Friday, September 14, 2007

In Praise of the Smurfs

When I was a little boy, the greatest cartoon on the air was The Smurfs. These little blue characters were created by the Belgian comic book artist Peyo in 1958 and made into an animated series in 1965 and a movie in 1976. Imported to America, The Smurfs (a.k.a Smurfs' Adventures) premiered in 1981 and ran for ten seasons, producing 421 episodes of Smurfy goodness.

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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Sir Hefty:
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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:


Lorna said...

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.

actually I think kids are often extremely discerning ...they aren't the ones who watch soaps :)

Dale Tedder said...

Gracious, that's a lot of thought about Smurfs.

truevyne said...

You missed it. While I was growing up in Cincinnati, one could catch the Smurf version of Disneyland's "It's a Small World" boat ride at King's Island. Now I think it's Scooby Do's haunted house.
Before Smurfs, it had been Hannah Barbaraland or something.

John said...

I went to Hanna-Barbaraland in Houston before it closed. It was awesome!

Dale -- Locusts & Honey is the premier Methodist blogging site for serious, thoughtful analysis of pressing theological issues. And zombies.

gavin richardson said...

this post is just smurfy

Tim Sisk said...

Cupid's voice was funny in the first ep.

e. barrett said...

I would just add that Voltron does not hold up in any way, shape, or form. I think I was a lot more forgiving as a child....

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