Smurfs told to get out of their blue village

Youngsters enjoy the Smurf theme on the streets of Júzcar, near Ronda.
Youngsters enjoy the Smurf theme on the streets of Júzcar, near Ronda. / SUR
  • The Diputación is mediating in the reignited dispute over image rights in Júzcar, which hosted the launch of the characters' popular films

The 240 residents of the blue-painted village of Júzcar were shocked to find out last week that they will have to stop promoting where they live as the ‘Smurf village’ after all. The surprise announcement, saying that they had until 15 August to comply with instructions to take down images of Smurfs, was published on the village’s website.

Villagers had recently been told that an agreement had been reached between the heirs of Pierre Culliford, creator of the popular blue cartoon characters, whereby residents would pay 12 per cent in royalties for all income generated from the use of the Smurf identity to boost tourism in their village.

Júzcar, a mountain village near Ronda, has been painted completely blue, rather than the traditional white, since 2011 when it won a casting by Sony Pictures to be the backdrop of the launch of the first ever Smurf film. The village went on to host the launches for two more films.

The accolade as “The world’s first Smurf village” has been a huge boost to the tiny village’s economy, with it receiving an estimated 50,000 visitors a year.

However the managers of the image rights to the Smurfs, International Merchandising Promotion &Services (IMPS), have been unhappy for some time that money was being made thorough the unauthorised use of the Smurfs’ image.

Villagers had thought that a deal had been brokered earlier this summer, allowing them to carry on exploiting the cartoon characters’ image, however it now seems that it has fallen through. Sources said that the breakdown was down to a disagreement over accusations of a possible levy on the town hall by IMPS.

Sony asked to help mediate

The Diputación provincial authority, which has been supporting Júzcar and its tourism during its time as an all-blue tourist attraction, has said that it is attempting to mediate in the dispute with the help of Sony Pictures.

For the moment, it has said that it will go ahead with its investment programme in Júzcar, even if the Smurf name and image cannot be used. It has allocated some 300,000 euros to improve car parks and signage, among other initiatives.

Júzcar town hall has said the village will stay blue in order to meet the conditions originally laid down by the Diputación for the investment, however the Diputación, although hopeful of a resolution, has admitted that the houses will now only stay blue as long as the residents want them to stay that way.