Bill Melendez

Active - 1969 - 2015  |   Born - Nov 15, 1916   |   Died - Sep 2, 2008   |   Genres - Children's/Family

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Biography by Nathan Southern

Some animators remain forever associated with one creation or series of creations; this was particularly true for Bill Melendez, who remained closely tied to his majestic ability to bring Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts characters to life. Born Jose Cuautemoc in Sonora, Mexico, in 1916, Melendez studied illustration at CalArts (née the Chouinard Art Studio) and began his career at the age of 22, signing on as an animator with the Disney studios on such feature classics as Fantasia (1940), Pinocchio (1940), Dumbo (1941), and Bambi (1942). In subsequent years, he moved to Warner Brothers as an animator on Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig cartoons, then to UPA (ca. 1948), where he helped animate innumerable theatrical featurettes and commercials. Melendez's connection with Schulz arrived in conjunction with his UPA work doing advertising spots for the prestigious J. Walter Thompson agency; a big fan of the Peanuts comic strips, he hit upon the idea of using the characters to sell automobiles, a concept to which Schulz immediately warmed. The men experienced such an intimate and intuitive working rapport that they ultimately branched out into half-hour animated specials, several Peanuts feature films, and five one-hour Peanuts specials, plus countless additional television advertisements for companies such as MetLife. (Throughout his long tenure with Schulz, Melendez did double duty by making the non-verbal vocal noises emanated by two of the characters, Snoopy and Woodstock). Additional Schulz creations included animations of Cathy, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Babar, and Garfield on the Town. Melendez died at age 91 in September 2008, eight and a half years after Schulz. He was survived by his son, Steven, who ran Bill Melendez Productions after his death. Throughout his career, Melendez received 17 Emmy nominations and won 8; he also received an Oscar nomination in 1970 for writing the lyrics to the score of A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969).

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