Saturday, March 04, 2023

NYICFF ’23: The Smeds and the Smoos (short)

In the new Avatar movie, the blue humanoids like to splash around in water. On this planet created by Julia Donaldson, it is the red creatures that enjoy the water, whereas the blue ones prefer to hop around trees. If they sound a little weird to you, the red people certainly agree. Neither the red Smeds or the blue Smoos will have anything to do with each other, until things take a Romeo & Juliet turn in Samantha Cutler & Daniel Snaddon’s The Smeds and the Smoos, the latest Magic Light Pictures Donaldson adaptation, produced for the BBC, which screens during the 2023 New York International Children's Film Festival.

Aside from not liking each other very much, the Smeds and the Smoos live simple, pleasant lives. They stay on their side of the pebble border, because, like Frost said, good fences, etc. One day, Janet the Smed and Bill the Smoo venture into the neutral forest, where they start playing together and eventually fall in love.

Of course, Grandmother Smoo and Grandfather Smed are having none of that, so Bill and Janet steal the Smed rocket, so they can live together on another world. The old rival matriarch and patriarch worry for their grandchildren, so everyone piles into the Smoo rocket, to search the universe for them—Smeds included.

You don’t suppose the Smeds and Smoos might learn to appreciate their differences during their quest? Yes, perhaps so. This time around, Donaldson’s story has all the subtlety of a jackhammer. However, this might be some of the best animation of any of the Magic Light Donaldson films, so far. The various alien worlds really are quite lovely. It has a richer, more sophisticated look than previous Donaldson short films, such as
The Highway Rat.

Sally Hawkins’ soothing narration helps complete the well-put-together package. This could be the Donaldson BBC Christmas special that has the best chance of repeating the Oscar nominations garnered by
Room on the Broom and The Gruffalo. Towards that end, the heavy-handed messaging would be a positive rather than a hinderance.

Regardless, it is still a nice little film. It is good to see the BBC and Magic Light maintaining the tradition of animated Christmas specials. This film was the lead-in for the new King’s first Christmas address, so it definitely had a high-profile time-slot. Recommended for young viewers,
The Smeds and the Smoos screens as part of the Shorts for Tots program at this year’s NYICFF on 3/4, 3/5, 3/11, and 3/12.