Recently, I was asked a few questions about an animated show I had worked on years ago. It was fun to remember my early years with an amazing cartoon property called, The Smurfs. At least that's what they were called in America. When Hanna-Barbera began their initial collaboration with the Belgian cartoonist, Peyo I was simply another artist in the layout department. Scott Shaw! and I began working with producer, Gerard Baldwin. Early concept work had already begun and we were brought in to prepare the TV series for production. Scott and I were familiar with the Europeon comic, although we had never met Peyo and his associate, Mr. Delaporte. Peyo spoke no English and our French was quite awful. Somehow, we managed to understand each other. I suppose it was because we were all artists. At the time, Scott Shaw! and I had been serving as layout supervisors although we were hardly old masters. In truth, many of the guys on our team could have run artistic circles around us. They were old gentlemen who had worked at studios such as Disney, Fleischer, UPA and Warner Bros. In truth, they had forgotten more about animation than we would ever learn.
At the time, Hanna-Barbera was a Saturday Morning Cartoon factory with many shows in production. That meant there were many animation units each working on their own television series. The Smurfs were simply another television show that would be added to the mix. At the time, no one had any idea how successful the American version of The Smurfs would become. The Hanna-Barbera management were notorious penny-pinchers always focused on production budgets. Even though the initial series debut was stellar, the executives were determined to fire our producer. Gerard Baldwin had done an amazing job in bringing Peyo’s creation to American television audiences. As a reward for his hard work, the studio was determined to sack Gerard Baldwin and even came to me in order to garner reasons for his dismissal. I hated this kind of studio politics and refused to cooperate with the management. In truth, I fought with Hanna-Barbera’s management on a regular basis. I don’t say this as a knock to either Mr. Hanna or Mr. Barbera. I have a great deal of respect for these gentlemen and for the most part, we got along swimmingly throughout my time at the studio. In time, the show would pass on to a series of producers. I continued to work on The Smurfs long after I had departed Hanna-Barbera. The show was always fun to work on, and it managed to remain on the air for another ten years. An amazing run for any animated series. As expected, the network couldn’t help contributing odd changes from time to time. This was annoying, of course, but NBC was eager to squeeze as much milage they could out of their considerable investment. I don’t recall a favorite episode during my time on The Smurfs, but it remains a delightful show that entertained a lot of people over the years.