We were HUGE fans of the Smurfs in 1980s and we are happy to learn that a whole new generation of people will get a new animated series, The Smurfs which will premiere on Nickelodeon on September 10th. We were lucky enough to get a chance to talk to head writers Peter Saisselin & Amy Serafin about this new series that has its roots in the books that Peyo wrote.
BSCKids: We are so glad to have another Smurfs series, we were huge fans of the original in the 1980s. How familiar with the original series were you before taking on the roles of writers?
Peter Saisselin & Amy Serafin: When the 1980’s series came out, we were, to be frank, a little too old to be fans, so we weren’t very familiar with it. We knew the books, of course, as they came out earlier. When we took on the role of story editors and writers, we watched the 1980s series. It was charming, but we were struck by how much slower-paced animation was back in the day!
Is there a Smurfs canon that you try to follow? Are there any limitations on stories?
In developing this new series we went back to the source material, the books that Peyo wrote. We wanted to keep his quirky edge and irreverence, which still make us laugh 60 years after he created The Smurfs.
Tell us a bit about what your daily work looks like on The Smurfs. Your typical day of work.
There is really no such thing as a typical day. As writers, we’re always working, thinking of story ideas. You never know what might spark an idea. For example, our daughters are friends, and when we signed them up for krav-maga classes together, we thought, “What if Smurfette did martial arts?” So we made her an expert at “Smurf-fu.” Once we had an idea we both liked, we talked it over and followed the idea through to see if there was potential for a full story there. And then we pitched it to our partners—the rights holders (Peyo Productions), the producer, the director, the networks—who had to approve every step. The pace was very fast, so we generally had several stories on the go, while we were story editing the work of other writers, too.
Do you have a favorite episode so far that you have written? Who is your favorite Smurf?
It’s funny—Jokey was our least favorite Smurf in the books, because that exploding box was so hokey. But when we started exploring his character, he became one of our favorites. He’s the most mischievous one, the one who will do anything just to have a bit of fun. So he was a great driver of story ideas. One of our favorite episodes is when he finds himself faced with his own medicine, surrounded by 100 little Jokeys. Another one we like is where Hefty becomes convinced that Smurfette doesn’t love him because his nose is too big. It’s so absurd—they all have exactly the same nose!
We do have something extremely new to the series with a new tribe of girl Smurfs lead by Willow. Will we get a backstory on them? How has this changed the dynamic of the Smurfs village?
The girls live in Smurfy Grove on the other side of the forest. They were introduced in the third movie, but beyond that, there is no backstory. They were just always there, undiscovered until now. As for changing the dynamic for our beloved Smurfs, they do bring some competition and variety, which is refreshing. The girls walk freely around the village, and they have opinions and talents. They sometimes even surpass the Smurfs in their skills and cleverness. We wrote a story where a young alien lands in Smurf Village and brainwashes everyone except Smurfette, because he thinks girls are icky. She runs off to get help from the other girls, and together they save the day.
Will we get some of the original series villains back besides Gargamel? Are there any plans for some of original series human characters like Yohan and Peewee?
We don’t think there are any plans to bring back human characters yet, beyond Gargamel—and his mother, who is a piece of work! As for villains, Gargamel and Azrael are top of the list, though not present in every episode. There are some other threats for the Smurfs: the ogre, Big Mouth, and also a big bear. We’d like to see more villains in the future but right now the Smurfs have their hands full.
Tell us something about yourselves that people would be surprised to learn about you.
Peter’s first seven years working in entertainment were spent in the accounting department on movies at Paramount Pictures. A very far cry from writing and animation. Amy’s pre-animation career was even further afield—she was (and still is) a journalist, and has written on everything from architecture to stem cells.
How involved were you in the choice of animation style in comparison to the original style of animation?
We weren’t involved with the animation style. When we were hired, the producers and Peyo had already decided they wanted a series as close to the third movie’s graphics as possible. They wanted that level of animation quality for their TV series. And they succeeded incredibly well—this series is just beautiful, with an insane attention to details and textures.
Tell us why everyone should tune into the new Smurfs series.
First, for these characters that speak to so many people across the globe. We each recognize something of ourselves in their different personalities. At the same time, they are so silly, and just as much fun as when Peyo created them. Each episode is like an 11-minute movie with comedy and action. We also believe audiences should tune in for the joy of the 3D universe. It’s beautiful and rich. For young kids, it’s a safe place to spend some time, and it’s truly captivating to lose yourself in this enchanted forest.
The Smurfs will be premiere on Nickelodeon on Friday, September 10 so make sure to watch. Thanks to head writers Peter Saisselin & Amy Serafin for talking to us about the show!