“The Round Up” (“Des escargots et des Schtroumpfs”)
Summary: Farmer Smurf’s annual Snail Race is sabotaged by Jokey, who makes the snails so super fast that they run away. Jokey has to go catch the snails now. Turns out, they’re slippery suckers.
Commentary: Jokey gets his comeuppance, and it’s about time! Though, really, would you want to sit on a hard wooden bench for multiple hours to watch three snails “race” In circles? I don’t care how good the Belgian waffles are at the concession stand, it sounds tedious to me, too.
Smurfette pulls a storytelling trick straight out of the “Family Guy” playbook here. When the topic of Jokey’s behavior at last year’s snail race comes up, Smurfette leads into it with “Remember When…?” and then the flashback is inserted.
They’re not using it as quickly and as often as shows like “Family Guy” do, but it did stick out at me in this episode. It’s not a bad storytelling trick at all if you have the joke to back it up. That’s always the trick.
So, yeah, the annual Smurf Race goes on for hours. Jokey hates it, so he sabotages it by giving the three snails in the race a few magic leaves to speed them up. There’s an obvious drug joke to be made here, but I’m not going down that road. We’d only be leading the way to more internet thought pieces about things that aren’t actually happening. I don’t want to encourage that kind of madness…
The snails speed off after bucking off their Smurfy riders. Papa Smurf sends Jokey into the forest to bring them back, along with Lily and Hefty. It’s not as easy as you’d think, and the snails are much larger than the Smurfs, so there does feel like there’s some danger here.
Farmer Smurf, who gets his first real starring role in the series that I’ve seen so far, saves the day here. What’s his magic secret? The snails love him and he takes good care of him, so they behave around him. They act like little puppies, licking him and rubbing against him and responding to his every whistle. Chasing after them and trying to jump them was not the proper solution in this case…
In the end, Jokey learns a valuable lesson about what’s important in life and how not everything is going to be for everyone. The snails are caught. Everyone walks away healthy.
The End. Right?
On the way back to the Village, the Smurfs and their reclaimed snails chance across Bigmouth, the large ogre who would love to eat escargot with a side of Smurfs. Quickly, Farmer commands the snails to put on their speed and they race right past him. (They still had the speed. Who knew?).
The drama lasted all of ten seconds.
It’s a very weird ending to me. It’s like the story was finished (Jokey literally had just said the lesson he learned out loud), but they came up 30 seconds short and needed an end tag and had nothing else besides a quick random bad guy confrontation.
Ah, well, they can’t all stick the landing…
Title Translation: “The Snails and the Smurfs” is pretty literal for a title. I think the English title is an improvement. It also makes it sounds like more of a western, which is cool to me.
Script: Peter Saisselin and Amy Serafin
Storyboard Supervision: Alexandre Viano
Storyboard: Stéphane Annette
Director: William Renaud
“Waffle Wednesday” (“La guerre des gaufres”)
Summary: Chef’s waffles are suddenly bested by Lily’s. What’s she doing that’s so different? Chef hatches a plot to find out.
Commentary: I had noticed a couple episodes ago that Smurfs are seen casually eating waffles in a few episodes so far. It was a small thing, but I started to look for it more actively. it makes sense — this is a Belgian-produced show and they make good waffles over there.
Now we get a whole episode devoted to it, and we once again visit Chef for the episode. I’m watching these episodes out of order, but I seem to be on a Chef run lately. (See “Kitchen Klutz” and “Leaf It Alone“.)
Chef gets super jealous when the Smurfs start to openly favor Lily’s waffles. But, he says, the Chef Code says that a chef’s secrets cannot be shared (otherwise, they wouldn’t be very secret, would they?) so he’d have to steal them.
Thus begins the heist part of this episode, which is the strongest part. Chef gathers together Greedy, Dimwitty, Clumsy, and Jokey to help him with his plot of Rube Goldberg-level complexity. In a darkened room dramatically uplit only by candles, Chef lays out the plan to the foursome whose first thought is, “Isn’t that rather complicated?”
Yes, of course, it is. That’s the fun. It involves rolling barrels of Smurfs, knocking Brainy out, surrounding Lilly’s Waffle Truck, the snails (previously seen in the first short of this episode), and more. Like a typical heist plot, everything must go right for this to work, but if everything went right then this would be a very boring episode.
After the plan goes sideways, my favorite twist is just that LiIy doesn’t lock her truck, so they can walk straight in and drive off with it.
In the end, a frustrated Chef steals the food truck and races it into the forest before finding out the secret just before he nearly tumbles to his unsmurfy death. (They save him, don’t worry. Smurfs don’t hold grudges. Well, maybe Grouchy does…).
Everyone is happy and order is restored.
Every now and then, I see a sequence that works so well that I want to break down what the storyboards must have looked like.
This is the sequence where Chef has stolen Lily’s food truck and is racing it through the forest, mostly because his manic attempts to discover her secret recipe have led him to the brink of insanity
As he’s racing through a well-trodden path in the woods, Lily grabs hold of the back of the truck and climbs up and over to try to talk some sense into Chef.
Most of the chases and fast action scenes through the woods wind up with the white slashy speedlines decorating the movements. At least one shot is taken head on, like there’s a camera fixed to the front of the truck pointing back at the driver.
This sequence does neither of those things. Instead, it’s a sequence of shots that go from wide angle to medium angle in an interesting progression.
The key part is that the truck stays dead centered in the frame the entire time. It’s almost as if the truck is still and it’s the background that’s moving — except there are also elements racing by in parallax in the foreground. They turn out to be important to, for reasons we’ll get to in a minute.
Let’s break it down:
We start out with the wide establishing shot. Chef is driving like a maniac. Lily is climbing up on the back of the truck. The waffle on the top gives away what kind of food truck this is.
The action happens left to right and there’s plenty of space in front of the truck so it doesn’t feel claustrophobic, or like it’s going to crash into the edge of the frame.
The way the background is blurred out just a bit by the fast movement and the truck is so crisp and clear, the truck almost appears to be real — like a miniature model being shot against a green screen or something. I had to blink twice when I first saw this shot.
The camera stays there with her holding on for dear life to the open door.
After two or three seconds of this shot, a tree in the extreme foreground flies by, but it blocks the whole screen for a second. When it finishes wiping away, we have a jump cut to a slightly tighter shot on the truck.
Lily has climbed over the door and is working her way onto the roof.
The truck is still dead center in the frame. We’re just closer in on it now. We lost the lowest part of the truck in the cut. Your eyes didn’t need to move to follow the cut here. Wherever you were looking on the screen before that cut, it’s still there in this new shot.
That old trick where the camera is temporarily blocked to help with a transition is an old film trick. Most notably, Alfred Hitchcock used it in his film, “Rope.” The conceit of that film is that it’s one long shot. But film cameras couldn’t record more than a few minutes at a time. So they’d hide the edit point by having someone pass by the camera and black everything out for a split second. That’s where you hide the cut and continue the movement that makes a long single shot take so effective.
The shot holds here for another 2 – 3 seconds.
As Lily climbs up on the roof, another tree passes by, blocking your view for just an instant, allowing the storyboard artist to move to a tighter shot up on the roof. We’ve also skipped ahead a second or two in time, starting with Lily halfway across the roofline, crouched now in front of the giant waffle.
Now we’re completely focused on Lily’s journey up and over the truck. She’s walking up the roof line towards the driver now.
This shot is quicker than the last couple, barely making it to 2 seconds.
And from there, without a tree to aid the transition, we cut to an angle that’s lower and looking up at Chef in such a way that we can see Lily come over the front edge of the roof to talk to him.
There’s no tree cut here because it’s not the same kind of cut. The camera, itself, is physically moving to a dramatically different location. This angle lets us see Lily come over the top edge of the roof, but it also makes Chef look a little more deranged, like the out-of-control driving maniac that he is in this instance. You can almost picture the dramatic uplighting of a horror movie to go along with this.
Just look at this adorable maniac:
In this shot, which lasts twice as long as the previous three or four, Chef has three or four different gestures that just make him look crazier and crazier.
While the background is still moving very fast, it’s also blurred out a lot more strongly than in the other shots. That makes sense from an old school film point of view. Wide angle shots will keep more in focus. This feels like something done with a longer lens at a more open aperture. That will focus thigns on the two characters and blue the background nicely.
You may not know all the details of how that works if you’ve never studied cameras or film, but you’ve watched enough movies and television shows that you’ll know it when it’s wrong. It feels wrong. This sequence feels right, though, because it’s consistent that way.
In any case, the whole sequence is a nice and well-executed variation on the usual playbook. Though, to be fair, the next shot is over the shoulders of Lily and Chef and we get the white slash lines to emphasize the speed.
It’s a cute episode, with a great heist centerpiece.
80s Film Homage?
In exchange for Clumsy’s help, Chef offers him a fork with a cork on the end so he can’t poke out his eye. Clumsy happily accepts the offer because he’s always wanted one.
Am I the only one who immediately thought of Steve Martin’s character in “My Blue Heaven”?
Title Translation: The French works out to “War of the Waffles,” which I like more than the Nickelodeon title. I’m sure Nickelodeon didn’t want to use “war” on a show made for younger audiences. I’ll give them credit for keeping the alliteration up, but it’s a big reach to use “Wednesday” in your title when that has nothing to do with anything. I guess they’re playing off “Taco Tuesday”?
Script: Reid Harrison
Storyboard Supervision: Alexandre Viano
Storyboard: Alexandre Ulmann
Director: William Renaud