Wednesday, April 26, 2017

La flûte à six schtroumpfs/The Smurfs and the Magic Flute (1976)

Note:  There are two English dubs.  The most notable difference is that in one, Peewit is called William and McCreep is called Oily Creep.

Many years ago, there was a man named Pierre ’Peyo’ Culliford.  In 1952, Peyo introduced the world to Johan and Peewit.  Six years later, The Smurfs made their debut.  Long before the Smurfs got their current CGI/live-action movie franchise, there was an animated film called The Smurfs and the Magic Flute.  First released in 1976, it was based on the comic stories of Johan, Peewit and The Smurfs.

It starts with Johan winning a competition and Peewit subsequently demonstrating what a horrible musician he is.  When a traveling merchant shows up with his wares, the king immediately sends the merchant away.  It isn’t until a few minutes later that he and Johan realize that a six-holed flute has been left behind.  The king tries to destroy it, but ends up attracting Peewit’s attention.  He discovers the flute, which he washes off and starts playing.  It’s soon discovered that the flute can make people dance until they collapse of exhaustion.

Enter Matthew McCreep, who has been looking for the flute.  He comes to the castle and soon manages to get the flute from Peewit.  You’d think that this would be a good thing, as Peewit is having fun making people dance.  The thing is that McCreep is a thief.   It’s McCreep’s intent to use the flute to steal people’s valuables.  They can’t resist if they’re sleeping.  Right?

The king sends Johan and Peewit off to find and recover the flute.  The problem is that when they do find the flute, McCreep is able to use it to foil them.  So, Johan and Peewit visit Homnibus, a wizard who is able to send them to the Smurf’s village.  Since the Smurfs built the flute, they may be able to find some way of counteracting its powers.  It turns out that there’s no way to negate the effects.  For this reason, they have also been looking for the flute.

The Smurfs can, however, build another flute with the same powers, so as to put Johan and Peewit on equal footing with McCreep.  The bad news is that Johan and Peewit are now on a schedule.  Word is that McCreep is going to fund an army to take over the king’s castle.  They manage to track him to an island, where McCreep and Peewit engage in a flute battle with Peewit just barely winning.

There’s a certain nostalgia factor in watching this movie.  The video quality of the version Netflix has isn’t particularly good.  (I don’t know if a good transfer even exists, as the film is from 1976.)  I remember the Smurfs primarily from the Hanna-Barbera cartoon in the 1980s.  I also remember having seen the movie.  I don’t recall how good the quality was back then, but I do remember having liked the movie.

The story is appropriate for younger children.  (It has a G rating.)  I don’t recall any violence onscreen.  (The worst would be the vendor being chased out of town.)  The story is simple and easy to follow.  It’s fairly entertaining for a child, although I don’t know if most children will put up with the animation.  There’s a pretty big disparity between what was available in 1976 and what’s available today.

The animated series ran for several years.  I’m not sure I’d watch it if it became available; it’s clearly meant for children without much regard for adults.  This is basically the kind of movie a parent of the 1980s would leave their child to watch for an hour and a half without worrying about it.  What vague memories I had of the TV series were the same.  It was a very basic plot meant for children.  I don’t know that it would hold much entertainment for me as an adult.  I’d probably get bored with it after the second or third episode.

As for today’s children, I think it’s going to be hit or miss.  If you can still get it streaming on Netflix, it’s worth a shot.  I don’t know that I’d recommend buying it on DVD, though.  I don’t know how many children will take well to it, as it has a very dated feel to it.

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