These toy figures are from a collection of 56 Smurfs which used to 'ride' in a Meccano ferris wheel to amuse Sydney Meccano enthusiast Malcolm Booker's children during the 1970s. The Smurfs came to the Museum with a large collection of Meccano and Meccano copies (including Ezy-Bilt, Buzz, Bral, Temsi and Jolei-Spiele) assembled by the late Sydney mining engineer, Malcolm Booker. As a child Malcolm was a keen Meccano builder but became both an avid Meccano collector and builder as an adult.
The Smurfs are still a popular cultural phenomenon created by Belgian cartoonist, Pierre Culliford (1928-1992), under the pseudonym of 'Peyo'. The word Smurf was a result of Culliford momentarily forgetting the word for salt in French while holidaying with his friend, cartoonist André Franquin. He asked him in French to "pass the schtroumpf (smurf)," which soon became a running joke as the pair would use the word constantly in conversation and later became his inspiration for their name and language. Their iconic blue coloured skin was his wife's suggestion as other colours made the small creatures appear too angry or too human. They made their first appearance on 23 October 1958 as secondary characters in Culliford's medieval series 'John and Peewit' in the story 'The Flute with Six Holes'. This led to their first stand-alone comic printed in Belgium by Spirou magazine the following year.
Figurines and merchandise were produced in 1965 and in 1976, the film 'The Smurfs and the Magic Flute' appeared, with music by Michel Legrand. Due to their immense popularity, the Smurfs soon became recording stars in their own right, with a series of mini-albums and full albums. Dutch singer, Vader Abraham, released the first Smurf single in 1977, which was a hit in Belgium, Holland and other countries. The Smurfs later became the official mascots for Belgium for the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.
In 1981, the Smurfs reach international success as the celebrated US cartoon duo Hanna & Barbera (who created Tom & Jerry, the Flintstones and Yogi Bear) adapted the cartoon for the American television network, NBC. Two hundred and fifty-six episodes were produced for the series and were watched in approximately thirty countries. Additionally, the series earned Culliford an Emmy Award in 1982 for "Outstanding Achievement in Children's Entertainment". With over one-hundred different Smurfs characters and new movies produced for the franchise: 'The Smurfs' (2011), 'The Smurfs 2' (2013) and 'The Smurfs: The Lost Village' (2017), the popularity of these quirky Belgium toy characters from sixty years ago continues today (2018).
Chloe Appleby (volunteer) under the supervision of Margaret Simpson, Curator, April 2018.
Information provided by Malcolm Booker, 2011.
Franquin, (2007), Peyo, Marsu Productions, accessed 4th April 2018, < http://www.franquin.com/amis/peyo_amis.php >.
Schuddeboom. B, Knuddle. K, (2018), 'Peyo', Lambiek Comiclopedia, Netherlands, accessed 4th April 2018, < https://www.lambiek.net/artists/p/peyo.htm >.
Smurfs Wiki, (2018) Smurfs Comics, FANDOM, Wikia Inc., USA, accessed 4th April 2018 < http://smurfs.wikia.com/wiki/Smurfs_(comics) >.
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World Collectors Net, (2018) Smurf History, World Collectors Net, accessed 4th April 2018 http://www.worldcollectorsnet.com/features/smurfs/history1/