May 27, 2023





        The Smurfs is a successful franchise spinning out of a Belgium comic created by Pierre Culliford, better known as Peyo. Appearing in the pages of Spirou in October of 1958, the Smurfs are long-lived little blue creatures that live in the middle of a medieval forest in a village comprised of mushroom houses. Initially supposed to be just a one-shot guest in Peyo’s already-running strip, Johan and Peewit, they proved popular enough to be upgraded to their own feature. Merchandisers quickly fell in love with them as much as audiences as their similar appearance meant they had to do very little work to produce each character.

       NBC president Fred Silverman decided that the Smurfs would make a good cartoon and negotiated for their rights. The Smurfs debuted on the network on September 12, 1981 and their popularity only continued to grow. The show was quickly expanded to an hour, then 90 minutes with syndicated reruns starting in 1986. It would go on to run for 9 seasons, and changes made to the characters to better distinguish them from each other would become the default appearance for those characters going forward.

            As part of the merchandising blitz that followed the cartoon, Post joined in with a new cereal in 1983: Smurfberry Crunch, named for the fruit that served as the primary food source for the Smurfs. The cereal was comprised of berry-flavored red and dark blue pieces that were six tiny balls assembled in a star shape. A number of premiums were included during the cereal’s run, including Smurf rub-ons, glow-in-the-dark stickers, cut-out award buttons, Presidential campaign buttons, a game on the back panel, tin signs, and a contest to win an entertainment center. Most of the commercials were animated, featuring the Smurfs producing the cereal and singing a jingle to the tune of Tchaikovsky’s “The Nutcracker Suite” (which was in keeping with original showrunner Gerard Baldwin’s desire to feature classical music in the series). Most of the primary cast reprised their respective roles for the various commercials. Actor and musician Jack Black has claimed to have appeared in a non-animated commercial being pulled in a red wagon (although no visual evidence has been found as yet).

        A small issue arose with the cereal. Apparently, the blue dye used, if eaten in enough quantities, would turn excrement blue. While not as concerning as the Franken Berry incident a decade prior, Post still decided to address it by rebooting the cereal in 1987. Now called Smurf Magic Berries, the cereal maintained the same shapes but replaced the blue coloring with orange and yellow. Also, white marshmallow stars were added to symbolize the magic; as evidenced by Papa Smurf (Don Messick) casting a spell with them against their enemy, Gargamel, in the new commercial. It finally left shelves for the last time around the time the cartoon was cancelled. Premiums for this version included gummi candies, simple magic tricks and a game on the back panel.

No comments: