8 Facts About Smurfs That Are Actually Kind of Interesting

By Jon Gutierrez in Cartoons, Daily Lists
Thursday, July 21, 2011 at 8:01 am
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If you lived through the 1980s, chances are you owned, listened to or watched the tiny blue gnomes named The Smurfs. They're actually much older than that, as Belgian cartoonist Peyo created them way back in 1958. And since then they've been entertaining (and boring the minds out of) millions of people around the world. Which brings up the question: How can the Smurfs be both universally popular and so boring that watching their "adventures" makes you want to take a smurfing gun and smurf yourself? It might be because the having a giant village of identical creatures doesn't really lend themselves to interesting, nuanced plots. Or it might be that their cartoons and comics relied on paper-thin storylines that were shallow even for '80s Saturday morning cartoons, which is really saying something.

Either way, The Smurfs were a blight on the cultural landscape, which will somehow be made even worse by the upcoming CGI movie travesty. After all, Smurfette was already annoying, but her voiced by Katy Perry should have you smurfing your eyes and ears out by the second smurfing act. But still, even the most boring, sappy properties usually have at least one or two interesting things hidden within their layers of horribleness. Here are the few we were able to dredge up from 52 years of Smurfs history. Read 'em and smurf!

8) The Smurfs Started the Zombie Genre
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In 1963, six years before George Romero filmed Night of the Living Dead, Peyo introduced a Smurfs storyline called Les Schtroumpfs Noirs, or "The Black Smurfs" (they changed them to "The Purple Smurfs" in the U.S. for the obvious reasons). In it, a Smurf is bit by an unusual stinging insect which spreads a virulent disease that turns its victims into angry, insane black creatures that hop around shouting "GNAP!" while also mindlessly trying to bite every smurf in sight to spread the plague. As the Smurfs try to contain the infection, the Smurf patient zero regains enough intelligence to disguise himself as a regular Smurf, infiltrate the village and further spread the Smurfy disease. And just when it looks like lone survivor Papa Smurf has developed a cure... he's goddamn bitten and transforms too. But luckily, he knocks the cure into the fire, where it explodes, curing everyone and bringing everything back to normal. Except in the original comics, where the first bitten Smurf never regains his normal happy outlook on life and becomes known as... Grouchy Smurf. Which is understandable. You'd be grouchy too if you almost brought about the Smurfocalypse.

7) The Smurf Village Was Once Bombed into Extinction
Most people would agree that war crimes and genocide are kinda bad. But just in case there were people on the fence, UNICEF created a series of anti-genocide commercials featuring a happy Smurf village that got bombed back into the stone age (which to be honest, wasn't too far back). While you can debate the effectiveness of the message, it certainly didn't pull any punches with it's final shot of a crying baby smurf surrounded by dead Smurfs and the mangled body of Smurfette. Although we have to say it didn't make us any more against war crimes... it just made us want to see more dead Smurfs.

6) There Was a "Poison Smurf" Scare in Britian During the '70s
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While Smurfs were everywhere in the states during the '80s, they were even bigger in the UK during the '70s. You'd find Smurf figurines everywhere. You even got them free for buying gas at National Garage Petrol stations, who had the slogan "service with a smurf," which, because of the vagueness of the Smurf language, could've meant anything. Unfortunately the demand for Smurf figures was so high that at one point, the manufacturers got them painted overseas in Hong Kong, forgetting that overseas lead paint requirements were much lower than the usual European regulations. Suddenly people all over the country were terrified that kids were going to get lead poisoning from putting Smurfs in their mouths (how stupid did they think kids were back then?). Of course, no kids ended up dead by Smurfs, although it did lead to a parody song called "Lick a Smurp For Christmas (All Fall Down)" by Father Abraphart and the Smurps... which thankfully doesn't exist online.

5) Smurfs Creator Peyo Hates Smurfette
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Keeping in mind that the '70s was not the best time for feminists, it's still fair to say that Peyo was not the most... um... pro-woman person. If you read the old Smurfs strips, it was clear that Smurfette was a vain troublemaker that existed to tempt and nag male Smurfs into to getting whatever she wanted. Now, Smurfette fared a little better in the 1980s cartoon, but since Peyo was the script supervisor, she still wasn't exactly a strong, female character. In fact, Peyo once reportedly described Smurfette's behavior as "She seduces, she uses trickery rather than force to get results. She is incapable of telling a joke without blowing the punch line. She is a blabbermouth but only makes superficial comments. She is constantly creating enormous problems for the Smurfs but always manages to blame it on someone else." Not exactly enlightened stuff. And when the U.S. writers asked Peyo if she could actually help the Smurfs and save the day once in a while, his response was a shocked "Come on now, do they expect me to make her a (female) gym teacher?" which of course, was Belgian for "lesbian." Kind of makes you wonder what he thought about Sassette, doesn't it?

4) The Smurfs Were a Spin-Off from a Less Successful Comic Strip
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With the success of the Smurfs, you might think they were just created to be a cash cow for Peyo. Well, they actually began as part of a different comic strip, "Johan & Pirlouit," about a medieval page and his tiny goat-riding sidekick (if they sound vaguely familiar, it's because they appeared in the Smurfs cartoons as the similar sounding "Johann and Peewit".) Well, in one of their original comic adventures, the pair discovered a mushroom village of tiny blue men called the Schtroumpfs. While the Smurfs were just minor recurring characters in the strips, they soon took off and Peyo gave them their own series, although Johann and Peewit showed up from time to time. In fact, the first Smurfs movie, The Smurfs And the Magic Flute, was a just retitled Johan and Pirlouit movie, which is why the Smurfs don't show up in the film until around 20 minutes in.

3) Celebrities Were Voicing Smurfs Well Before the New Movie
Considering the huge number of Smurf crowd scenes, it makes sense that the Smurfs TV series needed huge numbers of voice actors. Now, like every Saturday morning cartoon series, you had a few of the legendary professional voice actors who dominated '80s cartoons like Don Messick (Papa Smurf, Scooby Doo, Muttley), Michael Bell (Handy Smurf, G.I. Joe's Duke, Voltron's Lance) and Frank Welker (Hefty Smurf, Megatron, Scooby Doo's Fred). But a lot of others were well-known actors that did small parts on the show under the head of "additional voices." These include Ed Begley, Jr., Sorrell Booke (The Dukes Of Hazzard's Boss Hogg), Rene Auberjonois (Star Trek DS9's Odo), Edie McClurg (the secretary from Ferris Bueller's Day Off) and Ray Walston. And yes, legendary SNL comedian Phil Hartman pitched in some various voices for different episodes, although we haven't waded through all the episodes to pick out his voice. We don't hate ourselves that much.

2) The Smurf Village iPhone App Cost Some People Thousands of Bucks
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One of the most popular iPhone apps in 2010 was Smurf Village, which allowed iPhone users to make a, well, Smurf Village and rebuild it after Gargamel destroys it. While the app was free, users could buy extra things to pretty up their village like extra mushroom houses, wheelbarrows and smurfberries (and those things weren't cheap, as batches of smurfberries can go for $60 and buildings like a town bakery sells for $100). Well, it turns out that kids could buy those things just by tapping on them without even a warning that the user's iTunes account was getting charged... which meant kids could rack up huge bills for their parents without even knowing they were doing it. That led to kids spending literally thousands of dollars on the apps, including one Swedish mom getting charged $7,800 for virtual Smurf crap during a single car trip. Afterwards, they built in a capability to lock out purchases and programmed it to give warnings about the purchases and gave refunds to people who complained, but some people were still out a whole lot of smurfberries.

1) Smurfberry Crunch Cereal Turned Your Crap Blue
If you're going to have a cereal called Smurfberry Crunch, you'd expect it to be kind of blue, right? So, even though smurfberries in the cartoon were red, Post added a bunch of blue berries into the mix. Unfortunately, the blue food coloring wasn't absorbed by the human body, leading to a bunch of scared mothers worried about their kids' blue poop. It was taken off the market and replaced with a different version, which is a shame because it undoubtedly gave kids the ultimate Smurfs experience. After all, when a Smurf smurfs in the woods... we're betting it's blue, too.

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