Synopsis of Toy
Peyo’s Smurfs were smurfed in nineteen-smurfty-smurf and smurfed to supersmurfdom in the United Smurfs of Amerismurf with the smurftacular smurfcess of their smurfevision smurf, smurfed Smurfs. For all non-Smurfspeak-enabled web browsers, here’s the smurfdown:
Cartoonist Pierre Culliford (known to the world as Peyo) debuted the Smurfs in 1958 in Belgium’s Le Journal de Spirou, within one of the cartoonist’s popular "Johan & Peewit" stories. The little blue forest creatures quickly became a hot item, earning starring roles in their own comics and in a 1976 feature, La Flûte à Six Schtroumpfs (released in the U.S. in 1983 as The Smurfs and the Magic Flute). The Smurfs were instant superstars in their native land, and toymaker Schleich unveiled a line of PVC Smurf figurines in the 1960's. Each tiny figure was finely detailed, showing the personalities and characters that had made the wee ones such a success.
The toy line came across the Atlantic in 1978, but Smurf-mania didn’t really hit the States until the premiere of Hanna-Barbera’s Smurfs cartoon on NBC in 1981. The show ruled the Saturday morning airwaves for the better part of the decade, and toy sales skyrocketed. A variety of Smurf-related merchandise reached toy shelves over the course of the show’s run—puppets, video games, puzzles, etc.—but the core of the Smurf line were always the collectible figurines, manufactured in the U.S. by Applause.
Smaller than the traditional Smurf stature of “three apples high,” the figurines were tiny enough to fit in pockets, sit on bookshelves, hang from Christmas trees, hide in desks at school, and almost anywhere else. The popular Smurfs were all represented: Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Brainy, Hefty, Handy, Jokey, the wicked Gargamel, henchcat Azrael and others. But the beauty of the Smurfs line was that, since pretty much everyone looked alike, a new character could be created simply by giving him a book, an oboe, a sledgehammer, skis, a funny hat, etc.
The Smurfs left NBC in 1990, but the characters remain international icons. Over 400 variations on the Smurf theme have been produced to date, with more added each year by new smurfmaker Irwin. A fiftieth anniversary spectacular in 1998 drew large crowds across Europe, and the toys themselves continue to smurf out the smurfs like a smurf out of smurf. Keep on smurfing.
Release History of Toy1958 - Smurfs
Sub Categories of Toysdolls