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Pierre Culliford aka. Peyo (1928 –1992), The Legendary Cartoonist Who Brought the Smurfs to Life

l auteur des schtroumpfs peyo en 1991 photo sipa facelly 1679030552 - Pierre Culliford aka. Peyo (1928 –1992), The Legendary Cartoonist Who Brought the Smurfs to Life

Pierre Culliford (June 25, 1928 – December 24, 1992) was a Belgian comics author and illustrator. He used the pen name Peyo. The Smurfs and Johan and Peewit, in which the Smurfs originally appeared, are two of his best-known comic book series.


Culliford, the son of an English father and a Belgian mother, was born in 1928 in the Belgian town of Schaerbeek. Culliford wed Nine Culliford in 1952. Véronique and Thierry are their two children. [ez-toc]


Early in his professional life, Culliford adopted the moniker “Peyo” after hearing his English relative mispronounce Pierrot, a short version of Pierre.

After a brief stint at the tiny, short-lived Belgian animation firm Compagnie Belge d’Actualités (CBA), Peyo started creating comic strips for daily newspapers like Le Soir soon after World War II. He introduced his character Johan to the magazine Spirou at the start of the 1950s, and shortly after that, he gave him a friend named Peewit.

The comic strip quickly established itself as a mainstay of the weeklies. Peyo first created the Smurfs in 1958’s The Magic Flute as part of the Johan and Peewit plot. The characters swiftly overtook Johan and Peewit in popularity, leaving them behind for their own series.


To house his helpers, including François Walthéry, Gos, and Marc Wasterlain [fr], Peyo established a studio in 1960. He then developed the television shows Steven Strong, Jacky, and Célestin [fr]. His time on The Smurfs and the Magic Flute (1976), a movie adaptation of the Johan and Peewit short story “La flûte à six schtroumpfs,” caused Peyo’s output to decline in the 1970s.
However, in the 1980s, despite ongoing health issues, he continued to devote more time to an American animated television series based on The Smurfs. To start his own publishing company, Cartoon Creation, and a cartoon magazine, Schtroumpf! Once he finished the series, he quit his publisher, Dupuis. However, Schtroumpf! Needed to owe to organizational issues.

A few months after he joined Le Lombard in 1992, he passed away. Peyo’s offspring have promoted his work under “Peyo” since passing.

Pierre Culliford aka. Peyo (1928 –1992)

Peyo started working at the Compagnie belge d’actualités (CBA), a tiny Belgian animation studio, just after finishing his studies at the Académie Royale des Beaux-Arts in Brussels. He made friends who would become his future coworkers and superstars there, including André Franquin, Morris, and Eddy Paape.

The other painters went to work for Dupuis when the studio closed after the war, but Peyo, who was a few years younger than the rest, was not welcomed. He created his comics for the La Dernière Heure (The Latest Hour) newspaper and took on several promotional drawing projects to supplement his income.
He created Poussy, a gag-a-day comic about a cat, for Le Soir from 1949 to 1952. Furthermore, he also made Johan for the same publication.

Franquin introduced Peyo to Spirou, a Dupuis children’s French-Belgian comic book magazine, in 1952. Peyo creates several characters and plots, notably Pierrot and Benoît Brisefer (also known as Steven Strong in English). But his favorite was the continuation of the Johan series he had previously produced, Johan et Pirlouit (or Johan and Peewit in English). In Spirou, he also continued Poussy.

The movie Johan et Pirlouit, set in the Middle Ages in Europe, features a courageous young page to the king and his devoted, albeit arrogant and dishonest, dwarf sidekick. Peewit gallops intermittently behind on his goat, named Biquette, while Johan goes off to guard the weak on his dependable horse. The two were motivated by loyalty to their monarch and the fortitude to stand up for the vulnerable. Peewit only appeared in the third adventure in 1954 but remained for all subsequent experiences.


On October 23, 1958, Johan and Peewit released the record La Flûte à Six Schtroumpfs (The Six Smurfed Flute), which featured the first Smurf. Early in the 1960s, Peyo opened a studio where many excellent comic book artists began to work as the Smurfs gained popularity. The Smurfs left for the studio, and Peyo oversaw the production while focusing primarily on Johan and Peewit. Walthéry, Marc Wasterlain [fr], Roland Goossens [nl] (Gos), Derib, Lucien De Gieter [nl], and Daniel Desorgher [nl] are the most well-known artists to have emerged from this studio.

peyo schtroumpffinancier - Pierre Culliford aka. Peyo (1928 –1992), The Legendary Cartoonist Who Brought the Smurfs to Life

The Smurfs had their television show in 1959, and two more, Steven Strong and Jacky and Célestin, premiered in 1960. Willy Maltaite (also known as “Will”), Yvan Delporte, and Roger Leloup were only a few of the Marcinelle school authors that worked together on the writing or the artwork. Peyo became less involved in the actual development of the comics and more of a manager and businessman. While his daughter Véronique was in charge of the merchandise (IMPS by her in 1985), he let his son Thierry Culliford run the studio.

The Smurfs’ merchandise first appeared in 1959, with PVC figurines dominating sales until the late 1970s. Then, with the success of Pierre Kartner’s The Smurfs albums, the Smurfs had more popularity on a global scale, sparking a new wave of products and technology.

Some of them made it to the US, where in 1981, Hanna-Barbera produced an animated Saturday morning program with Peyo serving as story supervisor. Peyo’s health started to decline. After his association with Dupuis ended, he founded Cartoon Creation in 1989 to release new Smurf tales. The business closed its doors in late 1991 due to poor management. Le Lombard immediately purchased the publication rights.

Peyo, 64, passed away in Brussels on Christmas Eve 1992 after a heart attack. His name has produced new episodes of various programs, and his studio is still in operation.

Peyo played a researcher who looked into the mythology surrounding the Smurfs, who were shown in the tale as legendary creatures in actuality, in the 2011 movie The Smurfs.

Read more: The History of Smurfs, Discover the Incredible History of These Beloved Blue Characters!

Awards and honors

  • He won the Youth Prize (9–12 years) in the French festival for comics in Angoulême in 1984.
  • The Belgian 5 euro 50th anniversary of The Smurfs commemorative coin, struck in 2008, was issued to commemorate both the 50th anniversary of The Smurfs and the 80th anniversary of the birth of its author.

FAQ about Peyo

Who is Pierre Culliford?

Pierre Culliford is a Belgian cartoonist who is better known by his pen name Peyo. He was born on June 25, 1928, in Brussels, Belgium.

What is Peyo best known for?

Peyo is best known for creating the iconic blue characters, the Smurfs.

When did Peyo create the Smurfs?

Peyo created the Smurfs in 1958.

What other cartoon characters did Peyo create?

Peyo created dozens of beloved cartoon characters and series, including Johan and Peewit, Benny Breakiron, and Jacky and Célestin.

What was Peyo's career like before creating the Smurfs?

Before creating the Smurfs, Peyo worked as a cartoonist for a variety of Belgian magazines and newspapers.

What was Peyo's legacy?

Peyo is remembered as one of the most influential cartoonists of the 20th century, and his creations continue to captivate audiences of all ages around the world.

When did Peyo pass away?

Peyo passed away on December 24, 1992, at the age of 64.


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Written by Arifur Rahman

Cartoonist, Animator, Illustrator, and Publisher of Toons Mag.

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