I had other favorites as a child, mostly manly, robotly fighting shows cartoons like Voltron: Defender of the Universe, Transformers, and He-Man: Masters of the Universe. These appealed to my dormant testosterone and thirst for adventure. But The Smurfs was different. Though not utopianist, it depicted a world that should be, and I think that even at that young age, the Smurfy world was an ideal world.
I've occasionally watched The Smurfs since my childhood, and enjoyed it almost as much as I did then. Not many children's cartoons have that kind of staying power, but The Smurfs was always exceptional.
It is very much a 'family values' show. The Smurf village is a loving, inclusive community that cares for individuals despite their faults (e.g. Lazy Smurf, Stinky Smurf, Scaredy Smurf). Like most children's television, The Smurfs attempted to contribute to the moral development of its viewers, but always did so in a way that was not overbearing or cheesy, nor were the values political, but interpersonal. The Smurfs had simple messages, like if you have a pet, take care of it. Face down your fears. If you commit to doing a task, do it. People who are different from you aren't necessarily bad or ugly. In the midst of children's television that pushed environmental or victimization agendas, The Smurfs was a breath of fresh, non-political air.
The Smurfs accomplished this in a thoughtfully-crafted show. The voice acting was superb, and the animation clean, neat, and detailed for an American production. The scoring was excellent and well-chosen from the classical tradition, like Schubert's Unfinished Symphony. The scripts were clearly written for children (The Smurfs cannot be said to be written at two levels), but the writing was not sloppy because only children would be watching it.
It is, in short, a fine show of enduring quality, both of the technical and of the moral. The Smurfs continue as icons of the 80s because we yearn for the peaceful, Smurfy lifestyle for ourselves. The Smurfs are, in that way, eternal.
Here, enjoy some Smurfy goodness:
My Smurfy Valentine:
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The Darkness Monster:
The Crying Smurfs:
Brainy Smurf, Friend to All Animals:
Dr. Evil and Mr. Nice:
Jokey's Funny Bone:
All That Glitters Isn't Smurf:
Can't Smurf the Music: