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When did the Smurfs start?

My sister LOVED the Smurfs. We didn't even watch it, (maybe she watched it at a friend's house and I didn't know.) She even learned how to draw Smurfs; she was really into creating her own comics, so it made sense.

Many Americans think the Smurfs made their TV debut September 12, 1981, which is partially true. They did became global icons with the launch of the 1981 cartoon series. However, it was back on October 23, 1958, that this fictional race of little blue people appeared for the first time, in a cartoon written by Peyo – aka Belgian cartoonist Pierre Culliford. They were referred to as “Les Schtroumpfs” in their first-ever appearance.

With this cartoon having been translated into more than 30 languages, these tiny people are known by various different names – Die Schlümpfe in Germany, I Puffi in Italy and Los Pitufos in Spain – so what does Smurf actually mean?

The word is the original Dutch translation of the French “Schtroumpf” which, according to Peyo, was invented during a meal with fellow cartoonist André Franquin, when he could not remember the word for salt.

The creatures proved popular enough for Spirou to give them their own series in 1959, and over the years Peyo published 16 albums, and developed an animated movie in 1975 that featured music by Oscar-winning French songwriter Michel Legrand.

There are 105 Smurfs and they tend to be named for their personality, much like Disney’s Seven Dwarfs. For example, Papa Smurf is the leader and then we have the likes of Brainy, Greedy, Vanity, Lazy, Clumsy and Jokey.

Smurf Village was initially populated only by males, until their arch-enemy Gargamel created Smurfette to create disharmony. There was just a slight issue – Smurfette was not very attractive.

Only after Papa Smurf took pity and gave her a make-over did she become the blonde bombshell we know today. In the original comic, Smurfette left the village to restore peace to the community, but the animated series saw her become a permanent fixture.

However, the Smurfs did not emerge as global icons until the advent of the Hanna-Barbera animated cartoon in 1981. The Emmy-winning series (it won for Outstanding Children's Entertainment Series in 1982-1983) ran for eight seasons on NBC, producing 272 half-hour episodes and earning a 42% share of the U.S. Saturday morning audience. The show aired on NBC from September 12, 1981 to December 2, 1989 (reruns until August 25, 1990). The show continued to air on the USA network until 1993, and on Cartoon Network until 2003. The Smurfs is still broadcast on the Boomerang channel throughout the United States. The show became a major success for NBC, spawning spin-off television specials on an almost yearly basis.

The Smurfs franchise expanded into advertising, films, TV series, ice capades, video games, theme parks, and dolls.

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