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Spain’s Bright Blue ‘Smurf Village’ Is Being Forced to De-Smurf

Magic can’t save you from royalties disputes.

RIP, Smurf Village.
RIP, Smurf Village. CEDER Serranía de Ronda on Flickr

In comic books and films, the Smurf village is a land of magic and cooperation, in which tiny blue creatures live in mushroom-capped houses and work together to solve problems. Its only true threat is Gargamel, an evil wizard who will stop at nothing to destroy the Smurfs.

In the real world, the closest thing we’ve got to a Smurf village is Júzcar, Spain—a bright blue cluster of buildings high in the Andalusian mountains. And its Gargamel, it turns out, is the Smurfs’ original creator.

First, some backstory. Back in 2011, when the CGI extravaganza The Smurfs was about to come out, Sony Pictures marketers approached the people of Júzcar with an idea. At the time, the village sported the color scheme more common to the area: each building had white walls and a red roof. What if, Sony said, Júzcar put itself (and their movie) on the map by entirely blueing itself?

After some prodding, the village agreed. Painters swept in and coated the whole town, including churches and gravestones, with 4,200 liters of blue paint. After tourist visits picked up about five hundredfold, the residents voted to keep the new color scheme. Júzcar, which had suffered from high unemployment, leaned into its new role. Everyone was happy.

That is, except the descendants of the Smurfs’ original creator, Pierre Culliford. As The Local reports, after a royalties dispute arose last year, Júzcar has now “lost the authorization to market itself as a Smurf town.” There will be no more Smurf-themed weddings, Smurfette impersonators, or mushroom-capped public kiosks.

The Day of DeSmurfing—after which, The Local writes, the town will “cease to make reference to the small blue characters”—is August 15th. So if you’d like to pay homage, you’d better get there soon.

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