Rant Of The Day THIS RANT 07/08/96

Rant Of The Day is where I get to mouth off about whatever I feel like for however long I like. Theoretically, I'll update my whinge/opinion piece every weekday; in practice, maybe not so often.

A Smurfin' good time wasn't had by all

When I was a young child (an inevitable start to a column sooner or later), Smurfs were very much the go. While they originated in a bande dessine in France created by Peyo, the cue for their success in Australia was a massive merchandising campaign begun in BP stores in 1980. For 85 cents, you could purchase a small rubber figure of one of a number of Smurfs. There were other bits of merchandise too -- soft toys and books and mugs and so forth -- but the figurines were the things to have, and affordable even on $1 a week pocket money.

The figures may have originated in Germany, but the ones we got were made in Hong Kong (I think). There were all sorts of characters, from Brainy Smurf to Hefty Smurf to Smurfette to Astrosmurf (complete with plastic helmet). At first, all the Smurf concepts were taken from the Peyo books; later, others were made up more or less at random. At one time, I had around 50 of the little blighters, but they disappeared in the way of childhood toys and today all I have left is a Writer Smurf who lives in my study.

Since then, the Smurf legend has been tampered with in various ways; the seriously inferior US cartoon series has taken up a semi-permanent position on television, everything's gotten cuter, and my interest has faded along with BP's (they ditched the franchise sometime around 1985). I was therefore both surprised and pleased, on a recent visit to Toys R Us, to see a number of Smurf items on sale (manufactured by Toy Island of Hong Kong). My excitement quickly turned to displeasure, though. These were not the Smurfs as I remembered them.

Check out Berry Lovin' Baby Smurf at the top of the page. Not only is s/he wearing pink and pigging out on berries, s/he's also not genetically possible. Despite various lurid online fantasies, Smurfs can't reproduce because the Smurfette was made by Gargamel from clay (interesting Biblical overtones).

Worse still, though, is the Smurfette herself, pictured here. She doesn't look right! Her eyes are too big and her lips are too full. How hard can it be to copy a cartoon character? The original Smurfette was only in one book anyway, having stirred up no end of trouble in the village. This pale imitation should be sent back to the plastic scrapheap.

Despite all my objections, I still had to buy a Papa Smurf figure (I'll just try and pretend he hasn't got poseable arms). Some habits really do die hard.

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