Smurfs Live On

What ever happened to the Smurfs? Did they go smurfstinct? No need to worry, the original series will soon be out on DVD.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. For personal, noncommercial use only. See Terms of Use. For other uses, prior permission required.

(Soundbite of "The Smurfs" theme song)

Unidentified Group: (Singing) La, la, la, la, la, sing a happy song. La, la, la, la, la, smurf the whole day long.

ALISON STEWART, host:

Does that take you back to Saturday morning?

RACHEL MARTIN, host:

Totally.

STEWART: Pajama shirts, oversized bowls of Frosted Flakes.

MARTIN: Lucky Charms.

STEWART: Where did the Smurfs go? Did they just smurf off? Did they go smufsinct? Did Gargamel finally crush them all into little blue splots on the forest floor?

MARTIN: I hope not.

STEWART: Splots, I made up a word there. Well, it's worse for the Smurfs, though, I think.

You can relax. The original will soon be out on DVD, and a 3D movie is expected next year. Reporter Teri Schultz explains.

(Soundbite of "The Smurfs" theme song)

THE SMURFS: (Singing) Smurf along with me.

TERI SCHULTZ: Even non-TV viewers couldn't escape their influence on youth, culture, vocabulary and joke-telling. The Smurfs took America by storm in the '80s, with a cartoon series that won Emmys, along with fans, as the little blue imps laughed and played in the idyllic mushroom village, always a wee step ahead of the villainous Gargamel.

(Soundbite from "The Smurfs")

Mr. PHILIPPE DUMAT (As Gargamel): Stop all that happiness out there. I said stop it, stop it, stop it.

SCHULTZ: It did stop in the early '90s, when the Smurfs human guardians decided the American market was getting over-saturated. So they brought The Smurfs home, to their Belgian birthplace. The Smurfs began life in a comic strip created by Pierre Culliford, a Belgian cartoonist, 50 years ago. So are they having a midlife crisis? Au contraire, they're planning a comeback.

(Soundbite from "The Smurf")

Unidentified Man: Oh, my gosh. It's a smurfademic.

SCHULTZ: But can they succeed? Unlike their '80s era forebears, kids these days can play virtual tennis and drive virtual race cars, even steal them, on their TVs. It's hard to imagine them being mesmerized by these cutsie little creatures endlessly repairing their mushroom houses or picking flowers in the forest. But that's not something that worries the man in charge of global marketing for The Smurfs, Hendrik Coysman.

Mr. HENDRIK COYSMAN (Head of Global Marketing, The Smurfs): People like simple things because we are living in such a complicated, confused world that's so hectic. The Smurf village can be a good place to rest for a couple of minutes or hours.

SCHULTZ: Reaction to the re-launch may already be proving him right.

(Soundbite of children chattering)

SCHULTZ: And children like these youngsters in Berlin, do indeed seem to be impressed with the simple life of the creatures they know as Schlumpfe.

Mr. HARUN SARIUSTAN: (German spoken)

SCHULTZ: The Smurfs build all sorts of things for themselves, bridges and things like that, says 8-year-old Harun Sariustan.

Ms. MARLENE HUNGER: (German spoken)

SCHULTZ: My favorite Smurf always has a pencil over his ear. He writes stories, says, 9-year-old Marlene Hunger.

But there have been detractors over the years. Some Americans felt the Smurfs' communal village depicted a communist utopia. Others just felt it was too sickeningly sweet. But the most frequent complaint has been about the male-female ratio and gender roles. Papa Smurf makes all the big decisions, while lovely Smurfette, the most prominent of just three females, does little more than run around in high heels. Hendrik Coysman says the Smurfs' world is getting a birthday makeover, acknowledging it needed one.

Mr. COYSMAN: If you look at our society, there has been a dramatic change in the social and cultural environment, so we are thinking in that direction.

SCHULTZ: Most details of the changes are still secret, except for the fact that Smurfette will finally be getting some female company. The Smurfs are also hoping to have an impact outside the mushroom village. They've teamed up with Unicef to raise money and awareness to help other little beings whose lives in the real world aren't all so - well, smurfy.

(Soundbite of music)

Unidentified Man: Everybody in the house make some noise.

STEWART: That was Teri Schultz from Brussels on the Smurfs.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. No quotes from the materials contained herein may be used in any media without attribution to NPR. This transcript is provided for personal, noncommercial use only, pursuant to our Terms of Use. Any other use requires NPR's prior permission. Visit our permissions page for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR's programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.