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You may also be looking for the group of people called the Smurfs. For the comic strips that feature the characters, see Smurfs (comics). For the TV series that aired in the 1960s, see The Smurfs (1961 TV series). For the Nickelodeon TV series, see The Smurfs (2021 TV series).

The Smurfs (actual title of the show does not use "the" as part of it) is a Hanna-Barbera cartoon series which aired on NBC from September 12, 1981 until December 2, 1989 (though it was announced as cancelled in 1990). It was based on the Belgian comic series The Smurfs by Peyo which features the group of blue people called Smurfs. It originally aired for one hour of programming time in its first season, then it was expanded to 90 minutes for the following seasons until 1988, when it returned to its original one-hour show length. It spawned a 30-minute syndicated version of the show called Smurfs Adventures in 1986, when it first debuted on various independent stations, and was aired on the Boomerang cable network from April 1, 2000, to August 1, 2022, and also returned on February 6, 2023, airing at 7:00 AM to 7:30 AM. Each season featured its own separate intro sequence, depicting various changes in the show for that season. This series is the second Smurfs television series, which was 20 years later than the airing of the first television series.

On October 31, 2022, it was reported that the series will air on an upcoming FAST channel - Smurfs TV, hosted internationally by OTTera through Q4 2022 (except for the United States). On August 7th, 2023, it aired on Discovery Family.

Production

Pre-premiere

In 1976, Stuart R. Ross, an American media and entertainment entrepreneur who saw the Smurfs while travelling in Belgium, entered into an agreement with Editions Dupuis and Peyo, acquiring North American and other rights to the characters. Subsequently, Ross launched the Smurfs in the United States in association with a California company, Wallace Berrie and Co., whose figurines, dolls, and other Smurf merchandise became a hugely popular success. NBC television executive Fred Silverman's daughter had a Smurf doll of her own, and Silverman thought that a series based on the Smurfs might make a good addition to his Saturday-morning lineup. The series was to be produced by Hanna-Barbera Productions in association with SEPP International S.A., and its first producer was to be Gerard Baldwin, as decided in 1980.[1] Baldwin fought relentlessly with the network and studio over many things during the development of the series, including keeping it loyal to its creative roots and his idea for a soundtrack composed of classical music.[2]

When the cartoon show was in development, Peyo vetoed any extreme changes made to the setting and character designs of the Smurfs; making sure that the cartoon show remained faithful as possible to the comics. He did not want his characters to be "Americanized", forbidding activities like chewing gum, drinking Coca-Cola, or Smurfs inheriting money in general. A notable example of a design he vetoed was Jokey wearing a Harpo Marx-esque wig and a bowtie. As Peyo could not understand English, Yvan Delporte served as his translator for the initial meetings between him and the studio. During said meetings, Peyo was told about basic changes that needed to be made for an American audience, such as toned-down violence and the altering of concepts from the comics that could be interpreted as having racial connotations or a possible reference to drugs. In addition to toning down the violence and altering concepts from the comics, they also added morals in the series to teach younger children.

Multiple times during production, Peyo received drafts by the animators at Hanna-Barbera. He made corrections on tracing paper to send back to the studio, but by the time they received them, the episode in question would be practically finished due to an extremely tight production schedule. This would result in continuity errors and characterization inconsistencies, as well as Hanna-Barbera's main focus on slapstick comedy in most of their episodes (reflecting their previous works, such as Yogi Bear and The Flintstones). Due to these complications, Peyo's involvement with the series was usually limited to approving or vetoing production material, providing character designs or ideas, and having discussions with the studio in person or through letters.

Post-premiere & Ending

The series premiered on September 12, 1981 on NBC. It is considered canon due to the involvement of Peyo.

A trademark was filed on the date of its premiere, with it being secured on November 24 of the same year.[3]

Aside from adapting the comics to television, the studio chose to write their own stories for the series. Enter Season 3, where the studio decided to introduce new inventions that resemble modern technologies in the Smurf Village. They would even go so far as to changing the original characterizations for some of the Smurfs, such as turning Brainy from the one who lectures any Smurf to obey the orders of Papa Smurf into a self-centered egotist who writes a series of books and has even more faults than he did in the comics, and toning down Papa Smurf's short temper -- making him a kindly, easygoing. and helpful father figure than he was in the comics. Prior to the changes made in Season 3, the general portrayals of the Smurfs from the start of the TV series were changed from being mischievous in the original comics into easygoing little elves who are friendly to each other and sing happy songs, as in an attempt to make the adaptation more lighthearted than the comics.

Although Peyo was successful to prevent his characters from being Americanized, he couldn't stop the studio from introducing new characters to the series. During that time, characters such as Hogatha and The Pussywillow Pixies never appealed to Peyo. The studio wanted to make spin-offs following the success of said characters, but Peyo vetoed them in fear of overshadowing his beloved creations.

As Season 3 came to a close, Gerard Baldwin handed his duties as producer over to Bob Hathcock, who had already started working on the series as an associate producer. Baldwin continued his stint as supervising producer until he stepped down from the series altogether after Season 5, ending his nearly 5-year run with the little blue creatures.

Following the cease of production for Season 4, Peyo was convinced by the NBC executives to create a group of kid Smurfs to appeal more to a younger demographic and ordered Hanna-Barbera to tone down the dark elements. The result was the Smurflings, a group of three Smurfs who de-aged into kids and wore individual clothes to stand out from the others (followed by a fourth member, Sassette, who was created from Gargamel's Smurfette formula and dosed with the True-Blue Spell by Papa Smurf). Joe Barbera's contribution to the series' fifth season was a pet dog named Puppy, who is owned by Enchanter Homnibus.

In France and Belgium, three compilation films: V'la les Schtroumpfs (1984), Le Bébé Schtroumpf (1984), and Les P'tits Schtroumpfs (1987) are released in cinemas each containing three episodes to surf on the success of the animated series. Despite the meager success of the first compilation film, Claude Berda, had the initiative of this experience, requested to release the second compilation film. To promote the release of the compilation films, Peyo agreed to create two comic albums based on the episodes, "Once In A Blue Moon" and "The Smurflings"; however, due to his declining health and verge of depression, he allowed comic book artists François Walthéry and Marc Wasterlain to create 20 panels of the stories in six days.

Meanwhile, Peyo and Hanna-Barbera's relationship became more and more rocky over time, coming to a standstill when he learned the anti-drug episode, "Lure Of The Orb", was made despite his disapproval. In retaliation, Peyo then refused to approve any further material he received, causing an abrupt pause in production and panic for the studio. It was only after Delporte spoke with Peyo that production resumed as normal. Struggling with health issues including fatigue, Peyo soon lessened his protective grip on the Smurfs and allowed Hanna-Barbera a bit more creative freedom, leading to the approval of Season 9, where the series' usual premise was switched to that of time travelling.

However, it proved to be a terrible idea. Without Peyo's involvement, the writers were left struggling to come up with ideas in order to make the time travel concept work. They attempted to add in much more slapstick humor than they did under the creator's supervision, as well as including more pop culture references, such as the villains having doppelgangers (similar to Back To The Future). The series proved to be on its last legs, as American audiences started to lose interest and NBC canceled the series by the turn of the decade.

Broadcast history

Original run

The Smurfs secured their place in North American pop culture on September 12th, 1981, when the Saturday-morning cartoon premiered on NBC and aired from 1981 to 1990. The show became a major success for the network, spawning television specials on an almost yearly basis. The Smurfs was nominated multiple times for Daytime Emmy awards and won Outstanding Children's Entertainment Series in 1982–1983. The television show enjoyed continued success up until the ninth season, which brought about change that greatly displeased viewers. On April 9th, 1990, after a decade of success, NBC announced the cancellation of the show along with other Saturday-morning cartoons to make way for another block of live-action programming.

Aftermath and syndication

Roughly two weeks after the cartoon's cancellation, the animated versions of Papa Smurf and Brainy were featured in the "non-canonical" anti-drug special Cartoon All-Stars To The Rescue along with Hefty, who had one speaking line in the beginning which was "Who smurfed the bell?". Though Smurfette is present on the cover of the poster and VHS release, she is the only cartoon character and Smurf to not have appeared at all in the special. Harmony made a small cameo as the Smurfs comic book was flipping through pages.

The series aired in reruns on Boomerang from 2000 to 2022, and returned in 2023, and 26 selected episodes were aired in DiC Entertainment's syndicated programming blocks. The series is still being shown regularly on many channels throughout the world. The cartoon was formerly distributed by Television Program Enterprises (later Rysher Entertainment), Tribune Entertainment (for DiC), and Worldvision Enterprises. The cartoon is now distributed direct from Warner Bros. Television; Time Warner is the current owner of all Hanna-Barbera properties (now known as Cartoon Network Studios), having inherited them in their 1996 merger with Turner Broadcasting.

Legacy

Some parts of the philosophy of the animated series would be adapted to the umbrella franchise (mainly the comic book albums and Schtroumpf magazine) between the late-1980s' and 2000s' such as introducing Baby, Wild, the Smurflings, Grandpa, Nanny, Clockwork, and Mother Nature as minor characters of the comic book series from this point onwards. Stories such as "Gargamel Makes Peace" (an adaptation of "Gargamel, The Generous"), "The Strange Awakening of Lazy Smurf" (an adaptation of "Smurf Van Winkle"), and "The Wild Smurf" (an adaptation of "Smurf On The Wild Side") were also created as adaptations of the episodes.

The success of the animated adaptation of the comic books would see later adaptations/continuities loosely based on the philosophy of the animated series that would aim on plugging all the plot holes of the episodes while featuring elements from the comic books, such as the Sony's duology live action film franchise and Smurfs: The Lost Village.

The practice of taking cues from the 1980s cartoon series finally ended with the umbrella franchise introducing the 2021 TV series and future Smurf presentations produced by I.M.P.S and Paramount as offshoots of the comic book series continuity while incorporating the philosophy based on Smurfs: The Lost Village (though parts of the philosophy for the 1981 animated series that was adapted into the comic books remained intact). This decision in turn ultimately abandoned the practice of creating any loose adaptations/continuities based on the 1981 animated series interpretation altogether.

Home media

Warner Bros. has released Season 1 of Smurfs cartoon series on two DVD volumes in the United States in 2008, with the original intention of later seasons following the same trend. However, only five episodes from Season 2 were released on three single-disk sets each in 2009 and in the following years. At present, most of the episodes from Seasons 3 to 9 are available for download and streaming by Amazon Instant Video, Apple iTunes, and the Zune media service.

The Season 2 introduction's lyrics for the Smurf song are used in the 2011 Smurfs movie and also in the Smurfs Dance Party video game.

YouTube and online streaming

In October 2014, IMPS (International Merchandising, Promotion & Services) has made a deal with ODMedia and Expoza to digitalise and remaster the entire series in full HD and also cropped in widescreen for the official Smurfs YouTube channel. The "remastered" episodes presented are actually cropped into widescreen and sourced from the 1990s international restoration, as used on non-USA DVD releases. As of January 31st, 2019, WildBrain took over the YouTube distribution services for all the Smurfs bilingual YouTube channels.

In 2020, the show's first three seasons (and most of the fourth season) were finally released and remastered in its original aspect ratio and full 1080p high definition on HBO Max for the American subscribers.

On October 24, 2022, Planet Smurf would publish a teaser to announce the creation of a second "remastered" version of the entire series for the official Smurfs YouTube channel. The second "remastered" prints are actually of the HBO Max restoration sped up to PAL format, but with the intro and episode title cards left intact, as well as the unrestored audio from the international 90s masters. Likewise, the aspect ratio for these editions is also cropped to widescreen. The first set would be published on November 10th, 2022.

In October 31, 2022, it was revealed that IMPS and LAFIG Belgium has made a deal with OTTera to launch a FAST channel known as Smurfs TV featuring the series as well as the 1961 TV series (except for the US due to licensing issues concerning Warner Bros. currently holding the rights on hosting the 1981 TV series in the region).[4] Another article further explained that it will be featured on connected TVs including Xiaomi, Plex, Huawei, VIDAA, TCL, etc.[5]

On June 2023, the entire series was released on Tubi, with the first four seasons using the HBO Max restorations. The rest of the series (as well as the Season 4 episodes previously missing on HBO Max) remains unrestored, using the original masters.

Episode Listings

Season 1

Main article: Season 1 Episode Listings

Season 2

Main article: Season 2 Episode Listings

Season 3

Main article: Season 3 Episode Listings

Season 4

Main article: Season 4 Episode Listings

Season 5

Main article: Season 5 Episode Listings

Season 6

Main article: Season 6 Episode Listings

Season 7

Main article: Season 7 Episode Listings

Season 8

Main article: Season 8 Episode Listings

Season 9

Main article: Season 9 Episode Listings

Cartoon Specials

See Also

Trivia

  • In the 1990s, the episodes were re-edited to carry one opening sequence for all episodes; this happened for at least non-English markets. The video is the Season 8 opening of the USA version. The music consists of a vocal song sung by a children's choir.
  • Earlier on in the series, it had the misfortune of recycling animation and misshapen character models. Sometimes, the recycling of animation would cause inconsistently with the structure of the episodes, such as "Romeo and Smurfette" and "A Mere Truffle". In later seasons after the switch to overseas animation, camera angles were more dynamic and character models were much more consistent.
  • Despite the positive success for the show, it did have the misfortune of detractors who pointed out some of the show's flaws, such as the portrayal of the Smurfs changed from being mischievous in the original comics into easygoing little elves who are friendly to each other and sing happy songs. It should be noted that Len Janson and Chuck Menville were responsible for making changes to the comic stories while developing the show in its first season.
  • When episodes from the series started appearing in the syndicated Smurfs Adventures show, there were cuts from the shorter episodes to make two of them fit within a 30-minute showing time. There were also episodes where the audio was noticeably sped up, resulting in the Smurfs and even Gargamel sounding more helium-ish. Some of the season set volumes of The Smurfs that were released in Australia and the United Kingdom even featured the episodes that were edited for syndication instead of their original unedited versions.

External links

References

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