"Peanuts" animator Bill Melendez dies

Wed Sep 3, 2008 7:14pm EDT

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LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) - Bill Melendez, best known for bringing the Peanuts characters to life with such classics as "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," died Tuesday at St. John's Hospital in Santa Monica. He was 91.

Melendez, the only animator permitted by Charles M. Schulz to work with the Peanuts characters, earned eight Emmy Awards, 17 Emmy nominations, one Oscar nomination and two Peabody Awards. He began his career at Disney and Warner Bros., working on classic characters at those studios, and spent more than 70 years in the entertainment industry.

In 1948, the Mexican native left Warner Bros. and for more than a decade served as a director and producer on more than 1,000 commercials and films for United Productions of America, Playhouse Pictures and John Sutherland Prods.

It was at UPA that Melendez started doing work for the New York-based J. Walter Thompson ad agency, whose clients included Ford. The carmaker expressed interest in using the Peanuts characters to sell its cars on TV, and in 1959 Melendez prepared his animation work and showed it to Peanuts creator Schulz.

Melendez went on to bring Charlie Brown and his pals to the screen in more than 63 half-hour specials, five one-hour specials, four feature films and more than 372 commercials. In addition to perennial favorites "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (1965) and "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" (1966), Melendez produced the Oscar-nominated "A Boy Named Charlie Brown" (1971), "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" (1973), "She's a Good Skate, Charlie Brown" (1980) and "You're a Good Sport, Charlie Brown" (1975). He also provided the voices for Snoopy and Woodstock through the years.

Melendez also animated TV specials "Garfield on the Town," "Cathy," "Babar Comes to America" and "The Lion, the Witch & the Wardrobe," among others. He shared an Emmy in 1987 for outstanding animated program with three others for "Cathy."

His last credit was as a producer for the 2006 TV special "He's A Bully, Charlie Brown."

Melendez, who sported a handle bar mustache for decades, began his career at Walt Disney Studios and worked on "Pinocchio," "Fantasia," "Bambi," "Dumbo" and classic Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoons. He then moved to Warners to animate Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and others. He worked under the monikers C. Melendez and J.C. Melendez.

Bill Melendez Prods., its sister studio Melendez Films in London and Sopwith Prods. (Melendez's art distribution unit) will continue to animate, direct and produce features and commercials.

Melendez is survived by his wife of 68 years, Helen; two sons, Steven Melendez and (Ret.) Navy Rear Admiral Rodrigo Melendez; six grandchildren; and 11 great grandchildren. A memorial service will take place for family only.

Donations can be made in Melendez's name to Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

Reuters/Hollywood Reporter

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