October 5, 2021
Four decades ago my life changed forever. Horizons expanded. Joy increased. My life became complete. For it was then that I was first introduced to those little blue creatures that inhabit mushroom houses. Led by the bearded man himself, whom they called Papa, and their lone sister, together they would battle the evil wizard that hunted them with his cat so that he could turn them into gold. They were of course:
The legendary Smurfs!
For many children of the early eighties, The Smurfs became an important part of childhood. Those of us who grew up then would wake up early every weekend and grab our bowl of too sweet cereal to spend a couple of hours watching non-stop cartoons. The Smurfs were a welcome addition to this ritual when it debuted in 1981. The rest is cartoon history.
Many might not be aware that The Smurfs actually started out as a Belgian comic by artist Peyo (b. Pierre Culliford). Originally introduced in another comic, Johan and Peewit (who make appearances in the cartoon series) in 1958, they were an immediate hit. They got their own spin-off story in 1959 and the rest is history. The comics would run off and on until the death of Peyo in 1992. His son, Thierry, would subsequently take over the series, with the latest release appearing in 2019.
I must admit I never really became familiar with the comics. Like a lot of Americans, the cartoon was my first and only frame of reference. And elementary-school me was obsessed. I collected Smurf figurines. I made sure that we took multiple trips to McDonalds when the Smurf glasses were part of the Happy Meal™ so I could collect them all. And I still own a stuffed Papa Smurf and Smurfette.
Revisiting the show now you can tell The Smurfs is an 80s cartoon. For starters, the lack of female characters is now blatantly apparent (back then we were so used to seeing only one girl in a cast that we didn’t even think about it). The stories were simple and may seem unsophisticated to those who have been reared on the complex tales of Avatar and Steven Universe. Even the animation is not the quality that today’s kids are used to. However, that didn’t stop me from enjoying every minute of it.
Recently, there were a couple of Smurf theatrical films released. And now a new computer generated show has been launched on Nickelodeon. But I don’t think any version could replace the original in my heart. Brainy, Grouchy, Greedy, and the rest are all etched in my memory (I still have a soft spot for poor Clumsy—as a gawky awkward kid I could totally relate). I’m sure this is the case for many of us GenXers.
So why not celebrate the 40th anniversary of the original cartoon by checking out some classic episodes of The Smurfs with a DVD from mymcpl.org.
May everybody have a Smurfy day!
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