In 1981, Hanna-Barbera Productions introduced the cute cerulean gnomes to America. "The Smurfs" ran on NBC on Saturday mornings from 1981 through 1989.
IGN Entertainment has honored Hanna-Barbera's creation as the 97th best all-time animated series ever produced. In the 1980s, two cereals were named for them, Smurf Berries and Smurf Magic Stars.
They became iconic.
My daughters, who were 10, 6 and 3 at the time the Smurfs debuted on American TV, became instant Smurfs devotees. Bright and early each Saturday they'd be stationed in front of the television, watching their little blue buddies. I observed from across the room as I read my morning newspaper.
We became a smurfalicious family — hopelessly addicted to the cobalt munchkins.
You may be unaware that the Smurfs communicate in their own strange language, in which nouns and verbs are replaced with the word "smurf." For instance, one may be greeted with "happy smurfday," or something will be described as "just smurfy."
The Smurf community, if you take time to examine it, is a cooperative culture based upon the principle that each Smurf has a valuable skill to contribute. Money in the economy is verboten; rather, Smurfs trade hard work for goods and services.
Some critics have labeled the azure lads and lass communists (the leader of the group, after all, wears red). That's a rank oversimplification, I believe, but their Smurfy culture does bear a striking resemblance to a 1960s commune.
Papa Smurf leads the peppy band. Others seem to be named for personality traits or dispositions (such as Brainy, Scaredy and Lazy), or profession (like Poet, Handy or Farmer).
My youngest daughter — perhaps due to her tender age at the time — became the biggest Smurfafficianado in our family. She thought them smurftastic! Early on, she began referring to me as Papa Smurf. That annoying practice continued for several years.