Monday, August 1, 2011

Smurfs, or Something-or-Others

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What in the name of Smurf? After all the nerd anticipation for Cowboys and Aliens, with Olivia Wilde, Daniel Craig and Harrison Ford gunning for it, as of Sunday morning they've been outgrossed by the live action debut of a property that hasn't been seen as anything but nostalgia for over two decades.

I found the following tweets, courtesy of The Hollywood Reporter:

Ivon Bartok: “The "Smurfs" beat "Cowboys & Aliens" at the box office? I just want to say that I officially know nothing about nothing.”

Derick Armijo: “SMURFS is beating COWBOYS & ALIENS at the box office. Marvel now clamoring to add them to AVENGERS line up.”

Aashy: “The Smurfs beat Cowboys & Aliens at the box office yesterday. Mind. Blown.”

Some were less surprised by the results:

Shane: “Wait people are surprised Smurfs is beating Cowboys and Aliens? Do people forget that kids movies make a ton of money??”

Comedian Paul Sheer also tweeted about the box office battle. “I wish it was Cowboys and Aliens vs Smurfs,” he wrote.

So, as of Sunday, that's the real story!!

In the meantime, I read a tidbit on the history of the Smurfs, which, as an American kid of the 80's, I remember clearly. The gang appeared on NBC longer than I watched Saturday Morning Cartoons, an eight year run starting in 1981.

Even a plot or three begins to emerge from the sugary cereal / French Toast daze of my seven year old mind, and I can't be alone in recalling at least a dozen Smurf characters by name. Growing up, my schoolmate Evan Locklear had by far the largest Smurf collection I ever saw. As for myself, I shudder to think of the mushroom growing that can house a creature "three apples" high, as I rather though of them as tinier. I figured they were three, four inches tops, judging from the way they filled Gargamel's hand (remember the crotchety old wizard who always wanted seven smurfs for his alchemy?) and the fact that I'd never seen mushrooms much larger than that. Whether or not mushrooms brought about Smurf sightings is for conjecture and not based on any anecdotal evidence!

So, about that tidbit: here's how the Smurfs got their unique name.

Belgian cartoonist Pierre "Peyo" Culliford created a medieval adventure strip published in Belgium and France, "Johan et Pirlouit (translated to English as Johan and Peewit)." Peyo drew and wrote the strip, set in a dangerous forest.

Peyo sat down for lunch one day in 1958, with his friend André Franquin. You know how those simple English words like "door" or "shoe" or the like suddenly turn up absent in your recall when you are distracted, yet trying to describe the thing? Particularly, when you are trying to communicate a need? Well, forgetting the word "salt", Peyo asked him (in French) to pass the schtroumpf (a made-up substitute for "whatever").

According to Wiki,

Franquin replied: "Here's the Schtroumpf — when you are done schtroumpfing, schtroumpf it back..." and the two spent the rest of that weekend speaking in "schtroumpf language". The name was later translated into Dutch as Smurf, which was adopted in English.

So next time you forget what the smurf you were trying, exactly, to say, maybe you'll think of Peyo. I can only hope you'll have a cross-generation international cartooning success!

PAPERCUTZ, Jim Salicrup's company, reprints the original Smurfs! Check it out.

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