The Smurfs (NBC, 1981-1989)
The Smurfs are characters of Belgian origin who have appeared in various forms including comics since the late-50s. They began to become famous in this country when in the mid-70s they were turned into pop stars and had some hit singles, a little like what was done with The Wombles. But the thing I remember them for most is this long-running cartoon.
By the early-80s, it was decided to try and introduce these characters to an American audience, so this cartoon was launched, it was produced by Hanna-Barbera, and there’s no doubt that it was a success. The Smurfs were rather distinctive blue things, they were rather small and wore white hats. They all lived in a village, and they all had individual skills where they always tried to help each other. This was accompanied by lots of nice music too.
The only one who wore a red hat was Papa Smurf, the oldest (and I would consider being over 500 years old to be rather old myself) and wisest of them all. There was also the female Smurfette who stood out by having rather long blonde hair. They liked to smurf all the day through and they had personality written all over them. Now there had to be a baddie of course, and it was Gargamel, just about the only human who regularly appeared in the show, along with his grumpy ginger cat Azreal.
He would do anything to try and capture them, and bring an end to their happy world. I noticed that his voice sounded rather similar to another famous cartoon villain from about a decade earlier, who was Dick Dastardly from Wacky Races (that I reviewed recently), and that’s probably because he was voiced by the same actor, Paul Winchell. Still, being able to do an effective villainous-type voice came in useful it seems.
The Smurfs did do well, there were over 250 episodes in nine series that featured over 400 different stories, and these included specials at Christmas, Easter, or just whenever they fancied them really. I can’t recall the show ever being on CITV though. I don’t know about any other ITV region, but I remember that it was shown on LWT usually on Sunday afternoons, and I did look forward to it because it was always something nice to look at during an otherwise sleepy weekend.
There was also a regular comic strip in Lookin for a while. There were also computer games, books, toys, just about everything that you can think of. There have also been plenty of episodes released on DVD. After the cartoon ended, and about two decades on from their first wave of hits, in the mid-90s The Smurfs had some more hit singles, and in more recent years there were some films that were computer-generated, but the 80s cartoon will always be my favourite thing associated with these characters.