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The smurfiest DVD box set ever made!
on 2 October 2010
It has been loved by millions around the world since it first aired in 1981, and spawned an immensely popular franchise which included millions of sales of the little Schleich figurines. It also enjoyed a nice comeback in the mid-1990's and looks set to enjoy another one in the coming months. And for what is simply a wonderful show that has a great legacy and is considered a classic, I find it remarkable that only now have the Smurfs made their way onto DVD over here in the UK for the first time. As a lifelong fan of the adorable little blue creatures, I started to doubt that a UK DVD release was ever going to come, so I caved and bought the first half of Season 1 on Region 1 DVD. I have now since replaced that with this complete set and am so happy I did.
The episodes are all here and presented in a mostly brilliant and lovingly Smurfy fashion. The picture and sound are remastered like the USA DVDs were, and when watching the DVDs on my Panasonic Blu-ray player, they upscale pretty well too. However I noticed on my Region 2 copy that "The Smurf Apprentice" did cut some scenes out, and "Vanity Fair" has not been remastered at all. Maybe an accidental error perhaps, but it didn't really bother me too much. There is also an error with the episode "The Magnifying Mixture", where the audio falls out of sync with the video at one stage. This, however, is no fault with the DVD. This is an error on Hanna-Barbera's part, it has been there since the episode first aired in 1981, and has since never been changed. The music on the opening titles is also different to the US release, it is the same style of opening but the backing music has been changed to a different jingle which I think simply does not go as well at all. But apart from those little hiccups, it's a very impressive set. Unlike the Region 1 DVD releases, which split the first season into two separate sets released months apart, here the complete season is found all in one place. Also, the episode order is much better. The first episode in the set is "The Smurfette", which makes sense and feels like it was the first episode made (some of the character's voices sound a little different to what they sound like for the rest of the series). They have also been put together with either single episodes on their own, or two double episodes paired together, so each episode block lasts no more than 22 minutes. While the Region 1 DVDs seemed to throw the episode set up all over the place, the UK set is much better organised.
Now onto the extras. There isn't much to offer, but what is featured was worth watching. There is a set of character biographies to read on the disc, though they are identical to the ones featured in the character booklet. There is also a 12 minute long feature explaining the history of the Smurfs, where text scrolls from bottom to top of the screen for the viewer to read. And finally, the "I Smurf the Smurfs" documentary from the Region 1 DVDs is included. I hadn't seen it before and found it very interesting to watch. There are also two booklets included, one listing the characters and the other listing all the season's episodes. Both are really nice and colourful, but they also have problems. The episode guide gives descriptions which practically spoil most of them, while the character guide booklet gives some nice bios of the characters, but has its mistakes. It lists both Greedy and Cook Smurf separately, when they were both combined into the same character in the cartoon. Also the booklet's image of Cook Smurf is actually Greedy. And where it describes a smurf that was not actually in the show, it fails to mention one that was. The booklet leaves out Tailor Smurf, who I thought was one of the more recurring characters in the series. It does, however, mention Baby Smurf (who wasn't seen until Season 3), Wild Smurf (introduced in Season 7) and the Smurflings (introduced in Season 5), perhaps suggesting that Arrow Films and Fabulous Films are planning to release all 9 seasons over time.
Overall it's not absolutely flawless, but it's as smurfy as a Smurfs DVD set can get, and smurfs the USA DVDs to shame. It's great to finally have one of the best and most timeless cartoons of all time available on DVD, it brought back 1001 childhood memories of mine and now as an adult, I still loved watching it. Let's hope that a new generation of kids will be introduced to the lovable blue guys (and girl), and that Arrow Films and Fabulous Films continues to release the complete season box sets. It would be superb and just smurfy to have all 9 seasons available on DVD, and with the new Smurfs movie currently in production and being released in cinemas in August 2011, there's no better time to get this series out there than now.