[Ok, so I’m totally spent from the Star Wars Ultimate Battle Pack three-parter and I’ve had a real crappy Monday back at work. Before I get into some of the other new toys waiting in my In Box, I wanted to take it easy so I delved into my folder of unpublished articles and came up with this one that I wrote at some point last year when I picked up these Smurfs. But just so you hardcore Smurfheads don’t think this article is one big tease, the Smurfs are back at Target’s Dollar Spot. I haven’t looked through the new assortment yet, so I don’t know if they are the same as the ones I got last year. Enjoy. -FF]
If you are a frequenter of Target, no doubt you’ve wandered into that shitty, poorly kept mess that they keep behind the cart corral in the front of the store. I think its official name is the Dollar Spot and you can sniff it out by the fumes of the cheap, petroleum based plastic wafting up from it. While you would expect such a pit of consumer depravity to be full of knock-off crappy junk, it’s surprising just how much officially licensed crappy junk they get in there. It’s not uncommon to see merchandise from Transformers, Marvel, DC, Smurfs, Strawberry Shortcake, Littlest Pet Shop, Star Wars, even Family Guy. The problem is these items are rarely toys and more often crappy stickers, journals, notepads, pens, and the like.
Anyway, I was lured into this vortex of conspicuous consumption by one of these licensed stickers or notebooks or something, but whatever it was, I forgot all about when I saw the pile of bagged Smurfs sitting in a caged up pen for one measily dollar each. Just how many different ones were produced, I do not know. Most of them seemed to be the same three that I got here, but I didn’t dig through all of them, as the fumes of cheap Vietnamese rubber was making me woosy. I had to be content enough with getting Papa, Smurfette and Brainy, three of the most instantly recognizable personages among what was practically a clone race of little blue elf-rats.
Yeah, you might not have guessed it, but I loved the Smurfs. I used to watch the cartoon on Saturday mornings and try to figure out whether Gargamel was trying to eat them this week or spin them into gold or just melt them in a spoon and shoot them directly into his veins. Who knows? Maybe he popped them like Viagra. Whatever the case, there was just something infectious about that stupid cartoon that kept me coming back for more.
Somehow, the Smurfs wound up a lost piece of 80’s pop culture. Toy aisles are full of Transformers and GI Joes and Strawberry Shortcake and My Little Pony, but until now… no Smurfs. Yeah, they’ve always been available in specialty shops or online, but no major presence in the toy aisles. You had to really want a Smurf to actually hunt one down and by one. Nevertheless I can still remember when I was a wee lad and I used to peddle my bike downtown to that now extinct creature called an independent toy store, and right next to the Star Wars figures was a huge display case full of these little blue bastards and their carts and mushroom houses and all sorts of stuff. Of course, I never actually bought any. There were always way too many Star Wars figures, GI Joes, or Transformers to allow me to throw any money into the Smurfs.
So for you young’uns or just the general uninitiated, Smurf figures are basically just little rubber statues of little blue people who only wear pants and a floppy sock hat. They are all more or less identical except for the accoutrements that give them their personality. There were a ton of different Smurfs plus a ton of different variations on each Smurf. I mean, if you think it was evil of Hasbro to make you buy a Bespin, Hoth and X-Wing Pilot Luke, be thankful you didn’t have to buy 1,000 different Greedy Smurf figures to complete your collection.
These dollar Smurfs look just like the originals and I believe they are exactly the same size. While the original Smurfs came in little boxes, these come rather unceremoniously in little clear plastic bags. They are articulated, but don’t get too excited, because apart from turning their heads, there’s precious little you can do but move their arms just a tiny bit. Still, compared to the original Smurfs, these are like super-articulated. They are made by Jakks Pacific now, and they are incredibly well-made figures with good paint work too. There’s only a bit of slop on my Papa Smurf’s nose. Brainy Smurf is holding a book and wearing his trademark look of smugness, Papa is holding out his arms wide in some kind of magnanimus gesture and Smurfette is posed looking as whorish as ever.
The funny thing is, after mentioning to someone that I found these, they merely shrugged and said, “Target has a whole shelf full of Smurf stuff over in the toy section, you dumbass!” I couldn’t believe it, but he was right. They had lots more Smurfs mounted on cardbacks, Smurfs riding in primitive log cars, and even a bunch of different mushroom cottages. How could this be? How could the Smurfs have returned without my knowledge? Probably because they were squeezed into the plush animal aisle far away from the action figure aisles. The sad thing is they’ve all but disappeared again. When the retailers reset after Christmas the new Jakks Smurfs were consigned to the clearance bins and are now gone. I sort of wish I had picked up some more. Thankfully they’ve popped up in the Dollar Spot again for another chance. So grab them if you see them!