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The Smurfs Are Ready for their Close-Up

In less than 24, the Smurfs will make their big-screen debut, showing up in Neil Patrick Harris’s New York City apartment in The Smurfs.

Getting to this point was not easy, and almost everyone is thanking a trio of striped squirrels by the names of Alvin, Simon, and Theodore. The Daily Beast and The Wall Street Journal both have articles today detailing how The Smurfs’ jump to the big-screen was a direct consequence of Alvin & The Chipmunks’ $45 million opening in 2007.

The Daily Beast’s Ramin Setoodeh spoke with The Smurfs’ producer Jordan Kerner, who said that a stalled movie project with Paramount intended for the 50th anniversary of the Smurfs’ first appearance in print was immediately revived by Alvin’s success. “On Monday morning after Chipmunks grossed $45 million,” Kerner told Setoodeh, “every studio chair called me and said ‘We want to do the Smurfs.’” Sony soon obtained the rights from Paramount, and the project was underway.

The Smurfs have been a licensing juggernaut, even as the property was dormant: $8 billion over 15 years, according to William Auriol, the head of IMPS, the Belgian company that owns the brand. (Auriol also spoke to The Daily Beast.) The Wall Street Journal’s Michelle Kung said that the licensing and promotional opportunities “played a significant part of Sony’s decision to pick up the film from Viacom’s Paramount Pictures,” because “the partnerships helped the studio limit its marketing costs.” Licensing!

The Journal notes that Sony is hoping for a $30 million opening weekend to satisfy its more than 200 business partners and the movie’s $110 million budget. Sony has marketing partnerships with Post Cereal, Kids Foot Locker, Renault, and others, Kung reports.

Meanwhile, Kung’s colleague at the WSJ, Marshall Heyman, reports on how the Smurfs are taking over New York City as promotion for the movie. The Empire State Building is bathed in blue (for UNICEF, but the Smurfs ran with it), the Smurfs have hung out in Columbus Circle, and FAO Schwarz opened a “blue-tique” to honor the little guys (and gal). Just as long as they don’t start riding the subway. We have enough trouble getting seats as it is.

—Bryan Joiner

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