Life imitates the Smurfs. If you were to name a Smurf that best suits this saying, which Smurf first comes to mind? For me, it would have to be Gymnast Smurf (#20020), first released by Schleich in 1973. This Smurf can be found lifting a dumbbell with just one hand while attempting to flex his muscles. However, this Smurf has no muscles whatsoever which I have always found amusing.
In the beginning Gymnast wore his customary white trousers but no singlet. It was also like many early Smurfs, he had no painted eyebrows. I believe the early ones should also have the dumbbell connected onto the head. Not all Gymnasts were produced like this.
When Schleich lost the licence to produce the Smurfs and Bully took over, they produced the Gymnast with different coloured singlets. Red, green, yellow and white singlets are confirmed to be genuine releases. If you find a Gymnast with a different coloured singlet more than likely it is hand-painted by a collector. Bully made the Gymnast between 1975 to 1977.
Around 1977/78 Schleich started producing Smurfs again and continued to make Gymnast until 1984. It is hard to see if any major changes were made to the mould during the years it was produced. Oddly enough, the Gymnast made out of Portugal can be found with a red or black mouth.
Australia’s Gymnast Smurf
Gymnast was first released in Australia by Bp Australia in 1979. This was made in Hong Kong and can be found with unusually large cavity number under its foot. This happened to a number of Smurfs that were released into Australia made out Hong Kong.
It is also unclear why they only produced the red singlet version out of Hong Kong. Was this a request made by Schleich or Wallace Berrie? The Gymnast Smurf made out of Hong Kong was popular not only in Australia, but in New Zealand and America as it sold right through until 1984. It was also used on a variety of triangle pedestals and other Smurf items.
Is Gymnast a classic?
In my opinion Gymnast Smurf is a classic on so many levels. It was one of the early Smurfs produced by Schleich before Bully had the rights. Any Smurfs produced with unpainted eyebrows is an instant classic for me. Gymnast was also one that was popular not just in Europe but across the globe. Simple design but highly effective like many classic Smurfs.
Keep on Smurfin