If you grew up in the 80s or 90s, surely you remember The Adventures of the Smurfs, those little blue who live in mushroom-shaped houses in an enchanted forest and spend their time trying to protect their idyllic world from Gargamel’s attacks.

And, inevitably, you can’t like these cute and cheerful little creatures, even if you’re grumpy you have a Smurf to represent you!

That’s where the success of the Smurfs lies, in representing parts of each of us and making it clear that no quality is bad if we know how to take advantage of it.

But beyond moral issues and their amusing adventures, I’m sure you’ve wondered…

When Did The Smurfs Come Out?

The popular Smurfs cartoon series launched on September 12, 1981. Although the Smurfs really got their start in 1958 with the comic Les Schtroumpfs created by Belgian cartoonist Pierre Culliford. Although you probably know him better as “Peyo”.

Before Peyo became a legend of entertainment, he was just 15 years old when he started to make a living, as Europe was suffering from the Second World War. After a job as a movie projectionist, he arrived at an animation studio where he improved his artistic skills and learned from great cartoonists such as Morris and Franquin. 

But as nothing lasts forever, the studio had to close, leaving Peyo in a difficult situation, although he managed to position his stories in local newspapers, where he had his first big success in 1946 with Johan, a young and heroic page who lives great adventures in a medieval world.

The character was so well received that in 1952, it became a regular feature for Spirou magazine, where a couple of years later he welcomed Peewet, a blond dwarf who was dedicated to robbing citizens until Johan invited him to join his adventures.

Both characters became a perfect duo that combined heroism with comedy, being very popular among the children of the time, but their stories were the beginning of something much bigger…

Les Schtroumpfs by Peyo in Belgium

The Introduction of Les Schtroumpfs

In 1958, the sixteenth Johan and Peewet comic strip was published, entitled “La Flûte à Six Trous”, an adventure in which Peewet comes across a magic flute that can make anyone dance to its melody, but it ends up being stolen.

Consequently, he joins his companion, and under the guidance of the magician Homnibus, they reach an unknown land where they find the creators of the flute, none other than the Smurfs.

From then on, the little blue creatures became recurrent in the Belgian comic strip, but they won the hearts of the readers so quickly that Peyo had to create a series of their own in 1958. Even their debut in Johan and Peewet was renamed “La Flûte à Six Schtroumpfs” (The Flute of the Six Smurfs).

Speaking of the term “Schtroumpfs”, the story goes that during a dinner with Franquin, Peyo asked him for the salt shaker, but forgetting its name, he called it Schtroumpf, which in English translates as Smurf. Who knew that such a meaningful name had its origin that way? 

From then on, Peyo wrote most of the Smurf stories, creating the Smurf Village and all its culture, from their personalities to their peculiar way of speaking. Of course, Peyo also had other stories like the aforementioned Johan and Peewet, Benoît Brisefer, and Poussy the Cat, but the Smurfs comic book series began to take most of his time.

Worldwide Popularity Of The Smurfs

For decades, the Smurfs were a sensation in Europe, even some animated movies were released such as “Les Aventures des Schtroumpfs” in 1965 and “La Flûte à Six Schtroumpfs” in 1976 (The Smurfs and The Magic Flute in English) along with their first audiovisual adaptation in 1961 with an animated series, but they still lacked fame across the pond.

This did not happen until 1976 when the American entrepreneur Stuart R. Ross became interested in the characters during a trip to Belgium, so he bought their rights for North America.

Consequently, American stores began to fill up with Smurfs dolls, key chains, T-shirts, plates, cups, stuffed animals, clothes, and all kinds of Smurf merchandise, although there was still more to come.

The famous production company Hanna-Barbera, home of the Flinstones, Yogi Bear, and other cartoons of our childhood, took on the task of creating a TV series and so the animated Smurfs made its way to Saturday morning TV.

With Papa Smurf, Smurfette (the first female Smurf),  Brainy Smurf, Grouchy Smurf, the evil wizard Gargamel, his cat Azrael, and countless other characters, the cartoon was a total success, surpassing the standard broadcast length of the time.

For more than 8 years with 421 episodes, the series brought joy to American homes and around the world, officially making the Smurfs icons of popular culture.

Smurfs Forever

More than 60 years after the Smurfs was first created, they are still just as relevant as ever and have even managed to conquer Hollywood with two live-action Smurfs movies and one fully animated Smurfs film. Oh, and let’s not forget their new animated series that launched in 2021, which is still on the air.

We all know and love them, whatever age you are, because beyond being funny characters, they represent all the emotions we feel and together, they make up what it means to be human.

Thank you Peyo.