Smurfs Team Up With US Forest Service

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When I saw this ad at a bus stop I thought I had fallen into some kinds of post-modern hall of mirrors. At first I could not believe that it was real. Is the Forest Service really pushing our magnificent National Forests with an ad depicting a simulated forest populated by the Belgian version of Hobbits*? How could I begin to write about this?

A look at the website reveals that the Forest Service has entered into a co-branding arrangement with Sony Pictures (who took a break from helping remove our green bike lane). According to the Hollywood Reporter Sony’s work on this campaign was done “pro bono.” Of course, they do have a Smurf movie coming out this summer. The DiscoverTheForest website explains it all:

As inhabitants of the forest, Smurfs are the perfect ambassadors for forest recreation. As these new PSAs remind us, the forest provides benefits such as clean air and fresh water, and provides children with the ability to explore, use their imaginations, discover new wildlife and engage in unstructured and adventurous play. The Smurfs’ enthusiasm for their environment hopes to inspire families to create their own forest adventure and reap the many rewards that nature has to offer.

Are we slipping into a terminal nature estrangement syndrome here? A complete break with reality? Are we so detached from the actual forest that the folks at the Forest Service would think this is a good idea?

On a completely off topic side note–can someone tell me why the Smurfs wear phrygian caps? Are they revolutionaries?

*Mrs. Homegrown would like to register her disagreement re: the hobbit/smurf comparison. Mr. Homegrown has an underdeveloped understanding of magical creature taxonomy.

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14 Comments

  1. I find it kind of disturbing that everything has to be linked to a publicity campaign of some sort, as if no good idea can stand on its own any longer. I think this shift may have happened when we stopped being called “citizens” and became “consumers”, which is one of my pet peeves. ‘I consume, therefore I am’?

    • Thank you so much for doing my research for me! That first article is particularly funny.

  2. This is not the first federal government partnership using commercial cartoon characters. Universal Pictures, the Ad Council and the Forest Service have a Discover the Forest campaign for The Lorax, complete with free lesson plans for use in schools. The Department of Energy and the Ad Council teamed up in 2008 to have Tinkerbell urge you to turn off the lights to save energy. (http://www.treehugger.com/clean-technology/tinker-bell-friends-want-you-to-save-energy.html) And Fatherhood.gov used the characters from Despicable Me for its public service ads (http://fatherhood.gov/multimedia/print).

    The whole trend makes me extremely unhappy. It’s easy to see why the federal government does it, but I’m less sure about the motivations of the private companies. Greenwashing?

    • I’m waiting for the IRS to team up with someone. Maybe Brittney Spears can sing the 1040 instructions.

  3. For myself, I have essentially zero problem with this (although I’m curious about the underlying socio-political messages that might be included in the movies–haven’t pursued any of those links above). I think it shows a willingness on the part of the Forest Service to try and be flexible, to try new avenues for capturing minds and hearts. Sure, I’d love it if all kids would just inhabit nature all the time and didn’t need a Smurfs tie-in, but that just ain’t the world we live in. If a Smurf tie-in gets more kids out into nature, then that’s awesome, and I refuse to be a stodgy adult who frumps at the decline and fall of our youth over it.

  4. I just kind of roll my eyes at this sort of thing. On one hand, I don’t really care, but on the other hand, I kinda get tired and frustrated emotionally and visually by all the advertising that’s thrown in my face all day long. I know, I know – “consumers” who put themselves in front of the glowing boxes ask for the sales just by virtue of being in front of the glowing boxes. Still…

    Getting kids outdoors in good, so more power to them, but really it’s just a way for a giant media conglomerate to garner more sales off a lackluster and unoriginal movie. It’s all sales, man.

    And the Smurfs movies SUCK. Like, SO MUCH.

  5. I’m sorry, but is it now legal to hunt Smurfs on US Forest Service property? This is new to me. Either way, I like Smurfs but can’t eat a whole one by myself. And Husband says the color puts him off so time and again, I’m left with Smurf leftovers. No thanks.

  6. I think you totally nailed it – terminal nature estrangement. It’s part of a larger phenom of alienation in general. People fill the resulting voids with blue cartoon creatures (would that they were revolutionaries) where, say, trees, earthworms and fungi should be, and royal baby birthings where, say, the Bradley Manning trial should be.
    That said, I laughed out loud from start to finish reading this post. You’re hilarious.

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