Remembering Bill Melendez

Bill Melendez, who’s best known for bringing the Peanuts characters to life on TV and in the movies, was an astonishingly prolific animator whose 70-year career ended with his death at 91 on Tuesday. His vocation began in 1938 at Disney, where he worked on such classics as Pinocchio and Fantasia (and famously helped unionize Disney’s animation shop). He also worked on classic Looney Tunes shorts, animating such classic Warner Bros’ characters Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and Daffy Duck, and he worked at UPA, where he toiled on the Oscar-winning cartoon short "Gerald McBoing-Boing." He made more than 1,000 commercials, including a 1959 Ford ad that featured Charles Schulz’s Peanuts kids. Six years later, he gave Charlie Brown & Co. their first primetime TV special, the indispensable A Charlie Brown Christmas, which earned him his first Emmy. (He won six altogether, out of 28 nominations.) Melendez himself provided the voice of Snoopy, who (being a dog) never spoke but made all kinds of funny, guttural cackling noises.

Melendez would go on to animate countless Charlie Brown TV specials and movies over the next four decades. In later years, he also brought Garfield and Cathy out of the funny pages and onto the small screen, and he helped revive such venerable characters as Frosty the Snowman and Betty Boop. You can get a good eye for his whimsical style in the "Portfolio" section of his website. Or you can just watch this classic Snoopy clip and marvel at how much Melendez could accomplish with minimal movement and dialogue.

Comments (10 total) Add your comment
  • mscisluv

    Thanks for pointing out his website. I can’t believe how much has accomplished!

  • Snarf

    And to think there are some that don’t think of animation as “art”.

  • Martha

    It really isn’t Christmas if I don’t watch the Charlie Brown special and listen to the Vince Guaraldi music ad nauseum. And the minimalist animation is amazing. Indispensible, indeed. RIP.

  • Stef

    Oh my gosh, he did Babar and Charlie Brown?! He practically was my childhood.

  • Al Fredo

    Martha – so true

  • Luis PJ

    shcok to hear is passing…he lead a wonderful life and hope he had fun with it.

  • Stephanie

    I stayed up late last night watching “snoopy come home” and forgot how great it was. it’s quite a sad little movie but with little dialogue and just watching snoopy walk all over town reminded me of being 5 and idolizing him. bill melendez will surely be missed!

  • Stephanie T.

    Snarf, I agree. Melendez was not only an animator but he was an artist. His illustrations were intelligent and moving. Today when you have CGI and all of these computer animation programs, while it makes things easier for an illustrator, at the same time it takes the artistic value away from the artist. You’re a good man Bill.

  • Eric Friedmann

    Peanuts TV specials clearly defined the holidays when I was a kid. I still enjoy them today. That was TRUE animation at its best. No computers and no bullsh*t!

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