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From Comic Strips to Collectible Smurf Figures The Fascinating History of Smurfs

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The Smurfs, a band of endearing blue characters originating from the imagination of Belgian cartoonist Pierre Culliford, better known as Peyo, have woven themselves into the fabric of global pop culture since their debut in 1958. Initially introduced in the comic series “Johan and Pirlouit,” the Smurfs quickly captivated audiences with their unique charm, leading to their own series and a vast array of memorabilia, most notably, the beloved Smurf figures.

Collection of Smurfs and Super Smurfs
Collection of Smurf Figures and Super Smurfs. This collection sold for £500 on ebay, December 2023.

The genesis of Smurf figurines dates back to 1965, marking a pivotal moment in the transition of the Smurfs from comic strips to cherished three-dimensional forms. The inaugural set included the Normal Smurf, the Gold Smurf, and the Convict Smurf, laying the foundation for what would become an expansive and sought-after collection. Peyo’s creation of these characters not only showcased his creativity but also his ability to tap into the collective imagination, setting the stage for the Smurfs’ enduring legacy.

Go-Kart Smurf
Go-Kart Smurf. This example sold for EUR 16.94 on ebay, December 2023.

The Smurfs’ journey from Brussels to Los Angeles in 1982 further solidified their international appeal. A collaboration with Hanna-Barbera Studios and Peyo produced over 150 episodes of Smurf cartoons, introducing the Smurfs to an even wider audience and cementing their place in animation history.

The late 1960s and early 1970s saw the expansion of the Smurf universe with the introduction of new figures, including the Spy Smurf, Angry Smurf, Drummer Smurf, and notably, the Moon Smurf in 1969, a nod to the era’s space exploration excitement. The annual production of Smurf figurines, with the exception of a few years, enriched the Smurf world with diverse characters such as Smurfette, the first female Smurf, and Gargamel, the notorious antagonist, alongside a variety of Super Smurfs, which were more elaborate and packaged in boxes.

Smurfs 40th ANNIVERSARY 1998 Smurf Band Playset by SCHLEICH
Smurfs 40th ANNIVERSARY 1998 Smurf Band Playset by SCHLEICH

The 1970s and 1980s marked the height of Smurf mania, with the characters becoming promotional tools in the UK and the US, and the range of figurines expanding significantly. Smurfs were not just toys; they became collectible items, with some figures, like the Super Smurfs, becoming particularly coveted. The thematic diversity of the Smurfs produced during this period, from sports-themed Smurfs to those celebrating various holidays and American historical figures, showcased the adaptability and universal appeal of these characters.

The Smurfs Historical Figures Set
The Smurfs Historical Figures Set including Paul Revere, Benjamin Franklin, Christopher Columbus, Thomas Edison, George Washington and Abraham Lincoln

Despite the passing of Peyo in 1992, his son Thierry Culliford has continued the legacy, sculpting new Smurfs and keeping the spirit of the Smurfs alive. The last few years have seen a resurgence of interest in the Smurfs, thanks to new figurine releases, the re-introduction of the Smurfs in the UK and the US, successful music albums, and the establishment of fan clubs worldwide. This resurgence is not just about nostalgia; it’s a testament to the timeless appeal of the Smurfs, their ability to adapt to contemporary culture, and their role in bringing people together.

Smurf with Sign Keep on Smurfin Smurf Figure
Smurf with Sign Keep on Smurfin Smurf Figure.

The history of the Smurfs and their transition into the world of collectible figurines, particularly those made by Schleich, is a story of creativity, adaptability, and enduring charm. From their humble beginnings in a Belgian comic strip to their status as international icons, the Smurfs have demonstrated the power of storytelling and the universal language of joy and friendship. As new generations discover the Smurfs, the future indeed looks blue, in the most optimistic sense, promising continued adventures and collectible treasures for years to come.

Smurfs 40th ANNIVERSARY Smurf Band Playset by SCHLEICH

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