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Bill Melendez, 'Peanuts' animator & voice of Snoopy puts down his marker at the age of 91

Posted Sep 29 2008 11:55pm

My husband and I had a wonderful opportunity to meet Bill Melendez and purchase his cels and sketches from his animated Peanuts cartoons. He was a friendly, funny, talkative, approachable, jovial man. I thoroughly enjoyed the time with him. We took a picture with him and he signed postcards for the artwork. He also demonstrated how "easy" Snoopy, Charlie Brown and Woodstock were to draw. My heart broke this morning when I saw the news on my computer. I feel very fortunate to have met Bill and to hear his stories about his work. I will miss him, but my thoughts are also with his family and those close to him as his presence just filled the room with joy.

The following is taken from this morning's Los Angeles Times article:

Bill Melendez, 'Peanuts' animator -- and voice of Snoopy -- dies at 91 -Business Wire


In his nearly 70-year career, the animator worked on Disne y films including 'Fantasia' and 'Bambi,' and Warner Bros. characters such as Bugs Bunny. He's best known for the 'Charlie Brown' specials.

Animator, director and producer Jose Cuautemoc "Bill" Melendez, whose television programs and theatrical films featuring Charles Schulz's "Peanuts" characters earned four Emmy Awards, an Oscar nomination and two Peabody Awards, died Tuesday at St. John's hospital in Santa Monica, according to publicist Amy Goldsmith. He was 91.

Melendez's career extended over nearly seven decades, including stints at Walt Disney Studios, Leon Schlesinger Cartoons (which later was sold to Warner Bros.), United Productions of America and Playhouse Pictures. In 1964, he establishedBill Melendez Productions, where he created his best-known works, including the holiday classic "A Charlie Brown Christmas" (1965). Over the years, his films were honored with two additional prime-time Emmys, three National Cartoonist Society awards, a Clio Award and 150 awards for commercials.

Melendez supplied Snoopy's laughs, sobs and howls. He experimented with making sounds that suggested a voice and speeding them up on tape.

In his nearly 70-year career, the animator worked on Disney films including 'Fantasia' and 'Bambi,' and Warner Bros. characters such as Bugs Bunny. He's best known for the 'Charlie Brown' specials.
By Charles Solomon, Special to The Times September 4, 2008
Animator, director and producer Jose Cuautemoc "Bill" Melendez, whose television programs and theatrical films featuring Charles Schulz's "Peanuts" characters earned four Emmy Awards, an Oscar nomination and two Peabody Awards,

"A Charlie Brown Christmas," which Melendez and his partner Lee Mendelson produced for CBS, established the format of the half-hour animated special -- and began one of the most popular franchises in animation history.

Animating Schulz's simple drawings posed problems. "Charlie Brown has a big head, a little body and little feet," Melendez said in a 2000 interview for The Times. "Normally, a human takes a step every 16 frames -- about two-thirds of a second. But Sparky's [Schulz's] characters would look like they were floating at that pace. After several experiments, I had them take a step every six frames -- one-fourth of a second. . . . It was the only way that worked."

"A Charlie Brown Christmas" won an Emmy and a Peabody; CBS has rebroadcast it every holiday season since. Breaking with tradition, the filmmakers used an upbeat jazz score by Grammy-winning composer Vince Guaraldi and real children for the characters' voices, rather than adult actors imitating children.

Melendez supplied Snoopy's laughs, sobs and howls. Schulz insisted that as a dog, Snoopy couldn't talk. Melendez experimented with making sounds that suggested a voice and speeding them up on tape -- assuming a professional actor would do a final recording. But time ran short, and Melendez ended up serving as Snoopy's voice in 63 subsequent half-hour specials, five one-hour specials, the Saturday morning TV show and four feature films. In his later years, Melendez chuckled over the fact that he received residuals for his vocal performances.

Working with Mendelson and Schulz, Melendez brought the "Peanuts" characters to the big screen in 1969 with "A Boy Named Charlie Brown." Time magazine reported that "when 'A Boy Named Charlie Brown' sticks to a boy named Charlie Brown, it becomes a good deed in a naughty world, bright, nonviolent and equipped with an animated moral, the way Snoopy is equipped with a tail."

Three sequels followed: "Snoopy, Come Home" (1972), "Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown" (1977) and "Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (and Don't Come Back!!)" (1980).

"Bill Melendez brought his special warmth, charm and directness to the Charles Schulz characters and brought them to life," animation historian and Oscar-winning filmmaker John Canemaker said Wednesday. Melendez also oversaw the first specials based on the comic strips "Garfield" (1982) and "Cathy" (1987), two adaptations of the "Babar" books, and an animated version of C.S. Lewis' "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe" (1979). Through the London branch of his studio, he directed "Dick Deadeye, or Duty Done" (1975), rewritten fragments of Gilbert and Sullivan operettas with designs by illustrator Ronald Searle.

Born in Sonora, Mexico, Nov. 15, 1916, Melendez moved with his family to Arizona in 1928, then to Los Angeles, where he attended the Chouinard Art Institute. He was one of the few Latinos working in animation when he began his career at Walt Disney Studios in 1939, contributing to the features "Pinocchio," "Fantasia," "Bambi" and "Dumbo," as well as Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck shorts.

Melendez was an active participant in the bitterly fought strike that led to the unionization of the Disney artists in 1941, after which he moved to Schlesinger Cartoons, animating Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Porky Pig and other classic Warner Bros. characters.

In 1948, Melendez joined United Productions of America and was delighted by the company's innovative approach to animation. "The animation we were doing was not limited, but stylized," he recalled in a 1986 interview. "When you analyze Chaplin's shorts, you realize people don't move that way -- he stylized his movements. We were going to do the same thing for animation. We were going to animate the work of Cobean, Steinberg -- all the great cartoonists of the moment -- and move them as the designs dictated.

"After animating numerous UPA shorts, including the Oscar-winning "Gerald McBoing-Boing" (1951), Melendez served as a director and producer on more than 1,000 commercials for UPA, Playhouse Pictures and John Sutherland Productions. In 1959, he directed the first animation of the "Peanuts" characters for a series of commercials advertising the Ford Falcon.

"What made working in commercials fun then was the quick turnover of ideas," Melendez said. "That speed was refreshing."

Melendez is survived by his wife of 68 years, Helen; two sons, Steven Melendez and retired Navy Rear Adm. Rodrigo Melendez; six grandchildren; and 11 great grandchildren. Memorial services will be private. Donations can be made in Melendez's name to Childrens Hospital Los Angeles.

Additional information from MSN news online:

SANTA MONICA, Calif. (AP) -- Bill Melendez, the animator who gave life to Snoopy, Charlie Brown and other "Peanuts" characters in scores of movies and TVspecials, has died. He was 91.

Melendez died Tuesday at St. John's Hospital, according to publicist Amy Goldsmith.

Melendez's nearly seven decades as a professional animator began in 1938 when he was hired by Walt Disney Studios and worked on Mickey Mouse cartoons and classic animated features such as "Pinocchio" and "Fantasia."

He went on to animate TV specials such as "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and was the voice of Snoopy, who never spoke intelligible words but issued expressive howls, sighs and sobs.

Melendez was born in 1916 in Hermosillo in the Mexican state of Sonora. He moved with his family to Arizona in 1928 and then to Los Angeles in the 1930s, attending the Chouinard Art Institute.

Melendez took part in a strike that led to the unionization of Disney artists in 1941, and later moved to Warner Bros., where he worked on Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and Daffy Duck shorts.

In 1948, Melendez left Warner Bros. and over the next 15 years worked as a director and producer on more than 1,000 commercials and movies for United Productions of America, Playhouse Pictures and John Sutherland Productions.

At UPA, he helped animate "Gerald McBoing-Boing," which won the 1951 Academy Award for best cartoon short.

Melendez met "Peanuts" creatorCharles M. Schulzin 1959 while creating Ford Motor Co. TV commercials featuring Peanuts characters.The two became friends and Melendez became the only person Schulz authorized to animate his characters.

Melendez founded his own production company in 1964 and w ith his partner Lee Mendelson went on to produce, direct or animate some 70 "Peanuts" TV specials, four movies and hundreds of commercials.

The first special was 1965's "A Charlie Brown Christmas." The show reportedly worried CBS because it broke so much new ground for a cartoon: It lacked a laugh track, used real children as voice actors, had a jazz score and included a scene in which Linus recited lines from the New Testament. However, the show was a ratings success and has gone on to become a Christmastime perennial.

The following are two YouTube videos. The first is an interview with Bill Melendez which is very good. For the second, I wanted to find something with Snoopy "talking" a lot, so this was the best I could find. However, I am not satified with it. I hope you enjoy it.







There is sadness in my heart today for I feel that I've lost a little of my childhood, but more importantly a warm spot in my heart for everything Peanuts. Rest in Peace Bill Melendez for you brought joy into this world and may your family be comforted by the blessings of the Lord.
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