What’s going on here?
In case you haven’t heard: UNICEF in Belgium has created a unique and attention-getting video message about the impact of war on children. The 30 second TV ad – to be run free by Belgian broadcasters in the late evening hours – is part of a campaign by UNICEF in Belgium to raise awareness about the many ways conflict destroys children’s lives. The ad features the Smurf cartoon characters in a war setting. Belgian press coverage of the campaign was picked up in the UK, and then around the world.
What is the purpose of the cartoon?
The advertisement is part of UNICEF Belgium’s campaign to raise about $150,000 for the rehabilitation of former child soldiers in Burundi. Today, 300,000 children are being used as child soldiers in more than 30 conflicts around the world. The ad is meant to draw greater attention to the issues affecting real children.
What’s the message of the Smurfs video?
It focuses on the devastating effects war has on children. Nearly half of the 3.6 million people killed in conflicts since 1990 are children. The tag-line of the spot reads, “Don’t let war affect the lives of children.”
Who developed the video?
The cartoon was developed by the Belgian National Committee for UNICEF in close collaboration with the family of the Smurf’s creator, “Peyo”. The family gave full approval.
Why use cartoon characters to make your point?
In developing the campaign, the Belgian committee wanted to use images that would grab attention and change the way people think about children affected by conflict. The campaign was intended for a Belgian audience, and because the Smurfs have been part of the cultural fabric of Belgium since 1958, the committee thought of asking the owner of the Smurfs to feature them in a video spot that would create real impact and awareness.
Is the cartoon suitable for children?
The advertisement is not intended for children. The video includes images of war and was designed for late evening adult audiences. UNICEF strongly stipulated that the spot be run only after 9 o’clock p.m. (2100 hrs) precisely to keep it from being seen by children. The cartoon is in no way intended to be a teaching tool for children.
Is the video about any particular war?
Not at all. It was created as part of a campaign on child soldiers that has been in development for more than two years. While the cartoon is about war, it is not about any specific conflict.
What has the response been?
It has certainly attracted attention around the world. Most of the response has been positive, because people appreciate the message about the terrible price that children pay in conflicts. Some parents are concerned about their children seeing it. We understand that concern and have worked to limit the airing of the video.
Will the cartoon be shown in any other country?
The video was developed after extensive market research in Belgium and is intended for a Belgian audience.
Can I view it on the web?
Currently, there is no complete version of the original video on the web. In the interest of limiting the opportunities for children to view the cartoon, UNICEF does not intend to publish it on the web. Of course, UNICEF cannot control individuals from boot-legging the spot and publishing it on the web.
Where can I learn more about child soldiers and what can I do?
We would encourage anyone concerned with the atrocities of child soldiering to visit our global website (www.unicef.org). For an overview of the issue, read the following article found here. You can also search for current articles on the topic by using the words “child soldiers” in our site’s search engine. To support the work UNICEF does to fight the practice of child conscription, make a donation at www.supportunicef.org.