UNICEF Snuffs Smurfs
It’s just another smurfy day in Smurf Village. The perpertually perky blue beings frolic around the fire, holding hands and singing that “tra-la-la-la-la-la” tune as bluebirds flutter by and rabbits hop around.
A regular Smurftopia.
But then the bombs come.
Hundreds of them raining down from warplanes in the sky, wiping out the mushroom-shaped abodes. Amid the fiery explosions, Smurfette is killed. Papa Smurf disappears. As the smoke clears, only an orphaned Baby Smurf remains, sobbing among the corpses.
No, this is not some pipe dream of Gargamel. The Smurfocide was instead perpetuated by the United Nations Children’s Fund, or UNICEF.
UNICEF’s Belgian office is using the Smurfs as the centerpiece of a new fundraising initiative to shock viewers into donating money to help children in war-torn regions. The agency also hopes to rehabilitate former child soldiers in Burundi.
“The idea of using familiar, reassuring childhood icons in a decidedly dangerous context was intended to bring home to the public the horrendous nature of this theft of children’s rights,” says UNICEF’s Gaelle Buasson.
“We could have shown real-live images of children wounded in Iraq, Palestine or other places. But we refused this option because they would not respect the dignity and rights of the depicted children…So we decided to use ‘fictive’ cartoon images.”
Dubbed the first adults-only version of The Smurfs, UNICEF’s 30-second ‘toon ends with the tagline: “Don’t let war affect the lives of children.”
After coming up with the idea for the Smurfogeddon, UNICEF obtained permission to create the short from IMPS, which took over control of the critters after the death of their creator, the Belgian cartoonist Peyo. The clip was previewed on Belgian TV last week during evening newscasts.
According to London’s Daily Telegraph, the spot evoked mixed emotions from viewers–including shock from children who accidentally caught the spot.
But the clip received a thumbs up from the official Smurf fan club. “I think it will wake up some people. It is so un-Smurf-like, it might get people to think,” a spokesman told the Telegraph.
Julie Lamoureux, account director for Publicis, the ad agency that created the campaign, says the original concept included even more graphic imagery of weapons of mass Smurfstruction.
“We wanted something that was real war–Smurfs losing arms, or a Smurf losing a head–but they said no,” she told the Telegraph.
The clip will begin airing regularly next week in Belgium, but only after 9 p.m., and run through April. UNICEF says response has been so strong that the short could soon be seen in Europe, Latin America and Australia with the stipulations that it must air after 7 p.m. local time, it can only be aired with information explaining the clip, and it cannot be put on the Internet. There are no current plans to broadcast the clip in the U.S.
For Stateside fans, and those who prefer their Smurfs intact, a 3-D, CGI-animated Smurfs feature film will bow in theaters in 2008. The extravaganza from Paramount’s Nickelodeon Movies will be the first in a planned trilogy.
UNICEF Snuffs Smurfs