THE SMURFS 2
About the Production
"I love doing these movies, because there are so many moving parts," says Raja Gosnell of his work on The Smurfs 2. "You walk onto an empty set and you think, 'There's a Smurf, and he's going to walk over to that other Smurf, touch him on the shoulder. You have to get a close-up of a Smurf who's not there, reacting to the Smurf who's not there.' We took the same approach as the first film: we photograph the world as if there will be a Smurf there. I imagine all the Smurf action, I stage all the Smurf action, we use puppets to act it out, and then we take out the puppets to photograph the world, adding the Smurfs in later."
One of the keys to pulling off The Smurfs 2 was reuniting the key behind-the-scenes personnel from the first film: not only Kerner and Gosnell, but executive producer Ezra Swerdlow, director of photography Phil Meheux, BSC, production designer Bill Boes, editor Sabrina Plisco, A.C.E., costume designer Rita Ryack, composer Heitor Pereira, and visual effects supervisor Richard R. Hoover, leading a team at Sony Pictures Imageworks. "In doing this movie, it's not only a reunion of the characters we know and love, but also a reunion of the people who's worked together and trust each other. It's like a family, or summer camp, when we get together," says Kerner.
One of the main advantages of bringing the band back together was that most of the challenges in making a hybrid CG/live-action film had been addressed. "The technical process of learning how to put the Smurfs into a live action setting got worked out on the first movie," explains executive producer Ezra Swerdlow. "The production learned from visual effects what they need, and built that into the movie -- their lighting requirements, the things they need to scan and record, and just how much data they need to put the Smurfs realistically in a live action movie."
This new adventure pays homage to the European roots of the Smurfs, setting the story in Paris and integrating many of the city's iconic landmarks, including the Eiffel Tower, the Palais Garnier (Paris Opera House), the Arc de Triomphe, the Louvre, the Seine River, Trocadero Fountain, the Hotel Plaza Athenee, and the Notre Dame Cathedral.
Interiors were shot on soundstages in Montreal. In order to create the design of these elaborate sets, the filmmakers brought back production designer Bill Boes, who previously worked with Gosnell on five of his other movies. Boes and Gosnell worked together ensure that the sequel remained consistent with the first film, but at the same time, injected an authentic design for the Paris setting. "We wanted to incorporate the Paris aesthetic into the set design," explains Boes. "Paris used to be the artistic capital of the world, so we wanted to showcase the art of Paris and the beauty of Paris."
"One of the things that I equate Paris with is Art Nouveau, which is a movement that started at the turn of the century, and it's beautiful. It's taking nature and turning it into architecture," continues Boes. "I sold Raja and Jordan on an Art Nouveau style penthouse and they went for it, we did it, and I love it."
Gargamel is a centuries-old wizard transplanted to the 21st century. Therefore, Boes had to marry both of these periods to give the set designs a distinctive Gargamelian flavor.
Gargamel's mode of transportation is a tricked-out horse-drawn carriage. "The only actual working carriage resides in Paris, so we needed to build the interior of it on stage in Montreal," says Boes. "Then, we enlarged it and elaborated on it -- as soon as Gargamel and Azrael get into the carriage, they hit a button, a stereo is revealed, a TV monitor is revealed, snacks are revealed, and the music starts. It is very Gargamelian."
Gargamel performs his live show at the famed Paris Opera House, The Palais Garnier. Boes decided the design should be a reflection of Gargamel's mystique. "We were there for two days, to film the audience's reaction and capture the grandeur of the Opera House," says Boes. Production received all access to the exquisite building, including a visit to the private beehive located on the rooftop -- which is rumored to provide the best honey in all of France.
Where the first film had Gargamel jury-rigging a Smurf-a-lator out of trash and found objects, he's gone one better in The Smurfs 2 with his Smurfstractor. For this invention, the filmmakers wanted something with a contemporary, futuristic concept. "Raja and Jordan wanted me to go for more of a Matrix-esque type of machine which is sort of an atomic powered version of the Smurf-a-lator," says Boes. "Take old sci-fi, add in new sci-fi, throw in like a little nuclear reactor, and you've got a Smurfstractor."
For Boes, the most challenging aspect to the conceptualization process is factoring in the movement of the Smurfs. "There's a certain set of rules that everybody knows now, when we look at locations -- we're immediately asking, where are the Smurfs going to go, how are they going to get up to eye level so the actors can talk with them," explains Boes. "We designed the lair set with a network of pipes on the walls, so the Smurfs can easily climb up, jump over, and get to where Raja wants them to be to interact with the actors."
With the prominence of Smurf blue throughout the film, Boes needed a color palette that would pose a contrast. "We learned on the first movie that warm colors are a good complimentary color with the blue Smurfs," recalls Boes. "I like to keep the colors warm, so the Smurfs really pop."
The pop-up book in the opening sequence of the film was a separate challenge -- and surprisingly, one of the greatest that the filmmakers would face. "The pop-up book was a specific thing on its own; it had a separate crew," describes supervising art director MichÃ¨le Laliberte. "An architect came to work with us to engineer all the folding and unfolding of the various elements of the book. Then, an illustrator came in and made these amazing illustrations of the story book along with graphic artists who came to help and print it."
"It was a very technical object and we worked on that for months," adds Laliberte. "We're really proud of what it looks like; it's a very beautiful book with leather binding."
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