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THE ANIMATED LIFE

A happy case of the blues

January 27, 2008|Christine N. Ziemba

Although the Chinese zodiac has designated 2008 as the Year of the Rat, some Belgians might beg to differ. They're celebrating the year of the Smurf, honoring those little blue creatures with white pants and white caps that stand no more than three apples high. After all, 2008 marks the 50th anniversary of the creation of Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Vanity Smurf, Brainy and the rest of the gang.

"Les Schtroumpfs," as they're called in Belgium, sprang from the imagination of cartoonist Pierre Culliford -- under the nom de plume of Peyo -- in his 1958 medieval comic strip. Originally introduced as supporting characters, the mushroom-dwelling, commune-living, male-dominated society proved quite the rage in Europe. Hanna-Barbera started the American Smurf invasion in 1981 with a Saturday morning TV show. But while the Smurfs have been flying under the media radar lately, IMPS (International Merchandising, Promotion & Services), the Belgian company that owns all of Smurfdom, has been issuing new Smurfs to fit every lifestyle for years. In addition to the likes of Inline Skater Smurfette and Snowboarding Smurf, they released a "New Generation" line in 2003 that included Cyber Smurf and Hip Hop Smurf. The 2004 Smurf soccer line came complete with a Benchwarmer.

But this year's Smurfs, naturally, have partying on their minds. Papa Smurf dons a tie and tails for their anniversary year, and one particular Smurf seems to be hanging onto a bottle of Champagne for dear life -- something you'd probably never see over at the House of Mouse.

-- Christine N. Ziemba

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