Little Bits of History


Posted in History by patriciahysell on October 23, 2012

The Smurfs

October 23, 1958: A Belgian cartoon strip makes its debut. Pierre Culliford, pen name Peyo, had lunch with a friend, André Franquin. Peyo forgot the word for “salt” and asked his friend to pass the “schtroumpf”. Franquin responded, ” Here’s the Schtroumpf—when you are done schtroumpfing, schtroumpf it back…” The two joked for the for the rest of the meal about schtroumpf. Peyo went on to draw a cartoon which became a television franchise as well as the comic strip. In French it is called Les Schtroumpfs. In Dutch the word was Smurf, which is what we know them as in English.

The Smurfs are small, blue fictional creatures. They are short, just three apples tall. They are mostly male but there are three female Smurfs who were all added later. The men wear white trousers with a hole for their short tale. They also wear a white Phrygian cap and some carry identifying bits or pieces as well. Most of the Smurfs are 100 years old. Papa Smurf is older and Baby Smurf is younger. Originally there were 99 Smurfs but more were added as needed. They are all archetypal, such as Lazy Smurf or Grouchy Smurf. They speak their own language with “smurf” being used frequently but with enough nouns and verbs for the audience to understand the underlying message.

Their 50th anniversary was celebrated with a commemorative coin minted in Belgium. The year 2008 was also the 80th anniversary of Payo’s birth. The Smurfs was listed as the 97th best animated series by IGN. A movie called The Smurfs was released in 2011. There were two French Les Schtroumpfs movies released, one in 1965 and the other in 1976. The Smurfs were also used as advertising mascots for several products including BP and a public service announcement by UNICEF. They have even appeared at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, as a balloon float. In the US, there was a television series starring the little blue folks from 1981 to 1990. They went into syndication and remained on the air until 2003.

Peyo was born in Brussels in 1928 to an English father and Belgian mother. His name was based on an English cousin’s mispronunciation of Pierrot, a diminutive form of Pierre. He began working in a small Belgian animation studio where he met Franquin. After World War II, the studio folded and Peyo went to work for a newspaper drawing comics. He also did promotional drawing jobs to supplement his income. He had been drawing Johan and Peewit for some time before the first Smurf appeared in the series. The Smurfs went into history. Peyo died on Christmas Eve in 1992 at the age of 64, suffering a heart attack.

Narrator Smurf: There is a place. A place that knows no sadness, where even feeling blue is a happy thing. A place inhabited by little blue beings three apples high. It lies deep within an enchanted forest, hidden away beyond the medieval village. Most people believe this place is made up, only to be found in books or children’s imagination. Well, we beg to differ. (opening lines)

Papa: I’m 546, I’m getting too old for this…

Grouchy: Where the Smurf are we?
Gutsy: Up the smurfin’ creek without a paddle, that’s where!

Patrick Winslow: SMURF, SMURF, SMURFETY, SMURF!  [all the Smurfs are shocked]
Gutsy: There is no call for that sort of language, laddie! – all from The Smurfs (2011)

Also on this day:

Fore – In 1930, the first miniature golf tournament was held.
Bump! Boom! – In 1958, the Springhill mining disaster struck.
Poison Gas – In 2002, the Moscow Theater Hostage Crisis began.

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2 Responses

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  1. Bobby Dias said, on October 23, 2012 at 9:18 am

    Walt Disney said that each of the Smurf personalities were of cartoon characters of his. Walt successfully kept the Smurfs out of the United States until he passed on-then there were no eyewitnesses to testify to his creating the personalities. Thank the Germans for copying some very originally American characters.

  2. Bobby Dias said, on October 23, 2012 at 10:20 am

    The day before the scheduled lawsuit of Walt Disney against Pierre Culliford in US District Court, Culliford phoned me and said to me: “If you say anything about my little people my friends will get you”. Walt Disney was successful in that lawsuit to keep Culliford from making money on his(Walt Disney’s creation of the Smurfs’ personalities) by obtaining that court injunction that prevented Culliford from using his ill-gotten copies of those personalities of Walt’s for many years. Culliford wisely stayed out of the United States or he would have spent many years in US federal prison for threatening a witness(me).

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