Inside the Collection

Smurftastic!

Four Smurf figurines on display on a white lit backdrop. One figure is playing the trumpet with their eyes closed and cheeks puffed out. Another figurine is singing while holding a book with musical notes printed on it. The third figure is playing the both drumsticks in it's hands and has a wide grin. The final Smurf is holding a football in both hands and is wearing a singlet tops, shorts and boots and is running on grass.
Selection of Smurf figurines in MAAS’s ICONS exhibition, Photo: Ryan Hernandez, MAAS

Instantly recognisable for their distinct appearance of blue skin, white clothing and a small stature, Smurfs are a cherished worldwide children’s franchise that began in Belgium in the late-1950s. By the 1980s they were on Australian TV transporting kids into their mythical toadstool village, undertaking death defying quests to defeat the evil wizard Gargamel! After 60 years they’re still around and remain popular today.

The Smurfs were the creation of Belgium cartoon artist, ‘Peyo’, the pseudonym of Pierre Culliford (1928-1992), making their first appearance as secondary characters in 1958. Their popularity skyrocketed after the debut of figurines and a feature film in the 60s-70s. The Smurfs became so iconic in Belgium that they were the country’s official mascot for the 1980 Olympic Games in Moscow.

It was in the 80s that the Smurfs received international recognition and stardom through the famous cartoon duo, Hanna and Barbera, adapting characters into the television show for the American television network, NBC. Today Smurfs are still extremely popular with new movies produced in 2011, 2013 and 2017. New collector’s figurines, merchandise, updated editions of their stories and even theme parks, have been created to introduce the phenomenon to younger audiences and letting big kids relive their childhood through new adventures!

Smurf figurine in cowboy outfit. The figure has a human form with blue skin, googly eyes and a big grin. He is wearing a brown cowboy hat, boots and vest and red scarf and pants. He is holding a rope in one hand and has a gun in a holster on his hip.
Toy figurine, ‘Cowboy Smurf’, MAAS Collection: 2013/120/271-41. Photo: Vanessa Thorne, MAAS

The Museum has in its collection an array of 56 Smurf figurines pursing different careers from doctor to cowboy, magician to carpenter and undertaking various activities from juggling to brushing their teeth, singing to playing tennis.

These figures came into the collection through the large acquisition of Meccano items donated in 2013 by the late Malcolm Booker (1936-2016). His passion for building and collecting Meccano began when he was eight years old, receiving his first well-loved set on Christmas Day, 1942. At the age of seventeen, Malcolm put his love for Meccano on hold to concentrate on his education and pursue a career as a mechanical engineer. He was able to secure a mining engineering scholarship and credits that his years of Meccano building helped him throughout his career to see ‘what things would work and what would not’.

Flyer for the 35th Annual Meccano Exhibition. The flyer has a thick yellow border with the exhibition title at the top and a banner giving the location and date at the bottom (Frenchs Forest Baptist Church, Saturday 30 April, 2016). Inside the border is a photograph of an older man operating a large model crane.
Flyer of the 35th Annual Meccano Exhibition featuring Malcolm Booker operating a Meccano model of a railway breakdown crane, Photo: courtesy of June Booker

In 1978, Malcolm’s interest in Meccano was re-energised through his three-year-old son’s enthusiasm for the sets. After spending the day with his son at Sydney’s Manly Wharf and riding the Ferris wheel there, his son asked if Malcolm could make a Meccano model of the ride. Not only did Malcolm made an operating model of a Ferris wheel complete with lights, but the family’s collection of Smurf figures were just the right size to make perfect little passengers. Not all the figurines could fit on the ride itself, so the remaining Smurfs were placed in a queue to wait patiently for their turn.

Seven Smurf figurines in a line for a metal model ferris wheel. Metal pieces that make up the model are multicoloured and have evenly placed holes throughout each piece.
Smurf figurines lining up in a que to ride the Meccano ferris wheel built by Malcolm Booker, Photo: Peter Martin, MAAS

Once Malcom retired from the mining industry, he went on to pursue his passion for Meccano and became a foundation member of the Sydney-based Meccano Modellers Association in 1982, and later President. Well-loved in the community, from 1978 to 2016 Malcom had built 138 Meccano models in total and was nominated the same year for the Golden Spanner award, which is the highest honour in the international Meccano community.

A selection of the Museum’s collection of the Booker family Smurfs are currently on display in our exhibition ICONS: From the MAAS Collection, which features more than 70 celebrated and rarely displayed objects from the Museum’s collection, and considers what makes a museum object an icon in the 21st century. Their inclusion acknowledges how Smurfs have shaped society through popular culture.

Seventeen Smurf figurines on display on a white well-lit backdrop. Each figurine is partaking in different activities or careers, including doctor, painter, mechanic and chef. One Smurf is eating an icy pole, another is playing tennis. Many of the figurines have amusing facial expressions. On the left of the arrangement is a 'Smurfette' with blonde hair doing a ballet move.
Selection of Smurf figurines in MAAS’s ICONS exhibition, Photo: Ryan Hernandez, MAAS

Written by Chloe Appleby, Curatorial Volunteer, working under the supervision of Curator Margaret Simpson
June 2018

References

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) >.

World Collectors Net, (2018) Smurfs, World Collectors Net, accessed 4th April 2018  < http://www.worldcollectorsnet.com/features/smurfs/ >.

World Collectors Net, (2018) Smurf History, World Collectors Net, accessed 4th April 2018 < http://www.worldcollectorsnet.com/features/smurfs/history1/ >

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