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Smurfs preparing big 50th birthday celebrations

BRUSSELS -- The little blue cartoon Smurfs are planning to celebrate their 50th birthday this year with a new TV series, books and a film, with UNICEF among the beneficiaries, their human promoters said Monday.

Throughout 2008, 20 European cities will be flooded by the minute characters “three apples high” who are all — except for ancient Papa Smurf — officially a hundred years old.

But Europeans were only introduced to them in October 1958, when Brussels-born cartoonist Peyo (Pierre Culliford) first launched the “Schtroumpfs” onto an unsuspecting Belgian public.

“The invasion will begin on January 20 and end in October,” said Hendrick Coysman, head of the Belgian-based IMPS group which holds the rights to the cartoon characters and is controlled by Peyo’s widow Nine and children Veronique and Thierry Culliford.

The sale of tens of thousands of small figurines will benefit the United Nations Children’s Fund, Coysman said.

A much larger Smurf statue, decorated by an unnamed celebrity, will be auctioned off on October 23, the 50th birthday date, with the proceeds also going to the UN’s children’s fund.

The Smurfs are also to head back to the big screen with a co-production with the U.S. Paramount film group, Coysman said.

In an apparent nod to gender parity, new female characters will also be introduced to the Smurf village to help out Schtroumpfette, the only female.

The cartoonist Peyo died in 1992 at age 64. Since then, his family and collaborators have continued his work “in the same spirit of humour and creativity,” IMPS said in a statement.

Since their humble origins in the Belgian children’s comic-strip magazine Spirou, the Smurfs have sold 25 million cartoon albums worldwide in 25 languages.

A testament of their enduring popularity: One million Smurf DVDs were sold last year alone, Coysman said.

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 Smurfs preparing big 50th birthday celebrations 
Family members of the creator of the Smurfs, from left to right, Veronique, Nine, and Thierry Culliford speak with the moderator, right, during a press conference on the 50th anniversary of the creation of the Smurfs at the Bozar Palace in Brussels Monday. (AP)

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