Smurfs, The: Season 1, Volume 1 (DVD)
Tiny, blue, international celebrities the Smurfs--all 101 of them--dwell joyfully together in a medieval forest village. Only three apples tall, they live in mushroom houses and take their morning showers with dewdrops. Papa Smurf, wise beyond his 543 years, gently rules a raucous clan that includes Brainy, Jokey, Clumsy, Vanity, Grouchy, and that luscious femme fatale, Smurfette. But Gargamel, the local wicked wizard, despises the Smurf's happiness. With his fiendish cat, Azrael, Gargamel schemes to capture the Smurfs. Luckily, the Smurf village cannot be found unless a Smurf leads the way, and the Smurfs are as resourceful as they are lovable.
Beloved in Europe for almost 20 years before they became a toy and marketing hit on American shores, Belgian cartoonist Peyo's industrious and charming Smurfs were a natural choice for Saturday morning TV; fans who grew up with their popular and Emmy-nominated network run (1981-1990) can now enjoy (and share) the first 19 episodes of the Hanna-Barbera produced series, which are remastered and compiled in this tidy two-disc set. Though simplistic by today's animation standards, the quarter-century-plus since their U.S. TV debut has not diminished the key ingredient to the Smurfs' enduring appeal: their unflappably upbeat demeanor, which helps Papa Smurf, Smurfette, and the rest of the clan overcome the schemes of their chief rival, the evil wizard Gargamel, but also a dangerous bird ("The Smurfs and the Howlibird"), a duplicitous genie ("The Magical Meanie"), and the Tribble-like "Fuzzles" ("Fuzzle Trouble"), and the giant Bigmouth ("Soup a la Smurf"). More benign issues are also handled with the Smurfs' typical can-do attitude, like Harmony's embarrassment over his lack of tunesmanship in "Smurphony in 'C'" or the hubbub caused by the arrival of Smurfette (addressed in "The Smurfette" and "Romeo and Smurfette"). And if the dialogue remains a touch on the corny side (especially the incessant use of "smurf" to replace any number of nouns, verbs and adverbs), it's delivered with good cheer by some of the best names in vocal talent, including Paul Winchell, Don Messick, Lucille Bliss, June Foray, Frank Welker, and Lenny Weinrib. It's unfortunate that the set's supplemental features don't delve further into the Smurfs' long history (or even into the TV series) with any detail; the Emmy-nominated 1982 primetime special The Smurfs' Springtime Special is the chief extra, while Smurfs: The Music Video offers tantalizing snippets of production sketches and promotional footage in a haphazard montage. Previews for DVD releases of Scooby-Doo, Tom and Jerry, and Looney Tunes round out the set. --Paul Gaita