman asks the toy maker, Gustav, where he’s going and he reveals more of his sad story: his wife is sick and he needs to make it home in time to meet the doctor. Sassy wants to see what’s the matter, apparently not hearing the conversation Gustav had with the woman, and Grandpa and she chase off after him.
Another awesome multi-plane tracking shot takes us through a snowy little village to Gustav’s home. The doctor is leaving and informs Gustav that his wife’s, Elise, spirit is weak. Maybe Christmas can cheer her up because there’s nothing he can do. He must be some kind of homeopathic doctor. Gustav tries to cheer his wife up with a Jumping Jill marionette that he made and it works a little, but then she gets glum recalling all of those Christmas wishes that didn’t come true. He tries to tell her to cheer up, and mentions a story about Christmas elves (referencing the elves and cobbler folk tale, I presume), but she seems pretty depressed and too far gone for stories. Sassy and Grandpa watch from the window sill and get an idea. They eagerly hop away, while Gustav hears something and notices their little footprints left behind in the snow.
Back in Smurf Village, the other Smurfs are still busy decorating and preparing for Christmas in their own way. Wild even gets in on the fun by standing under the mistletoe and gets a little something from Smurfette for his troubles. When Grandpa and Sassy stroll in they immediately start asking around for help with bringing Christmas to the elderly couple. Everyone they ask though is too busy with their own stuff to care, leaving Sassy and Grandpa no choice but to pack up two massive sacks of presents and head out themselves. Wild notices though, and he pulls up on a sleigh lead by his squirrel companion for Sassy and Grandpa to load presents onto and the trio heads off to the human village.
Papa Smurf returns to the village and is alarmed to see that Grandpa and Sassy are no where to be found. The other Smurfs fill him in on what they were up to, and when Brainy shares his opinion that those two are crazy for wanting to leave their party to help some old people, Papa Smurf gives him the business. He puts them all in their place and they decide to pack up the big sleigh with their tree, presents, and all of their decorations and set off after Grandpa, Sassy, and Wild.
Meanwhile, those three have hit a snag. The snow is falling fast and the squirrel can barely move in it. It’t so high that it towers over the Smurfs. Apparently it’s super powdery if even they can’t travel on top of the snow, and that squirrel apparently eats too much. Upon closer inspection, they actually no longer have a sleigh for some reason and are just slinging the sacks over their shoulders. The other Smurfs soon arrive, their sleigh having no problems navigating the weather, and they pile on to resume their trip to the village. Brainy continues to be a dick and tells Wild everything was his idea. I hate this guy.
Gustav and Elise are getting ready for bed. Elise is declaring Christmas Eve over and seems resigned to death. Gustav mournfully pokes at the coals of the fireplace and tries to convince himself things will be better in the morning. The cut purse from earlier emerges from another home remarking how this is a fine night for purse snatching. He sets his sights on some rich guy carrying a pile of a gifts – the rich guy from earlier who chided his kid for speaking with Gustav and broke his toy. The cutpurse is able to snatch his purse, while the Smurfs come streaking down the alley and knock the rich guy over, unintentionally. Brainy and Hefty are knocked off of the sleigh, unknown to Papa Smurf. They observe the thief running away, while the wealthy man calls out for the sheriff. It’s at this point that I notice these old houses all have modern gutters on them.
Hefty wants to go after the thief, but Brainy would rather sit and be miserable about the fact that he left the village for this. A rat decides Brainy looks rather tasty, and Hefty has to come to his aid. He subdues the rodent by tying its tail to a wall and the duo is able to escape. The other Smurfs arrive at the elderly couple’s house to find them asleep. Sassy is dismayed, but Papa Smurf lets her know this is actually for the best. They get down to business decorating the place with Wild playing a central role. At the same time, Hefty and Brainy catch up with the thief who’s returned home, which is across the street from the elderly couple. He drops the wealthy man’s purse at their door after taking the gold from it before entering his own home with Hefty and Brainy running in after him.
Clumsy Smurf, ever the useless one, breaks an ornament as they’re finishing up which rouses Gustav from his sleep. He emerges from his bedroom to see the Smurfs scrambling around. He immediately gets his wife, and the Smurfs surprisingly hang around to show off their handiwork. Elise is overjoyed, and then the Smurfs start to sing. Ugh. At least it’s an original song.
Across the street, Brainy and Hefty are hiding in the thief’s house pondering their next move. When Brainy hears the singing he remarks “Hey, that’s Grandpa!” Of course, the thief hears them, but when they run away they wind up standing in front of a candle and casting a huge shadow on the wall. The thief, apparently not too bright, thinks they’re evil spirits based on their shadows. The two convince him he’s the evil one for stealing and that he needs to start giving instead, especially at Christmas. Wow, this is really easy.
The wealthy man soon reappears. He’s got some armed guards and for some reason his wife has joined him on the manhunt for the thief who snatched his purse. They find the discarded purse outside Gustav’s home and assume the thieves are inside. All the while, the Smurfs and the couple are enjoying themselves and Elise gives Sassy her Jumping Jill doll. The scale of things keeps changing as the the Smurf tree is now colossal. Elise thinks she’ll be better, but then the guards come in and ruin it all. With the Smurfs hiding under the bed, no one believes their story about Christmas elves decorating their house and they assume Gustav and Elise were able to acquire all of their decorations in the brief amount of time that has elapsed since the wealthy man’s purse was stolen. Papa Smurf is about to command his followers to reveal themselves in a bid to save the couple from arrest, but the thief soon emerges to confess. He now understands the spirit of Christmas and the wealthy man has a change of heart too, because Christmas. They start acting nice towards the old couple and decline to press charges against the thief. When Elise goes to show the wife of the wealthy man the Christmas elves, she finds they’ve disappeared.
The Smurfs, on their sleigh heading home, remark how everything turned out so well and assure us that Elise will now be just fine. Christmas trees are powerful medicine. Brainy tries to give everyone a Christmas present, some quotations from him apparently, and they all pound him with snow. Easily the best part of the episode. Roll credits.
I actually don’t hate this. Aside from some moments where the scale of the diminutive Smurfs seems to change with the background and objects around them, the special looks really good. The dialogue amongst the Smurfs is still pretty annoying, but the story is solid enough. It kind of hits all of the right beats of a Christmas special. There’s a little tragedy, a lot of kindness, some bad folks see the error of their ways, and the spirit of Christmas saves the day. It’s corn, but it’s kind of good corn. The resolution probably happens too quickly, and I’m not sure we really needed the plot with the rich guy. Maybe if he wasn’t in it the thief could have had some more meaningful transformation in the end. I do appreciate that they tied everything together though and at least Hanna-Barbera tried to create an original Christmas story. I thought it would be like the The Elves and the Shoemaker where the elves build a bunch of shoes while the guy sleeps, only this would be the Smurfs either making toys for Gustav to sell or decorate his house to make his wife feel better. And it still kind of was, but it’s different enough that I don’t know that I would consider it an adaptation. So consider me surprised that “‘Tis the Season to be Smurfy” isn’t terrible. If you want to watch it for yourself, it’s readily available on home media and digital and there’s a decent chance it will air or has aired on Boomerang this season as well. You could do worse.