Director Troy Quane and producer Kurt Albrecht discuss The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol
It isn't uncommon for an animated movie such as The Smurfs to include a bonus short film on the Blu-ray or DVD release. The Smurfs hits the shelves on three-disc Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD release on December 2, and the three-disc Blu-ray will include the holiday-themed short The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol, which puts a smurfy spin on the classic holiday tale by Charles Dickens. I recently had the chance to speak with The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol director Troy Quane and producer Kurt Albrecht at Sony Pictures Animation, where we got to screen this wonderful animated short, which mixes in the old-school hand-drawn animation with the new style shown in The Smurfs. Take a look at what the director and producer had to say below.
Can you talk about how early this whole project came about? Was this developed at the same time as the actual movie, or was it much later?
Troy Quane: Much later.
Kurt Albrecht: The movie was in mid-production.
Troy Quane: Basically, a year ago today. The movie was in mid-production, when they came up with this idea of wanting to do more Smurfs material. Knowing the DVD was coming out at Christmas, it felt right to put it in this world. I think it was December 21 when I came on, and we all sort of agreed that Christmas Carol fit with these characters and the story we could tell with them. So, over the Christmas holiday, the writer and I worked together with the script, and then we came into the new year and launched into it. From the moment they said go, to the moment we handed it in, it was just under nine months.
Kurt Albrecht: I remember that because I bailed on you when my son was born in January. The script is getting locked down and I say, 'I'm going away for a couple of weeks. Good luck Troy. You'll figure it out.' No, but it came together really well. Part of the impetus to do it was The Smurfs was looking good and everyone was feeling good about it. The word franchise starts to get thrown around, and it's a property that's worthy of that. I think the recognition levels for The Smurfs are huge, as evidenced by the worldwide box office on the feature.
Troy Quane: Personally, when they came to me, I jumped right on it. I grew up in Canada, so we would get the French-language Peyo comics when I was a kid. For me, it was a real personal thing. I was a huge fan, even before the TV show, so, when the opportunity came up, I was all over it.
I really enjoyed seeing the hand-drawn style again as well.
Troy Quane: Well, that's just it. It fit nicely within the structure of our storytelling. It didn't feel tacked on. We really worked to make it feel like it flowed into our style of storytelling. It gives us that dream-like moment where he's learning things from these ghosts. I started my career as a 2D animator, so it was fun to get to play in that sandbox again.
Kurt Albrecht: He was perfect for this. He's good at drawrings (Laughs).
When I was watching it, a lot of memories came flooding back. Did you have that same wave of nostalgia when you'd watch your work?
Troy Quane: Absolutely. It's my passion, it's what got me into this industry, so I had to balance being the director and being a fanboy (Laughs). It was definitely a balancing act.
I saw you couldn't get Katy (Perry) back as Smurfette, but you have some of the other voice actors back like George Lopez and Hank Azaria.
Troy Quane: All of the original cast was really eager to come back for it.
Kurt Albrecht: She was actually the first one to agree to do it. She was really into it, but it fell right in the middle of her tour. I mean, the bulk of her tour, she wasn't even in this country. Right at the end of our production time, she was back in the U.S., but she performs like every two or three nights. It's amazing. When I started looking into it, I was in constant contact with her managers. 'I see Katy has three days off in Texas. We'll come and find her!' It just never worked out though.
Troy Quane: The rest of the cast, they jumped right on board. Even Hank Azaria came in and did the voice of Gargamel.
It was fun to marry that old-school look of the character and hearing Hank's voice. It's a very cool mixture.
Troy Quane: It's funny. He knows his way around a sound booth. He's a pro. He was in there, and there was this whirlwind and then we were all a little bit stunned afterward.
A cloud of dust emerges...
Troy Quane: Exactly. Then you're like, 'Did we get it?' When you listen to the tracks, every track is perfect.
Kurt Albrecht: It's like this hurricane came through. It's like, 'OK, he's been doing this a lot longer than we have.' We were lucky to get him.
Is there anything else you're working on here at SPA that you can talk about?
Troy Quane: I'm developing two films for the studio, at the moment. One hasn't been announced yet, so I can't talk about that, and the other is Popeye. It's still super early. We're still trying to figure out what it would be like to bring Popeye into our time period. Not physically, but relatability wise. He's a great character and, like The Smurfs, there is a huge amount of mythology and history behind it. It's exciting to get to work with.
Do you have any idea who would voice him?
Troy Quane: We're nowhere near that. We just worked out an outline and we're working with the writers.
I remember when that was first announced, I thought, 'Who would voice Popeye?'
Troy Quane: It's amazing. As soon as you say the word Popeye, it's amazing to see how many people jump out of the shadows with their Popeye impressions. Everyone's got a Popeye voice. I think when we get to that point, we'll all be amazed with how many people have a Popeye impersonation in their back pocket. That will be exciting, and yeah, that's the trick about bringing these characters to a new generation. You want to be true to who they were, and, at the same time, you have to make them accessible to today's audiences. That's part of the challenge and part of the fun.
This will be in 3D too?
Troy Quane: Yeah, full feature animation 3D. That will be fun, seeing this character who you're normally used to seeing in two dimensions, suddenly in 3D.
What would you like to say to the few people who didn't see The Smurfs in theaters to get them to pick up the Blu-ray set with this wonderful The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol short?
Kurt Albrecht: I think, specific to A Christmas Carol, it's a chance to see a whole new classic, hopefully, and the only way you'll get to see it is to buy the Blu-ray, in this particular case. I think The Smurfs film is one of those repeat viewers. You can pop it in and just watch the craziness.
Troy Quane: Yeah, you can just pop it in and have fun. Sit back with your popcorn and enjoy the ride.
Great. Thanks so much. I really enjoyed the short.
Troy Quane: Oh, good. I'm glad you enjoyed it.
You can watch The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol on The Smurfs' three-disc Blu-ray edition, which hits the shelves nationwide December 2.
The Smurfs was released July 29th, 2011 and stars Hank Azaria, Neil Patrick Harris, Jayma Mays, Sofía Vergara, Tim Gunn, Madison McKinley, Meg Phillips, Julie Chang. The film is directed by Raja Gosnell.
The Smurfs: A Christmas Carol was released December 2nd, 2011 and stars Jack Angel, Fred Armisen, Hank Azaria, Gary Basaraba, George Lopez, Melissa Sturm, Anton Yelchin. The film is directed by Troy Quane.