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The Smurfs franchise is going to be rebooted, but rather than interspersing animation with live-action footage like its predecessors, it will be dedicating itself to just the former. Further details regarding the future of the film series have also been released, as Sony Pictures Animation looks to get it in shape ahead of its summer 2016 release date.
According to The Hollywood Reporter, the rebooted Smurfs film will be overseen by director Kelly Asbury, while Mandy Patinkin is currently on the verge of finalizing a deal to voice Papa Smurf (replacing Jonathan Winters, who voiced the beloved character in 2011’s The Smurfs and 2013’s The Smurfs 2). Asbury is regarded as one of the most prominent and reliable animation directors in the business, having risen through the ranks of the animation world. He previously worked on the storyboards for modern classics like Toy Story and The Little Mermaid, but then he directed Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron and Shrek 2 for Dreamworks - both of which would ultimately be nominated for Academy Awards. He has since added to his resume by writing and directing the Elton John-inspired William Shakespeare riff Gnomeo and Juliet.
It’s little surprise that Sony Pictures Animation has decided to reboot The Smurfs franchise when comparing the box office performance of the first film to the second. Together the live-action/animation hybrids grossed a total of $910 million worldwide - but the problem is that the first Smurfs film amassed more than 60 percent of that number. The studio surely wasn't happy about the $200 million drop, and so they decided to move forward with the franchise in a different direction.
A reboot will also give Sony Animation Pictures a chance to do justice to the much loved Belgian comics that inspired the adaptation, which were created by Peyo and still have a fervent fan base. After all, 2011’s The Smurfs may have had a live-action and voice cast that included the likes of Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays Katy Perry, Fred Armisen, Alan Cumming, Anton Yelchin, and John Oliver, but that didn't stop the film from being an un-funny, clichéd mess that didn’t even come close to emanating the charm of the books.
To make matters worse, the general consensus among critics was that The Smurfs 2 was just as bad, if not worse. Not even the addition of the always impressive Brendan Gleeson to the live-action scenes and Christina Ricci as Vexy Smurf could save it from being a mess. So will a Smurfs reboot actually work? At the moment I have to admit that I’m very doubtful. Clearly the fact that the two previous films generated close to a billion dollars between them shows that there is an audience for the franchise. but Kelly Asbury’s previous films have never really impressed and his presence suggests that Sony may be looking to go in a safe direction instead of looking for a director who could bring an extra panache to the series. We’ll see if that’s the case when The Smurfs reboot hits cinemas on August 5, 2016.