It’s a Smurfs world and we’re just living in it! In the upcoming fully animated Smurfs: The Lost Village, we see Smurfette (Demi Lovato) and her best pals Brainy (Danny Pudi), Clumsy (Jack McBrayer) and Hefty (Joe Manganiello) set out on a rollercoaster journey full of action and danger that leads them to the discovery of the biggest secret in Smurf history.

The Lost Village is directed by Kelly Asbury, and he based it on the characters and works of Peyo, the original creator of the Smurfs. The story follows Smurfette as she finds a mysterious map that sends her and her friends into the Forbidden Forest, a place filled with magical creatures, in which the Lost Village resides. They are also in a race against time because they must find a mysterious Lost Village before the evil wizard Gargamel (Rainn Wilson) does and captures it’s magical essence. Once there, they discover that the village consists of all female smurfs, including SmurfStorm (Michelle Rodriguez), SmurfBlossom (Ellie Kemper), SmurfLily (Ariel Winter) and their leader, SmurfWillow (Julia Roberts).

At a recent Sony Animation presentation, ScreenPicks was able to see a few scenes from the film and spoke with Kelly Asbury about the production and the world of Smurfs. Here’s eight things we learned from him.

On going back to the original Peyo look:

Asbury: They decided they were just going to make a Smurfs 3 fully animated, using the same designs as the first two, but then I came on board, looked around at all the Peyo artwork and comic books, I made the case we have to do it like this. So we pulled it back and redesigned everything to look more true to Peyo. And it looked so different than the first two that we decided to wipe the slate clean and do a reboot, which is how it evolved. I really love the way it looks.

On being a fan of the original Smurfs:

Asbury: I wish I were a child when the Smurfs were first came on. But interestingly, I was 24 and applied for a job to work on The Smurfs and didn’t get it, at Hanna Barbera. I was at Disney and got laid off for a period of time and went to apply, but they weren’t hiring. Since I didn’t have kids and was in my 20s, I didn’t really pay any attention to The Smurfs when it was on TV. And in doing the background for the film, it started falling in place. Peyo really created a world that could have been invented by Disney. They move like Mickey Mouse and they bounce around.

On the biggest challenge:

Asbury: Taking an established property and something so beloved worldwide, it’s a big responsibility. I don’t be the one accused of ruining The Smurfs! And knock on wood, it’s not April 7 yet. All of these movies have ups and downs when you’re making them. There’s always that point where you’re thinking, “What have I done? What am I going to do?” So during those times, I thought, “Okay this is the end. My career is over.” I did have those moments, but then you have to have the resilience with your team to pull together and say, “We have to get this right.” Thankfully, I had an amazing group of artists and technicians to help me achieve that. I can’t take credit for every aspect of this movie. It takes a Smurf Village. And that’s a big part of the message as well.

On some of the movie’s moments that he was most proud of:

Asbury: There were a lot of moments. The rabbit warren sequence you saw today. There’s this crazy river raft experience like nothing I’ve ever seen before. There’s also a lot of emotional stuff in this movie. I’m always amazed on how an animated film can conjure emotions the most hardened person finds themselves tearing up. And it’s over a character that isn’t real, but all that’s telling is that there’s something real about it. We are all a Smurf, there’s some part of us that’s a Smurf. Recently someone asked my what kind of Smurf I am. During the day, I’m Director Smurf, and at night, I’m Lazy Smurf.

On the Forbidden Forest:

Asbury: If you could put Oz and Wonderland and Neverland and maybe Pandora in a blender, you still wouldn’t have as fantastical world that we created. Our visual development team, I told them I wanted this Forbidden Forest full of completely unexpected beauty but at some time, a lot of surprises right around the bend. And it can be dangerous, you have to be careful. Even though it’s beautiful, and they just went to town and picked what we wanted. It was like the show Chopped. But we did have our limitations. The people who run the Smurfs franchise and Peyo’s daughter, very sweet and wonderful people to work with but they had a rule book. Those were perimeters we had to work in. Picasso said, “Limitations are what set the artist free because it makes you create with rules.” So rules are good.

On what some of those Smurf rules were:

Asbury: Rule No. 1: Smurfs must only eat Smurfberries. They can eat Smurfberry pie, a Smurfberry sandwich, but they can’t have a Subway sandwich.

On playing Nosy Smurf in the movie:

Asbury: Nosy actually chose me. We do scratch dialogue, and usually anyone in the studio who does a voice is because we use “local talent” as we call it. We were talking about Nosy one day and I got up to the microphone and did it. Like Nosy would go into a room and say, “Hmmm, what’s going on in there?” Everyone laughed and we put it in. It’s based on a neighbor I used to have, who would bring us our paper. We’d open the door and she was there, “I found this on the sidewalk, what’s going on in there?” Or “Whose car is in the driveway? Is everyone OK?” So it just sort of stuck, and that’s Nosy.

On continuing the Smurfs saga:

Asbury: You mean like Lord of the Smurfs? Yes, I do, and if I had my way, I’d say absolutely yes we are going to do it. I certainly hope the studio finds a way to do that and my fingers are crossed. But that all depends on the success of this one. But yes, I’ve gotten to know these characters and I don’t want to leave them yet. It’s like when you read Tom Sawyer, you finish and immediately read The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and then when it’s done, you’re like, “Noooo! They’re gone.” That’s how I feel about these characters.

Smurfs: The Lost Village opens in theaters April 7.

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