The Smurfs cartoon premiered on NBC September 12, 1981, then became hit with the Saturday morning cartoon crowd. Smurfs, lovable, tiny blue creatures, learned their own lessons as they forged their day to day life, living in mushrooms and running away from bad wizard Gargamel and his cat Azrael. The Smurfs featured a variety of characters named for their personalities, as well as a magical world that included wizards, witches, trolls, fairies, royalty and more.
The Smurfs were fun and easily accessible to kids because of its one-note characters who frequently followed selfish paths and clashed with other Smurfs. They were cute, sure, and lived in an interesting, medieval, magical world. But the cartoon drew you in because of the characters' failed antics and near escapes.
The main characters were:
- Papa Smurf (Don Messick)
- Wizard Gargamel (Paul Winchell)
- Brainy Smurf (Danny Goldman)
- Clumsy (Bill Callaway)
- Hefty (Frank Welker)
- Jokey (June Foray)
- Smurfette (Lucille Bliss)
- Vanity (Alan Oppenheimer)
- Greedy (Hamilton Camp)
- Lazy (Michael Bell)
- Handy (also Michael Bell)
- Grouchy (also Michael Bell)
The Smurfs were created by a French artist, Pierre "Peyo" Culliford, in a Belgian comic strip in 1957. After the original series premiere in 1981, NBC expanded the show to 90 minutes, unheard of for a weekly cartoon. At that time new characters were introduced in the form of Johan, a young squire, and Peewit, his sidekick. That year The Smurfs won its first Emmy for Outstanding Children's Entertainment Series.
In the 1989-1990 season, the Smurfs began traveling the world and taking part in historic events. This new version of the cartoon was titled The Smurfs' Adventures.
During its popular years, animated specials aired on NBC, including The Smurfs' Springtime Special in 1982, The Smurfs' Christmas Special in 1982, The Smurfic Games in 1984 and Smurfily Ever After in 1985.
- 1983 Won Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Children's Entertainment Series
- 1984 Won Daytime Emmy for Outstanding Children's Entertainment Series
- 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988 and 1989 Nominated for a Daytime Emmy Outstanding Animated Program
Jumped the Smurf
Introducing Johan and and Peewit was bad enough, but The Smurfs, in an effort to create new stories, introduced Baby Smurf in 1983. Just as other shows "jumped the shark" when babies are brought into the cast, Baby Smurf's wail signaled the beginning of the end for the cartoon. Baby Smurf's curiosity was forever leading the other Smurfs into the path of Gargamel or some other danger. Plus, the cartoon played out the typical of jokes that come with the care of a baby, such as dirty-diaper fun and Smurfs who are cranky and forgetful thanks to sleepless nights.
But finishing off the demise of The Smurfs were the Smurflings, known as Nat, Slouchy, Snappy and Sassette. (Seriously. Sassette.) These were Smurf children, presumably taken in as their clothes were rags and they seemed to be country bumpkins.