This is really quite stunning.
The people of Belgium have been left reeling by the first adult-only episode of the Smurfs, in which the blue-skinned cartoon characters' village is annihilated by warplanes.
The short but chilling film is the work of Unicef, the United Nations Children's Fund, and is to be broadcast on national television next week as a campaign advertisement.
The Unicef advert, which shows the Smurfs' village being bombed
The animation was approved by the family of the Smurfs' late creator, "Peyo".
The short film pulls no punches. It opens with the Smurfs dancing, hand-in-hand, around a campfire and singing the Smurf song. Bluebirds flutter past and rabbits gambol around their familiar village of mushroom- shaped houses until, without warning, bombs begin to rain from the sky.
Tiny Smurfs scatter and run in vain from the whistling bombs, before being felled by blast waves and fiery explosions. The final scene shows a scorched and tattered Baby Smurf sobbing inconsolably, surrounded by prone Smurfs.
The final frame bears the message: "Don't let war affect the lives of children."
It is intended as the keystone of a fund-raising drive by Unicef's Belgian arm, to raise £70,000 for the rehabilitation of former child soldiers in Burundi.
Julie Lamoureux, account director at Publicis for the campaign, said the agency's original plans were toned down.
"We wanted something that was real war - Smurfs losing arms, or a Smurf losing a head -but they said no."
The test audiences were shocked, but seem to be in favor of running the ad (without the decapitations). I suspect they would get a lot more resitance to running the equivalent on American teevee.
I have trouble believing that it's for real. It sounds like so many underground comics that I've read. I have no trouble picturing this as a sick parody. Imagine a Sam Pekinpah style slaughter in downtown Bedrock. It's not hard to visualize it as a joke. And yet, it appears that it is real.
What would be the American equivalent--something fondly remembered by grown-ups, but familiar to kids? Duckburg? Sesame Street?