Real Name: Pierre Culliford
|The Peyo signature that appears in the byline of the cartoon show title|
Pierre Culliford (June 25, 1928 – December 24, 1992), known as Peyo, was a Belgian comics artist, perhaps best known for the creation of The Smurfs comic strip from which the cartoon show is based. His work is being carried on by his son Thierry Culliford, who has currently adopted the pen name Peyo for all future works through Studio Peyo.
Peyo, pseudonym of Pierre Culliford, is known all over the world as the creator of the 'Smurfs', originally known as 'Les Schtroumpfs' in French. The origins of these funny blue dwarves lie in Peyo's medieval 'Johan et Pirlouit' series, that appeared in Spirou magazine during its glory days in the 1950s. The huge popularity of 'Les Schtroumpfs' resulted in an animated feature film, an extensive merchandise line, a Hanna-Barbara TV series, and a Smurf theme park in Metz, France (called Big Bang Schtroumpf from 1989-91, and Walibi Schtroumpf from 1991-2002, bought by Six Flags in 1998).
After his studies at the Academy of Fine Arts in Brussels, Culliford went to work at an animation studios. The studios soon folded, but it did leave him the acquaintance of his befriended colleagues André Franquin, Morris and Eddy Paape. Peyo decided to turn to the advertising profession, while creating his first comic for the daily Le Dernière Heure.
This first comic was 'Johan', an historical series about a page. In addition, he launched the gag series 'Poussy' in Le Soir. 'Johan' also appeared in Le Soir from 1950, but moved over to Spirou magazine two years later. There, the series got its definite look. Johan's blond hair changed to black and the somewhat dull main character got the hilarious side-kick Pirlouit. 'Johan et Pirlouit' became one of the most popular series of the magazine.
In the 'Johan & Pirlouit' episode 'La Flûte à Six Trous' (in 'Le Journal de Spirou' magazine, October 1958), the two heroes discover the strange blue dwarves called Schtroumpfs. There is a legendary anecdote about the creation of the name of these dwarves. Peyo and Franquin were having dinner in a restaurant, when one them asked the other for the salt. Instead of asking 'Passez-moi le sel', he asked 'Passez-moi le schtroumpf', and the name was born!
Spirou's chief-editor Yvan Delporte saw the possibilities of the 'Smurfs' and persuaded Peyo to create a spin-off. The first solo appearances of 'Les Schtroumpfs' appeared in Spirou's "mini-récit" section, starting in 1959. The success was immense, so Peyo eventually redrew these first stories in "normal size" and continued the series in Spirou's regular pages.
Although Peyo was successful with 'Johan et Pirlouit' and even more with 'Les Schtroumpfs', he also launched the 'Benoît Brisefer' series in 1960. This comic, about a small boy with superhuman strength which he looses when he gets a cold, has become another Peyo classic. Peyo also produced new 'Poussy' gags in Spirou and created on 'Jacky et Célestin' in Le Soir Illustré. The expansion of activities and the increasing popularity of the 'Smurfs' resulted in the foundation of Peyo's own art studios. Peyo would teach many of today's famous comic artists in this studios, including Walthéry, Derib, Gos, De Gieter, Benn, Francis, Kox, Desorgher and Wasterlain. In the 1970s, Peyo more and more let go of his other series, to focus on the 'Smurfs'.
The upcoming international success of the 'Smurfs' in the early 1980s led to a reorganization of Peyo's activities. The business aspects of the Smurfs (merchandising, the Schtroumpfs magazine, and his own company: Cartoon Création) were handled by his family members. Peyo was head of his 'Smurf' empire until his death in 1992. In 1992, the studios created new albums of Peyo's older series, such as 'Johan et Pirlouit' and 'Benoît Brisefer'. Their creator Pierre Culliford died the same year from a heart attack.
Peyo is at least referenced in-universe in the 2011 live-action movie as the Smurfs trapped in present-day New York City discover through the Internet and a magic book shop that their legend has been passed on into that age through him, that they basically have been likened to leprechauns who are supposed to give whoever they visit good luck. The Google page article found by Patrick Winslow in the movie lists Peyo as more of a documentator of the Smurfs rather than their creator.
- Peyo on Wikipedia.com