It's been odd to see that in the last year or so, the appearance of Smurf merchandise has really picked up steam. Part of this is the remnants of Smurfs 50th anniversary celebration, which occurred in 2008, and the rest is a slow build to the upcoming live-action and CGI Smurf movie.
But the strange thing about this little trend is that almost none of what you might see on the store shelves is all that new. In fact, much of it is recycled from the big boom that the Smurfs experienced in the 1980s. The rest is simply old merchandise designs from the Smurfs' 50 year history.
Here in America, the Smurfs are decidedly a 1980s phenomenon. But worldwide, the Smurfs are the lucky benefactors of a decades-long love affair.
That means that as the characters waned in popularity after a relatively short lifespan in the U.S., the juggernaut fueled by three-apple high gnomes kept on pumping out product for the rest of Earth.
The proof is obvious if you take a moment to study it. The other day, I was wandering the aisles of A.C. Moore, a chain of arts and crafts stores here in the U.S. Hitting the section for coloring books, I spotted a "brand new" Smurfs coloring book. Sure, it was printed recently, but inside it wasn't really new at all. Instead, it was full of images that were recycled from years ago. The re-use was obvious to me because it didn't cover any new ground. There were no new characters or situations. Instead, I saw images of King Smurf, Jungle Smurf and Astro Smurf, all of whom are famous icons within the Smurf-reading community that were largely ignored by the Hanna-Barbera cartoons from the 1980s. (I sited an entirely different "new" coloring book at another store, but nonetheless, it was still the same old Smurfs.)
Likewise, if you pick up any of the Smurf figurines manufactured by the Schleich company, take a look at the copyright dates stamped upon them. You'll read dates that range from the 1990s to the early 2000s.
And if you stroll down the children's DVD section at any big box store, you'll see freshly minted Smurf DVDs, which of course are a repackaging of the 1980s Hanna-Barbera cartoon.
Further, Papercutz , a comic-book company, is busy reprinting all of Peyo's classic Smurf tales for general consumption. (Worth noting: The Smurfs in the comics are quite a bit more feisty than those that appear in the 1980s TV show. Honestly, it's almost a night-and-day difference.)
Now I must admit, I don't hold out a lot of hope for "The Smurfs" movie, but I do hope it brings about a new interest in Smurfs (and European kids' comics), because they are packed with humor and artistry.
Whether or not its a bad film, or if you still resent the 1980s cartoon, give their original comics a try ... because, as you may suspect, they're absolutely Smurfy.
Originally posted at Comics on the Brain! (Please take a look!)