There’s no doubt that the characters in the film adaptation of The Smurfs will be played by an all-star cast. We already know that Comedian Jonathan Winters is voicing Papa Smurf, pop-singer Katy Perry will provide the voice of Smurfette, TV host George Lopez will perform Grouchy Smurf, and Broadway star Alan Cumming will be voicing an all-new character, Gutsy Smurf. Quentin Tarantino was in talks to play Brainy Smurf but that apparently won’t be happening now.
We also know that a few characters will be live and not cartoon, similar to the Alvin and the Chipmunks movies. Hank Azaria will play a live Gargamel, Neil Patrick Harris will appear as Johan, an expectant father whose life changes once he meets the Smurfs, and Jayma Mays will play his pregnant wife.
But, what about the voice talent of the original Smurfs cartoon? Some of the best voice talent in the business provided the voices of these small blue creatures — names like Don Messick, Lucille Bliss, Frank Welker, Danny Goldman, June Foray, Michael Bell, William Callaway, Hamilton Camp, Alan Oppenheimer, Alan Young, and Paul Winchell. Weren’t these voices a key to the original cartoon’s success? While some of the performers are no longer with us, doesn’t it make sense to give them some type of role in the new film?
We recently had the opportunity to speak with two of these voice talents to get their take on it.
Michael Bell provided the voice of Handy Smurf and Lazy Smurf and has been performing voices for hundreds of cartoons and video games since The Jetsons in 1962. His resume includes Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends, Super Friends, G.I. Joe, and several Scooby-Doo series.
Bell said he felt he was speaking for all the actors who provided voices of the Smurfs, as well as their director, Gordon Hunt, when he said they “would love to be part of the film.” However, he doesn’t see it happening, noting that he and his comrades “are resigned to the fact that their living has been usurped by on-camera celebrities… many of whom are hired for their own familiar voice (i.e.: Ellen DeGeneres, Brad Pitt, Angelina Jolie, Drew Barrymore, Cameron Diaz, John Lithgow, Demi Moore, Susan Sarandon, Johnny Depp, etc.).”
He continued, “These actors are not prepared or equipped to render more than one voice, theirs, for a fee way beyond that which those of us who do this for a living (our only living) are provided. Our salary is usually minimum although we are imposed to create at least three characters.”
Bell wanted to point out that fans wrote to Michael Bay, executive producer of The Transformers movies, and insisted that Peter Cullen revise his character, Optimus Prime, for the movie versions. Bay did indeed include him and will supposedly be including the legendary Frank Welker in the next movie as well. Bell considers that “a smart move” for Bay.
Danny Goldman, who provided the voice of Brainy Smurf, has brought many other characters to life both on-camera and in animated shows for 40 years. He’s reprised his role as Brainy for Cartoon Network’s Robot Chicken a few times.
Goldman says he hasn’t heard anything about the upcoming film. He adds that he is assuming it will be filled with stars, and that he thinks that’s just what they have to do. However, he said, “If they contacted me or our cast to offer cameos, that would be very classy. But I am not holding my breath.”
What do you think? Should the producers offer the surviving Smurf voice actors roles in the new movie?