Smurfs in Spain

In 2011, live action and animation came together on the silver screen in the form of The Smurfs movie. The film featured six Smurfs — Papa and Smurfette, of course, but also Brainy, Grouchy, Clumsy, and new addition Gutsy — who, in a failed attempt to flee from Gargamel, found themselves sucked into some sort of vortex and deposited into Manhattan. Madcap antics and smurfy smurfness ensued, with — well, let’s not ruin the ending, just in case.

Like most movies, The Smurfs had a lot of money behind it. (To be clear, the movie needed money. The real Smurfs have little need for money, but this isn’t the time or place to go address the economy or politics of Smurf Village.) Sony Pictures, the studio behind the film, invested $110 million in production and untold additional amounts in marketing.

Some of that money was sent to the small town of Juzcar, Spain, a village of about 250 people located an hour and a half drive north-ish from Gibraltar. Sony picked the town to host the movie’s world premiere and to turn it into a real-life Smurf village of sorts. Each building, including the local church, historical buildings, and even gravestones (gravestones!) were painted baby — er, Smurf — blue. A dozen painters using 4,000 liters (about 1,000 gallons, if you’re in the U.S.) completed the task over the course of a few weeks, covering the 175 buildings before the June 16th premiere.

Sony, not wanting to leave a permanent mark on the town, offered to pay the cost of returning Juzcar to its former white. But six months after the film’s debut, the town voted 141 to 33 to stay blue. The reason? While most of Spain was going through a major economic recession, money was flowing into Juzcar. In years prior to becoming the world’s only Smurf village, Juzcar saw around 300 tourists. In the six months after The Smurfs hit theaters, 80,000 people came by the Spanish Smurf town. Juzcar’s citizens began hosting Smurf festivals, trade fairs, and if you want Smurf-themed wedding? There’s no better place.

The popularity of the unintentional tourist trap hasn’t abated much since. In the summer of 2013, two years after The Smurfs debuted, NBC News checked back in. A total of 210,000 tourists came to town over the period.

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