The song "La la la la la la la la la la la" (or "The Smurfs Theme" for short) became a national trademark worldwide in the 1980s when the Smurfs cartoon reached huge popularity. It was actually in 1958 when they debuted in a comic strip illustrated by a Belgian artist named Peyo. Peyo had just finished school and in his search for a job found two of interest: a dental assistant and an illustrator. He was turned away from the dental office interview because he was late. Belgium was packed with comic strip artists in the 1950s and Peyo found a position working for Le Journal de Spirony. Soon his human comic characters Yohan and Peewit became well-known in their medieval tales. When Peyo created the Smurfs as side characters in those stories, he discovered that they had even wider appeal. The little elf-like creatures with humanistic personalities were devised to be three apples high and live in a village constructed of mushroom houses. Entrance to outsiders was forbidden unless the Smurfs willingly brought them into their hidden magical village. Much of the world knew of the Smurfs but they did not enter America until the late '70s when children's albums like Smurfing Land, Father Abraham in Smurf Land, and Best of Friends (reminiscent of the Chipmunks) were marketed along with plastic figurines and the classic Hanna Barbera Saturday morning cartoon was developed.
The Smurfs were at their peak during the mid-'80s and characters such as the evil wizard Gargamel and his cat Azrael, Papa Smurf, Smurfette, Brainy, Grouchy, Baker, and Handy became icons in their own right. Rumors sprung during this time that Smurfs were satanic, despite the release of a Christmas album containing some daringly Christian messages. The Smurfs craze lasted for an entire decade and even though the stories spread in new directions with new characters (Grandpa and Nanny, Sassette, Nat, Snappy, Slouchy, and Baby Smurf), the peak was over and the series ended. In an attempt to bring the Smurfs back into view, a talking Baby Smurf doll was released in the early '90s. Instead of finding a renewed popularity, doll was yanked off the shelves due to the fact that its muddled voice appeared to be saying vulgarities (this did not help the rumors of Satanism).
In Europe, the Smurfs would not disappear so easily. Germany, probably home to the Smurfs' biggest fan base, released an all-new album in 1995 which faired so successfully that a whole new phenomena began. New Smurf records popped up at lightning speed in dozens of countries, including Israel, Sweden, Spain, France, and Czech Republic. Most remarkably, albums from each country were not merely translated replicas of the same songs but completely different packages altogether, meaning that there are easily more than 100 Smurf CDs floating around the continents. Smurf games for Playstation and Nintendo Game Boy were created at this time as well.
In 1996, Britain released The Smurfs Go Pop which shocked the public by making the Billboard charts. This was due greatly to a Top Ten single, which alone proved that someone had a great sense of humor. The song originally titled "I Wanna Be a Hippy" was "smurfed" into "I've Got a Little Puppy" and controversial lyrics like "I wanna take a hit/mara- marajuana" became "I take him for a walk/pooper pooper scooper." With further releases, the Smurfs were heard singing covers of Backstreet Boys, 'N Sync, Spice Girls, Christina Aguilera, Britney Spears, Coolio, Cher, Enrique Iglesias, and more. Germany found the greatest renewed success of any country, releasing two CDs per year, most recently Smurfs 2000 and Smurfs Volume 11 with more on the way. Peyo, who died in 1992, might only have dreamed it. ~ Peter Fawthrop