If the 70s were defined by Scooby Doo when it came to Hanna-Barbera, then the 80s belonged to The Smurfs. The little blue creations of Pierre Culliford, better known by his pen name Peyo, had an animated series that basically spanned the entirety of the 80s totaling an insane 258 episodes. And once the 80s ended, it wasn’t like The Smurfs suddenly disappeared. The show would air in syndication for much of the 90s before the franchise finally seemed ready to retire, but like all things from the 80s, it came back.
Relatively early in the show’s run was The Smurfs Christmas Special. The grammatically confusing title at least did not confuse would-be viewers: it was The Smurfs and it’s Christmas. The special aired in 1982 and would see re-runs for years to come, maybe not primetime network re-runs, but they can’t all be Charlie Brown. We actually looked at a later Smurfs Christmas special a few years ago and it was…Smurfy? The Smurfs was one of those shows I watched because it was on. I saw so many episodes of this thing, but I can’t recall any real plot details. I just remember the archetypes and some of the characters and voices, but that’s mostly it. Most of the episodes probably just involved Gargamel trying to capture the Smurfs so I can see how it would just all blend together into the brain of an adolescent. It was never my favorite show though and I don’t recall owning much merch. I think I might have had a little Papa Smurf plush and there was always a little Smurfette spoon at my grandma’s house for some reason.
Let’s check this one out, shall we? I know I’ve seen this before, but like the regular series, the various Smurfs holiday specials sort of blend together in my brain so this might feel almost new to me. Since we are talking Smurfs and Christmas though, I feel like I have to mention that Smurfs creator Peyo actually died on Christmas Eve in 1992. Ok, now that we’re all sad it’s Christmas time and the Smurfs are getting ready! There’s snow on the mushroom houses, we get a little title, and the usual Smurfs theme has some bells added to it to give it a jingle quality. The Smurfs are decorating a massive tree and we get some cuts of Gargamel’s snow-covered house and a horse-drawn sleigh is seen going across the land. We’ll see this again as this is just fluff for the credits.
When we get into it, Harmony (Hamilton Camp) Smurf is practicing a trumpet solo and he’s eager to share it with the others, but no one is interested. Smurfette (Lucille Bliss) seems to react in pain when Harmony tries playing for her while Grouchy (Michael Bell) is, well, grouchy and basically tells him to piss off. A whole group of Smurfs then pass by as they’re bringing a giant pot of pudding or something to the town square. I don’t know why it needs to be prepared there, but I suppose that cauldron isn’t fitting in any of those tiny houses. None of them have any interest in what Harmony is up to while Brainy (Danny Goldman) tries to lecture him on the importance of pudding preparation. These Smurfs have some odd priorities.
A dejected Harmony tries to find a friendly ear in Lazy who’s sleeping on the ground, in the snow. He plays his trumpet, rather poorly, and it causes some snow to fall off of a nearby house and bury every part of Lazy except his nose. He continues with his nap. Harmony then comes across Jokey (June Foray) who is loading up a sleigh with presents. If you know Jokey, then you know those presents are all explosives. He’s giddy about Christmas since he has a gift for everyone in the village. Harmony informs him that he’s written a solo for Christmas and asks Jokey if he wants to hear it? Jokey tries to refuse, but Harmony plays on. As Jokey tries to stop him the sound of the solo causes the gift in his hands to blow up leaving him all charred and blackened. Declaring it not funny, he basically tells Harmony to beat it.
Greedy Smurf (Camp) is then shown stirring the massive cauldron of pudding. He promises it will be his best pudding yet which just prompts Brainy to start talking about how much he contributed. Greedy and the other Smurfs apparently do not like hearing Brainy take all of the credit, as he soon goes soaring through the air and lands in the snow beside Harmony, who is still working on that solo. You just know that solo is going to come back before the episode’s end and perform some Christmas miracle or something.
We then cut to the Smurfs decorating the tree, it’s the same animation from the intro only we see a bit more. Papa Smurf (Don Messick) finally makes an appearance just to tell us that this might be their best holiday celebration yet. Aren’t we lucky to be witnessing this one?! The best one ever! You just can’t have a Christmas special in the 80s without someone speculating it will be the best one yet, which will then follow with it seeming like the worst one yet, before it then becomes the best one ever again. These things write themselves.
The scene shifts to the sleigh from the intro and we now get to see who is in it. It’s some old guy and two kids, one boy and one girl, and he’s giving them a lesson on Santa Claus. The old man (uncredited) is the grandfather of the two children, Gwenevere (Alexandra Stoddert) and William (David Mendenhall), and they’re heading home for Christmas. The kids are pretty excited about this Santa Claus guy, and who wouldn’t be? The scene then shifts to the home of the evil Gargamel (Paul Winchell). He hates Christmas and lets us know in no uncertain terms. He’s seated at a table with books all around him, and he slams one of them shut. Unfortunately, his cat Azrael (Messick) was taking a snooze on the table and the book slams shut on her tail. She yells and jumps into the rafters causing a bunch of books to scatter all over Gargamel. He’s pretty angry with the cat, because all villains blame their animal companions for their own mistakes, but soon he brightens up. In his lap is a book that apparently details a spell for making things miserable. He’s positively giddy now as he’s found a weapon that will ruin the Smurfs’ Christmas – muahahahahaha!
There’s a quick cut back to the old man and his grandkids merrily sleighing through the snow, but some creepy guy and a pack of wolves are watching. It then jumps back to Smurf Village where Papa Smurf is reprimanding Greedy for tasting the pudding. He literally took a finger to this massive pot that these Smurfs have no chance of consuming in its entirety. And if they do, well then they’re probably getting diabetes for Christmas. Brainy Smurf tries to add to Papa Smurf’s scolding which causes the old Smurf to roll his eyes initially. He then interrupts Brainy repeatedly until the annoying one finally shuts up. This allows Papa Smurf to then explain to Greedy, but mostly to us, that the pudding isn’t complete until they add the last walnut. Greedy responds in question by asking if it’s the last, ripe, delicious, walnut and Papa Smurf soon realizes that Greedy ate it. A single tear falls from Greedy’s eye, so at least he seems remorseful, but his name is Greedy for a reason. He apologizes to Papa Smurf who just says it’s all right and that he’ll get another walnut from Squirrel. Yeah, seems like this is not a big deal at all. I’m glad we got to spend time here.
The old man and the kids are once again shown singing “Jingle Bells” while the stranger with evil intentions looks on. I’m guessing something is finally about to happen. And it does! A wolf attacks, though the scene is edited clumsily. We just see it charge, the horse rear up, and hear the sound of wood crunching. The scary guy watches with approval. We then jump back to see what Gargamel is doing. He’s preparing his spell that will ruin Christmas, but he’s actually a pretty terrible alchemist and the concoction he’s working on explodes leaving him clinging to a chandelier, which soon falls. He then sobs, because he can’t ruin someone else’s Christmas. Poor guy.
On the outskirts of Smurf Village, Papa Smurf is borrowing another nut from Squirrel who is, as you probably guessed, just some random squirrel. The nut is dropped from the tree and hits Papa Smurf in the head. Funny. We then get to see the wreckage of the sleigh from earlier. The horse is just running free while the overturned sleigh has a hand sticking out from under it which is actually rather upsetting. The children are then shown approaching what they hope is a friendly home, but it’s Gargamel’s so that’s a big “No.” Gargamel answers the door and the young girl explains the situation as “Our sleigh overturned and our grandfather won’t open his eyes.” Sure sounds like he’s dead. Gargamel asks if they have any money and when they say “No,” he slams the door in their face. I remembered Gargamel as an asshole, but I didn’t know it went this far.
The scene shifts to a castle and it’s here we find out these kids are sort of royalty. Some guy in charge says his niece and nephew should have arrived hours ago and regrets letting them journey to him with their grandfather. He orders some soldier guy to organize a search party right away. We then are taken to the Smurfs who are singing their annoying “La La” song as they presumably march back to the village from Squirrel’s tree. We then get some quick cuts. First it’s to see Gwenevere’s doll in the snow, which she had just been carrying to Gargamel’s, but I guess got sick of doing so. Then to both kids as they lament their current state and reinforce the notion that they just need to find someone who will help them. Then it’s back to the doll and a wolf is sniffing it. That’s probably not good for the kids.
Back at Gargamel’s, the old fool is trying to come up with a new potion, or spell, or whatever that will ruin the Smurfs’ Christmas, but doesn’t appear to be having much luck. Then his door suddenly swings open and it’s the creepy guy in the purple cape. He’s credited as Stranger (Rene Auberjonois) and immediately informs Gargamel that he can help him with his Smurf problem. In exchange, he just wants those kids. Gargamel, surprisingly, asks why he wants those kids and the Stranger goes on to say it’s for revenge. He has a bone to pick with their uncle who apparently thwarts his evilness with good deeds or something. He can’t abduct the children himself and explains that the only way for “goodness” to come his way is through treachery. I feel like there’s a far more interesting story here than what the Smurfs do at Christmas. Is this guy Satan? And if so, what’s that make the uncle of those kids?
At any rate, Gargamel is game as he wants the Smurfs and this guy has some scroll that will not only lead him to their village, but also provide instructions for what to do when he gets there. I personally think knocking over their tree and stomping on their tiny homes needs no instructions, but whatever. Gargamel sets out to find the kids, but instead he runs into their uncle. He’s with two others and informs Gargamel that they’re looking for the kids. It’s through his explanation we also learn that the grandfather survived and is apparently fine. Gargamel lies and says he hasn’t seen them, but when the uncle mentions he’s offering a reward of 10 gold coins for their safe return, the old alchemist gets a little gleam in his eye. When they wander off Gargamel explains to Azrael how they can get the Smurfs and the gold. That stranger did mention treachery, so this should follow suit, no?
Gargamel resumes his search while we’re shown what the kids are up to. They’re huddled together by a tree and the colors in the sky would seem to indicate it’s sundown. Gwenevere assures her brother they’ll be okay, but the sound of howling wolves would suggest otherwise. The two start singing “Silent Night” together and it’s overheard by Papa Smurf and the others. Brainy goes into an explanation of what they’re hearing while everyone just ditches him. These Smurfs are smarter than I thought. We then cut back to the kids and they’re surrounded by wolves. Seemingly every time we cut away and then back, another wolf is added and no one had to animate anything, which is quite the trick. Papa Smurf then barges in and sticks his finger right in a wolf’s face. The Smurfs is a show with very little actual, physical, conflict and I’m reminded of that as Papa Smurf tells the wolves to go away and they obey. The kids mistake him for Santa Claus, I guess their grandfather never mentioned his height, and quickly explain their situation to Papa Smurf. He orders the male Smurfs with him to go check on the grandfather while Smurfette is sent back to the village to get more help. When they depart, the kids ask him if he’s Santa Claus and he kind of laughs sheepishly, but doesn’t seem eager to correct them.
Hefty (Frank Welker), Clumsy (Bill Callaway), and Brainy come upon the wrecked sleigh, but no one is there. Brainy notes that there’s a lot of foot traffic around the wreckage, while Clumsy is the one to find a note. He asks what it says, and Brainy goes into some bogus explanation about how it doesn’t matter what it says, but what it means, which just pisses off Hefty who tells him to just read it. Brainy does as he’s told and we find out it’s a note from Uncle Edgar instructing William and Gwenevere to remain with the sleigh and he will come for them. Hefty and Clumsy then take off for Smurf Village while Brainy pontificates on this meaning of them discovering this message not intended for them until he realizes he’s been left alone. A standard “Wait for me!” is uttered and Brainy runs out of frame.
Gargamel is shown cresting a small hill with Azrael as he outlines to the cat how he’ll find the children, get the scroll, double-cross the stranger, and get the gold. He calls it a plan crafted in Heaven! The children are then shown seated by the massive cauldron of pudding in Smurf Village. The kids are eating pudding and discussing how they can’t wait to tell their grandfather they met Santa and his helpers. Meanwhile, Greedy is just disappointed to see someone other than him eating pudding. He is swiftly reprimanded by Smurfette and the whole village has apparently gathered with gifts in hand. Papa Smurf then presents the children with a gift since they’re far from home on Christmas. To do so, he stands on the platform that Greedy had been using to tend to the pudding. It seems very formal. The children are thankful, and whatever the girl received she declares is beautiful. William got a tiny trumpet he toots on. I’m not sure what use Smurf-sized gifts will be for these kids in the long run, but I guess it’s the thought that counts.
The trio of Hefty, Clumsy, and Brainy then return and tell Papa Smurf about the note. The kids are delighted to hear that their grandfather is all right, but in true kid fashion, ask if they can open all of their presents first before returning to the sleigh. Papa Smurf is fine with this arrangement, while Grouchy Smurf is not. Papa Smurf then decides to conduct some music for the kids while they open their gifts. A bunch of generic looking Smurfs then sing “Goodness Makes the Badness Go Away.” It’s a terrible little song that will obviously have some importance later. More importantly, it soaks up about 30 seconds.
With the song done, the Smurfs lead the children back to the wreckage of the sleigh. They tow a small sleigh of their own loaded with gifts so this is turning out to be a nice little haul for them. Papa Smurf orders the others to build a fire since darkness is falling at this point, but soon Gargamel strikes! The Smurfs run around like useless, frightened, idiots while Gargamel just marches off with one kid under each arm. Some Smurfs apparently muster up the courage to fling some snowballs at him, but snowballs aren’t exactly effective at deterring bad guys and Smurf-sized snowballs even less so. Brainy asks Papa Smurf what they can do and he replies there’s only one thing they can do: follow them!
Gargamel takes the kids back to his house and they ask him what he plans on doing with them. Gargamel has no interest in revealing those plans, and soon the Stranger arrives! Gargamel turns the children over to him, as promised, while the Smurfs look on and watch the man hand over the scroll announcing it as the means to destroy Smurf Village. Gargamel is positively giddy and tells the kids the nice man probably has a Christmas present for them, even though they’re now tied up and being lead by a rope. As they leave he even calls out a “Merry Christmas!” to them before running off to Smurf Village. Vanity Smurf (Alan Oppenheimer) worries about the village, but Papa Smurf tells him they can’t afford to worry about that while the children are in danger. This is going exactly as expected.
Gargamel then arrives at an empty Smurf Village all decorated for Christmas. He’s initially dismayed when no Smurfs are there for him to torment, but he cheers up knowing he has a spell to destroy them. He opens the scroll and reads it and it’s pretty awful as the spell ends with “…let no one survive this year!” All the homes basically rot and the Christmas tree drops all of its needles and the whole place is basically in ruins. Gargamel laughs and just walks away for he still has 10 pieces of gold to collect.
Gargamel quickly finds the search party and informs them that a stranger took the kids. He comes up with a story about nearly losing his life to the man and tells them where he can be found. Edgar thanks him for the intel and as they run off Gargamel asks about his reward. Edgar tells him he’ll have it when they find the children which Gargamel starts to fret over. He is soon surprised when the Stranger appears with the children right behind him. Angry over Gargamel’s betrayal, he tells him that he’ll be coming with him as well. Gargamel tries to back away, but the Stranger uses some magic to turn the husk of a nearby tree into a pile of bad looking snakes. Gargamel basically begs for his life and the Stranger makes the snakes go away and orders him to come along.
Meanwhile, the Smurfs have been tracking the Stranger and note that the footprints have added another human. They recognize Gargamel and Azrael’s tracks among them and we get this stupid routine of a Smurf saying “Poor William,” “Poor Gwenevere,” with Papa Smurf adding “And perhaps, poor Gargamel,” so the rest can then respond in unison “Poor Gargamel?!”
The Stranger and the kids are shown and the kids are seated at the ground. They claim they can’t walk any further and the Stranger is surprisingly fine with this. Gargamel tries to slink off, but the Stranger won’t let him. He informs them that they’re all going “home” with him and when Gargamel takes off running he conjures up a ring of fire to keep them together. He then goes into some spell while Gargamel and the kids beg him to stop. The Smurfs are watching from the hillside unsure of what to do. When Smurfette asks Papa Smurf what they can do to combat this evil power, he informs them there’s a greater power: love! I can’t believe they actually went there. Or maybe I can? Anyway, remember the song from before that literally spells out “Goodness makes the badness go away,” as its lyrics? Yeah, that’s our solution. The Smurfs sing it, soon the kids start singing it, and as a final insult Gargamel is forced to sing it as well. How he knew the words is not explained.
The Smurfs and friends (and foe) literally shout at the devil and it makes him go away. With him gone so too is the fire, and old Uncle Edgar arrives at just the right time to find the kids. Gargamel foolishly still tries to claim a reward, but the kids let their uncle know that he is not a man deserving of a reward. Edgar looks ready to pound some alchemist, but Gwenevere stops him and reminds everyone that it’s Christmas and even a scoundrel like Gargamel deserves forgiveness. Gargamel, for once, smartly takes advantage of the situation and runs off looking very much like Professor Hinkle from Frosty the Snowman as he passes over a series of hills complaining to his cat the whole way. The kids then tell their uncle all about meeting Santa Claus, who laughs it off. As the sleigh takes off, the kids wave to the Smurfs and wish them a “Merry Christmas.”
The Smurfs then return to find their village in ruins. Papa Smurf gives them a rundown of how shitty their situation is as they all huddle in blankets under a tree and imparts the classic Christmas lesson of “We still have each other.” The rest seem to agree and even Grouchy isn’t mad about the situation. Harmony (remember him?) then asks if everyone wants to hear his solo now? They do, and wouldn’t ya know, Harmony’s solo magically restores the village! Clumsy tries asking Papa Smurf for an explanation, but even the bearded one can’t explain this. The Smurfs are then shown holding hands around the tree as the camera pans up the tree. You think it’s going to rest on the star at the top, but it keeps on going until we see a twinkling star off in space. See? Jesus did it.
And that’s the end of The Smurfs Christmas Special. For a special that features a team-up between Gargamel and Satan forcing the Smurfs into action to save some kids, it was rather boring and by the numbers. That is quite the concept and they even managed to keep Santa out of it. Was it the real Santa that made the miracle occur at the end? I suppose your guess is as good as mine. It’s Christmas magic, which needs no explanation. The Smurfs basically do Smurf stuff and help some kids, while Gargamel gets nothing in the end. He gets to have a momentary victory, which might have landed differently for regular viewers, but there was no way the Smurfs would end up having a bad Christmas.
I suppose this one could have been interesting if the solution to everything wasn’t just “Christmas magic.” To combat the devil, Papa Smurf just knows you have to sing at him. Wonderful. It’s just too simple and convenient, but the production values for this thing look no better than a standard episode so I guess it didn’t have the budget for a big action set piece. No, I wouldn’t expect the Smurfs to take on Lucifer, but the other humans could have battled by proxy, I suppose. And hey, maybe they whip up some cool traps or something? Anything would have been better than this. Even the grandfather being left for dead is just brushed aside with a “He’s fine.” The plot does not earn any of the resolutions presented.
Did that matter to kids in 1982? I honestly cannot say. I always found this one to be rather boring even as a child. It was nominated for an Emmy, but lost to Ziggy. What little memory I have of future Christmas specials from The Smurfs are that they’re better than this, but I need to revisit more of them to be certain. Good thing I’m always in need of Christmas specials! If you want to watch this against my recommendation it’s on YouTube as part of the official Smurfs channel. It is a pan and scan thing though so it looks pretty awful. If you dig deeper, you can find one in its native resolution that is slightly more enjoyable. Or you can purchase it on DVD, but I don’t have any of the DVDs so I can’t say how it’s presented there.
Can’t wait until tomorrow for more Christmas? Check out what we had to say on this day last year and beyond:
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