As a child of the 80s, I was fortunate to grow up in a time of Saturday morning cartoons. And there were some great ones. But the downside to having a younger sister is that I sometimes had to share the television and watch something she wanted to watch. Smurfs was one of those shows that I initially watched begrudgingly. I can't recall now what I wanted to watch instead, but I do know we watched Smurfs for several years. And, despite my initial opposition to it, I eventually came to like the Smurfs enough. At least enough to keep up with who the characters were and get a few laughs. And looking back now, it certainly earns a spot in the 1980s Pantheon of Properties.
Cut to several years later. The children of the 80s are making marketing decisions at toy companies. Properties that boys and girls my age loved have been continually returning in a parade of nostalgia. They've remade tons of other cartoons from our youth into movies. It was only a matter of time that another property from our childhood returned in movie form, too.
Except, the Smurfs aren't really from the 80s anymore than Spider-Man is from the 80s since he was in Spider-Man and His Amazing Friends. The Smurfs have roots that go back much farther than the 1982 cartoon and it's a history that I was not all that intimately familiar with. I recently discovered the Retroist podcast and have been devouring these episodes including ones focused on properties that are not in my usual wheelhouse. The Smurfs episode of the Retroist enlightened me about some details I was not really aware of. I had no idea that the Smurfs appeared 24 years before I first watched them on some unsuspecting Saturday morning. And somehow knowing that makes them instantly cooler.
So, when I was presented with the opportunity to review The World of SMURFS by Matt. Murray, I said, "yes!" But our friend Smurfwreck over at Branded in the 80s as well as the aforementioned Retroist blog have already both reviewed the book and done great jobs with those reviews. My seven-year-old daughter has begun showing an interest in the Smurfs due to a resurgence in marketing thanks to the upcoming Smurfs movie. In wondering what could I do differently with this review, I decided to sit down with her one evening and look at the book with her.
The book begins with a thorough look at Peyo, the artist who created the Smurfs and covers the history from their early comic appearances, to their toys, to the cartoon, and where they've been since 1990. It is a well designed book offering several extras in the form of foldout posters, sticker sheets, and excerpts from the original comics. The folks at Abrams put together a very impressive package that not only satisfied my desire to learn a bit more about these characters formerly known as Les Schtroumpfs, but opened up my daughter's eyes to the expansive world of the Smurfs.
She thoroughly enjoyed looking at the book and getting the backstory on Smurfette, seeing pictures of the old and new toys, and learning about the various characters. Her favorite chapter was "Who the Smurf?!" which gave bios on several characters. Although second to that was a chapter about the upcoming movie which showed stills and promo art. One excellent piece of art was a guide to the Smurf characters who will be in the movie.
Many properties have come along over the years creating characters based solely on personality traits or emotions. But the Smurfs had to have been among the first. In doing so, they tell a story about a community that almost resembles the internal struggles that just one person goes through. The Smurfs will continue to be around for a long time and I imagine a day when my daughter will be sharing the Smurfs with her children and will be able to share with them that the Smurfs were around long before even their grandparents were born.