Director Raja Gosnell Talks The Smurfs 2
JG: The film also features Jonathan Winters again, in what sadly turned out to be his final performance. He was part of the cast of the original cartoon series…
RG: Yes, I believe he did Grandpa Smurf during the Hanna-Barbera years. Of course for us, he was the moral and emotional centre of the movies as Papa Smurf. If there’s another film, we would definitely have to recast Papa. We wouldn’t try to get someone to imitate Jonathan. I think that would be sort-of disrespectful, so we’ll do the James Bond thing to find the perfect Papa that we can for now.
JG: Which were the most challenging sequences for you in the picture?
RG: Technically, the sequence in Notre Dame was probably the trickiest to pull off because we couldn’t afford to build it in CG and we were worried about how that would look anyway. So, through a very complicated process, they built a greyscale version of the cathedral and then took literally hundreds of thousands of still frame photographs and somehow mapped them onto the grey architecture. That’s what created a couple of those shots. We also did some old-school Star Wars Ewoks chase things with a steady cam and sped it up as we went through the actual buttresses. We didn’t struggle, but figuring out the right process took a lot of time.
Another sequence that took a lot of figuring out was Hank Azaria’s Gargamel doing his stage show. In the movie it takes place in the famous Palais Garnier, but we couldn’t shut them down for two weeks while we filmed. So we filmed all of Hank’s onstage elements in Montreal at Theatre Denise Pelletier and then we had to go back and try to duplicate all those camera angles in the Palais, and we had to do it in one night. So we were all seriously crossing our fingers going “this should work…on paper it works…I hope this works!” We were running around setting up cameras in the middle of the night and we had to be out of there in the morning because it’s a national monument and they have tours and stuff. So that was a challenging one.
The scene I’m most proud of probably is a sequence where Vexy and Hackus – the new creatures Gargamel has created and wants to turn into true blue Smurfs – they’re basically dying and they need Smurf essence to continue to live. Smurfette knows if she gives Gargamel the formula, it’s going to be bad for the Smurfs who are sort-of her adopted family and so she has this decision to make: whether to betray all the Smurfs to save Vexy and Hackus’ lives, or not. It’s this incredibly emotional, beautifully animated scene and Katy Perry’s performance is amazing and Hank’s performance is amazing and if someone only watches one scene in the movie, I’d recommend watching that.
JG: Did you enjoy your experience filming in Montreal?
It was unbelievable - probably one of the best film experiences I’ve ever had. All of the teams were so smart and so helpful and just jumped in. It really felt like it was a team atmosphere. There was never a "that’s not my department" sort of attitude, it was more like ‘yeah, yeah, yeah – let’s all jump in and get it done!’ It was just a fantastic experience, and if we’re lucky enough to make a Smurfs 3, we’ll be back!
James Gartler is a Canadian writer with a serious passion for animation in all its forms. His work has appeared in the pages of Sci Fi Magazine, and at the websites EW.com and Newsarama.com.