A lot of people know the Smurfs. The original comic book series, Johan and Peewit? Not so much.
Besides, the 1980s Animated Adaptation is probably more well-known for American audiences than the Smurfs comic books.
No one will blame you if you didn't know that there was a 1961 Smurf cartoon. Even in Europe, it's overshadowed by the 1981-90 cartoon and has never seen so much as a VHS or DVD release.
Alternative Character Interpretation: Smurfs, with how their society works, their lookalike costumes, and leader with a red hat could be seen as a symbol of Communism. In turn Gargamel could be seen as a symbol of Capitalism (especially considering initially he wanted to capture a Smurf for a potion to make some gold). See also Wild Mass Guessing.
The Smurfs were very popular in the US and Canada during their heyday in the 80's.
The Smurfs are also very popular in Germany, with multiple German exclusive Smurfs albums released since the 90's. Vader Abraham popularizing the series during the 70's might have played a big role in this.
Similar to Germany, the Smurfs are also popular in Greece, with Smurfette being the lead singer in various Greek Smurf albums.
Hollywood Homely: Smurfette started off as this before Papa gave her a makeover.
Gargamel is all too happy to call himself "evil," but he's got plenty of reason to be unhappy. First, it is strongly implied that he had a seriously abusive childhood from every time we meet one of his relatives on-screen, said relative is either trying to mooch off Gargamel, browbeat and berate him, or both, even the wealthy ones like Balthazar. Second, to near Cosmic Plaything levels, every time he tries to do anything it cosmically backfires on him due to some bit of information or event he had no way of knowing, even if his labors are good, honest work. In addition to the entry in Hard Work Hardly Works, there's been other episodes where Gargamel did try his hand at honest work only to be thwarted either directly or indirectly by the Smurfs. The most prominent of these is when Gargamel actually won at an audition to become the royal court mage, honestly (his spell ingredients were a bit jumbled by transport to the castle, and his spell malfunctioned, but the fact that he summoned a tornado indoors, rode the tornado without injury, and nobody else in attendance was hurt convinced the judges that his power and control were more than sufficient for the job). Unfortunately, his first task, finding out why the chickens were not laying eggs was solved by Papa Smurf outside his knowledge. Perhaps Gargamel could have kept the job even then, but the Smurfs that were delivering the message to the king just had to stop and intrude on Gargamel's lab, without permission which ANY mage or alchemist would have good reason to be angry about. When Johan caught Gargamel threatening the Smurfs, only then did Gargamel learn that the Smurfs were good friends of the king and was real lucky not to wind up in the dungeon. Makes his obsession with making the Smurfs suffer seem a bit more reasonable, doesn't it? Gargamel was also compelled by force of arms to take Scruple in, as an apprentice, something which everyone can agree he is ill suited to do, and Gargamel doesn't even receive compensation of any kind, not even for the kid's living expenses. Thank evilness, or whatever that The Smurfs is a Sugar Bowl or somebody at Gargamel's castle would be seriously under-nourished if not starving to death. As a bonus, one episode had Gargamel plan and nearly succeed at carrying out his genocidal vengeance against the Smurfs with a powerful artifact or spell of evil, and he's stopped by Sassette when she says "I love you, pappi Gargamel!". Gargamel just... stops and breaks down crying because nobody ever said that to him before, not even his own mother. There are times that the audience may really want to give Gargamel a hug.
Azrael gets a bit of this too. Remember, Gargamel's the best owner he's ever had. Azrael has had other owners. That hole in his ear was an injury one of his previous owners did when he was a kitten, deliberately.
Chlorhydris stole an attractive male sorcerer away from a competing sorceress, but having to live the rest of her life thinking the man she loved and wanted to marry just didn't show up on their wedding day was understandable enough to make anyone with her powers want to make the world suffer with her for the unhappiness that she had to live through. Unfortunately, she had to choose the Smurfs as the target for her making the world as miserable as she was, but when they found out that her witch rival had turned her husband-to-be into stone and kept him in that state for twenty years, they did everything they can to help bring that happiness back into her life and at least give her the hope of a happy ending...until her husband-to-be accidentally sat on Chlorhydris' black heart arrows which she carelessly left on a seat that he sat on and caused his heart to be filled with nothing but hate. That just broke her heart all over again, and she's back to being her old bitter self again, desiring to ruin everybody's happiness.
Brainy Smurf at times. While he's insufferable and considered The Scrappy both in-universe and out, the other Smurfs never give him a chance or at least try to tolerate him. He gets literally beaten up pretty much every time he talks, even though the Smurfs are supposed to be kindhearted and forgiving, especially with each other. Sometimes, the reader may have the impression that he's the village's punching bag even when he doesn't do anything wrong. For instance, in Le Schtroumpf Reporter, Hefty Smurf and another Smurf get annoyed because the aforementioned reporter has started writing very intellectual and hard-to-understand articles in his newspaper. They come across Brainy, who tell them that the new articles are very interesting and ask them if they agree. They beat him up for that. In La Gourmandise chez les Schtroumpfs, when Greedy Smurf gets indigestion (because he didn't listen to Brainy), and Brainy (after helping him to return to his home) starts to annoyingly list the medicine that he will give to him, he gets a kick in the ass.
Memetic Molester: Papa Smurf in one of his poses has a really creepy smug look on his face. It doesn't help that in one of the stories he was going after Smurfette.
Memetic Troll: Papa Smurf can be interpreted as one, creating holidays like Unhappiness Day, where every Smurf has to be miserable while he walks around making sure they aren't having fun, and Hug a Smurf Day, which almost just becomes "Torture Grouchy" day because he hates hugs, not that Papa Smurf doesn't find this hilarious.
Moral Event Horizon: King Smurf is thought by the Smurfs to have crossed it when he decided to throw Jokey Smurf into jail after receiving Jokey's explosive present.
Rescued from the Scrappy Heap: Brainy Smurf in the later comics, live-action movies and Smurfs: The Lost Village (all of which were made after the death of creator, Peyo). He no longer makes long speeches as much to annoy Smurfs, his maturity increased, becomes more knowledgeable, has more sympathy for others and is no longer self-centered. His insufferable tendencies have also been downplayed.
The Scrappy: In the 1980s cartoon, Brainy Smurf was someone who nobody (except Clumsy Smurf) liked in-universe or out. On the surface, he's a Know-Nothing Know-It-All who's more of a narcissist than Vanity Smurf (a guy whose name denotes narcissism) and more annoying than, well, anyone else on the show, mostly because of his whiny, nasally voice as he lectures anyone unlucky enough to listen. He never plays a vital part of the story (unless he's the antagonist of the story, which happened a lot). Worst of all, this guy tends to do terrible things all the time, like bake living gingerbread Smurfs that almost destroy the village, blame Clumsy for losing Baby Smurf (after he was responsible) and put him through a Kangaroo Court, and even seize control of the village, crown himself king, rule like a tyrant, and start a Smurf civil war. (Although in fairness, it wasn't him in the original version.)
Grouchy Smurf can be this too, like in the episode "The Magical Meanie", where after the Smurfs see a shooting star at the ending, he said "I hate wishes!" and everyone responds with "Oh, Grouchy!", but Grouchy had every right to say this, seeing as a Jackass Genie had double-crossed them all.
Of a Communist society. Never do you see one "Consumer Smurf" buying from a "Shopkeeper Smurf" (in fact, one story explicitly states that the Smurfs don't use money and every Smurf with a job seems to do it for free), and the fruits of the community's labor is divided evenly amongst the community. Each Smurf has their own job, and any attempt at trying a different job typically ends in disaster. Gargamel comes off as a metaphor for capitalism, wanting to make money no matter the cost or what he destroys in the process. And topping it off, their leader wears red.
Of the KKK. A hundred critters in pointy white hats living in what amounts to a secluded commune led by a wizard with a pointy red hat. It should of course be noted that it was made by a Belgian, and the KKK esoteric imagery is mostly unknown in Europe.
The Smurfs are actually a patriarchal conservative utopia. They live in a static and autarchic rural agrarian system, away from evil technological and social progress. They are ruled by a wise, benevolent, kind but stern patriarch who lays down the law and without whom anarchy and chaos engulf the village.
Certain real-world societies have also high-jacked the meaning of on paper communism. On paper, the Smurfs would be an ideal socialistic society or the above mentioned patriarchal society. Papa Smurf is essentially the government role that helps inform and "control" what jobs the Smurfs do for the society. In real life such a system would wholly depend on having all the right pieces in all the right places; in reality what most westerners call "communism" is more like socialism with a corrupt Papa Smurf turning it into a flat out dictatorship.
There have been two explicitly political issues. One is "King Smurf" (The Dutch translation even called him the Smurführer). The other one, "Smurf versus Smurf," is a satire of Belgium's linguistic division.
Some can see Gargamel as the stereotypical image of Jews in the Middle ages (despite having a normal nose, no beard, and no accent) and later on: short (Gargamel actually isn't short, he seems to be because he's slouchy) with back-hair and big curved nose. He is chasing after the innocent Smurfs and he wants to either make gold out of them, or eat them (cartoon only for this one). In addition, the story of Smurfette: She was initially an evil creation of Gargamel and was black-haired with a big nose. After her transformation into Smurfette, she has blond hair and blue eyes, and she is a kind and good-hearted woman. In one episode Gargamel kidnapped her and put a spell on her so she turned evil again, and she resumed her black-haired appearance. When she turned good again, she also resumed her blond hair again. All of of this can be explained by very very older literary tropes like Uglyness Equals Villainy and Dark Is Evil, among others. Gargamel is just your usual sorcerer and it requires much effort to see him as a Jew.
Fundies put the "fun" in fundies by claiming that the principal Smurfs represent the seven cardinal sins while Papa Smurf represents the devil and that Gargamel is a Catholic priest; thing is, his clothes do look like those of a priest...
Accidental Aesop: In Doctor Smurf, the big aesop is that you shouldn't improvise yourself as a doctor because it takes years of studies and practices. However, the comic also show what happens when the Smurfs are over reliant on Papa Smurf as he is the only doctor of the village: he can't treat everyone by himself and can't do his other tasks because of this. When Papa Smurf becomes sick, the Smurfs has no one to turn to except for a human friend. The other aesop would have been: Papa Smurf should train another Smurf as a backup, but the comic doesn't delve into this.
Brainy in "The Olympic Smurfs." Was he being a fair judge in giving Smurfette a pink card that legally takes her away from Weakling just after he wins the Olympics and a possible Smooch of Victory from her, or was he being just a complete opportunistic Jerkass?
Dork Age: from The Baby Smurf to The Strange Awakening of Lazy Smurf, the slapstick and social parody were toned down (in fact, it begins earlier, with the secondary stories of the album The Smurfic Games). The Finance Smurf, the last album made before Peyo's death, and those that follow it, recover these parts that made the book successful.
The Smurf Menace (comic book) begins with the Smurfs being in conflict and fighting each other, so Papa Smurf decides to use his magic to bring an enemy towards them, so that they unite each other and become peaceful again. Just like in Smurf VS. Smurf.
If you count stories between the comic book continuity and the cartoon show continuity, The Finance Smurf recycles the plot of "The Smurfs and the Money Tree", even to how it ends (Greedy and Finance both suffer a case of Pyrrhic Victory or Pyrrhic Villainy in that they gain possessions at the cost of losing friends).
The Scrappy: The Smurflings are considered this, which is why they are hardly ever shown in the comic book stories, along with the Canon Foreigner characters like Grandpa Smurf and Nanny.
Accidental Innuendo: In the episode "Hats Off to Smurfs" Vanity hides himself in a closet after being turned ugly.
Papa Smurf: Vanity, you must come out!
Smurfette: Yes, Vanity, come on out!
Broken Base: Most die-hard fans find the show to be heartwarming and hilarious, while some criticize the series for its toned-down violence and Hanna-Barbera's own brand of comedic slapstick compared to the wit and humor of the original comics.
As for the Smurflings, some fans find them as a fairly good addition to the cast, while others found them unnecessary or too annoying as characters (reducing Papa Smurf and all the other adult Smurfs to being babysitters).
Fanon Discontinuity: Most fans would pretend that the time-travelling saga from the ninth season never happened, and to a lesser extent, Seasons 5-8 (where the Smurflings where introduced).
A few bad episodes of the series would be ignored, such as Clumsy Luck, Chlorhyrdis' Lost Love, etc.
Fan-Preferred Couple: A lot of them. To name a few, the most popular between Ho Yay shippers seem to be the pairs of best friends Brainy/Clumsy and Hefty/Handy, while the het side´s most popular has canonical couple Handy/Marina due to their sweet romance (even if featured in only three episodes); also the canonicaly one-sided Smurfette and Hefty possibly because of how close they seem to be in some episodes. It increased a little after The Lost Village movie (which is outside the canon of this series).
Growing the Beard: The show started off as adaptations of comic stories with original stories written for the series. They were mostly slapstick-based with little to no hints of story. Johan and Peewit were introduced in the second season, but that's not saying much.
Season 3 was when the show started to improve. Episodes became more story-based, new characters were added (such as Marina and Laconia), and Handy's inventions started to resemble more or less to modern technologies (such as telephones and wheelchairs).
In the episode "Clumsy Luck," a second glasses-wearing Smurf appears in one scene. While at the time, it was just an animation error (a duplicate of Brainy, to be exact), come the 2011 movie, a second glasses-wearing Smurf, in the form of Narrator Smurf, now exists.
Alan Young plays an even more blatant Scrooge expy in one of the final season's time travel episodes, a Scottish ghost who Young goes completely McDuck.
In the newest Japanese dub broadcasted by Animax Japan, Romi Park voices Grouchy Smurf. The hilarity came with the fact she previously voiced Edward Elric, who is not only extremely grouchy but also takes personal offense to being called "small". Grouchy is not only, well.. grouchy, he is also smaller than Ed.
Also from the Animax's Japanese dub, Yūki Kaji voices Brainy Smurf, who is pursued by a giant guy (Gargamel) and his cat, Azrael. Yuuki also played Eren in Attack on Titan, who's also pursued by a giant. This is even more hilarious, in a meta-way, besides Kaji (Eren) and the aforementioned Park (Hange), there's also Marina Inoue (Armin) voicing Poet Smurf and Yuu Kobayashi (Sasha) as Painter Smurf.
In "A Pet for Baby Smurf", when Gargamel attempts to transform Azrael into a creature to help him track down the Smurfs and their village, one of his attempts has him turn the cat into a green pig. And then just a little 25 years later, the Angry Birds franchise makes its debut - and it happens to also feature green pigs as not just villains but arch-enemies to the titular Angry Birds in practically the same vein as the extraordinarily bitter relationship between Gargamel and the Smurfs.
During the final season's abortedarc of time travel, the group ends up in a very inaccurate version of Ancient Rome and aids one of history's first pizza makers against Gargamel's lookalike ancestor. After their help, the chef thanks them in modern Italian, not Latin - by saying 'Molto Bene'. Of course, the Doctor in Doctor Who's episode 'Midnight', the Doctor is taunted by a disembodied entity with those exact words.
Ho Yay: Brainy and Clumsy, inferred in at least one episode, "The Smurfiest Of Friends."
Recycled Script: The villain-disguised-as-a-Smurf ploy was used a few times in the cartoon show, both by Hogatha and Gargamel.
The Scrappy: A lot of people had nicer things to say about Smoogle compared to Nanny Smurf when they both were introduced in season eight.
Seasonal Rot: The final season was a Retool of the series that saw the Smurfs lost in time and traveling through different eras trying to get home. The worst offender is the unusual exaggeration on the slapstick (for example in "Cave Smurfs") and the replacement of Gargamel's voice actor. The change proved unpopular and led to ratings to plummet, which led to the series' cancellation shortly after.
Some folks on YouTube noticed the similarity between The Smurfs theme song and the scatting melody of the J. Geils Band's "Centerfold", both of which came out in 1981.
The episode "Smurfing For Ghosts" uses a tune that sounds very similar to Ray Parker Jr.'s "Ghostbusters", while the cartoon special "The Smurfic Games" uses one that's similar to Vangelis' Chariots of Fire theme tune.
Toy Ship: Sassette and the male Smurflings, mainly Nat and Snappy.
The penultimate act is a single stage with omnipresent instant death (when the tree trunk bridge starts rotating under your feet, you have a split-second to jump or fall to your death).
The last act has a frustrating first level (16-bit only), a long and and dangerous second level (with flies that have The Virus), a short and dangerous third level and a Final Boss with One-Hit KillCollision Damage. You'll lose so many lives here that the only way to survive is to start the game from the beginning and collect Extra Lives on the way. Fortunately, this has been somewhat toned down in the Game Boy Advance port, where at least you have infinite lives.
For the 2011 movie:
Ass Pull: Clumsy tripping all over a keyboard, causing the picture Patrick made for his company to switch to another picture that Patrick sends without anyone realising. Thats not clumsy, thats just painfully forced.