José Cuauhtémoc Meléndez
November 15, 1916
|Died||September 2, 2008 (aged 91)|
Santa Monica, California, United States
|Other names||C. Melendez|
|Occupation||Animator, film director, producer, voice actor|
Helen Melendez (m. 1940)
|Children||2; including Steven C. Melendez|
José "Bill" Cuauhtémoc Meléndez (November 15, 1916 – September 2, 2008) was a Mexican–American character animator, voice actor, film director and producer known for his cartoons for Walt Disney Productions (working on four Disney films Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo and Bambi), Warner Bros. Cartoons, UPA and the Peanuts series. Melendez provided the voices of Snoopy and Woodstock in the latter as well. In a career spanning over 60 years, he won six Primetime Emmy Awards and was nominated for thirteen more. In addition, he was nominated for an Oscar and five Grammy Awards. The Peanuts television specials, A Charlie Brown Christmas and What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown?, which he directed, were each honored with a Peabody Award.
A native of Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, Melendez was educated in American public schools in Douglas, Arizona. He later attended the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles (which would later become California Institute of the Arts).
Disney, Warner Bros., UPA and commercial animation work
On completion of his studies, he was hired by Disney in 1938 where he worked on what are now considered classics: Pinocchio, Fantasia, Dumbo, and Bambi. Following the 1941 Disney strike, Bill was hired by Leon Schlesinger Productions, later known as Warner Bros. Cartoons, where he served as animator on the Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies series. He worked in Bob Clampett's unit until Clampett's departure, upon which he moved to the Arthur Davis unit. When the number of animation units at Warner Bros. was reduced from four to three in 1948, Melendez, moved to Robert McKimson's unit for a time.
After animating a few shorts under McKimson’s belt, Bill was fired by producer Edward Selzer for his political beliefs. Afterwards, he moved over to United Productions of America (UPA) where he animated on cartoons such as Gerald McBoing-Boing (1950). Melendez also produced and directed thousands of television commercials, first at UPA, then Playhouse Pictures and John Sutherland Productions. In 1963, Melendez founded his own studio in the basement of his Hollywood home. Bill Melendez Productions is still active and is currently run by his son Steven C. Melendez. In addition to animation, Melendez was once a faculty member at the University of Southern California's Cinema Arts Department.
Peanuts TV specials, movies and TV shows
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Melendez was the only person Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz trusted to turn his popular comic creations into television specials. He and his studio worked on every single television special and direct-to-video film for the Peanuts gang and Melendez directed the majority of them. He even provided the vocal effects for Snoopy and Woodstock in every single production, voice acting the characters in the studio by uttering gibberish, and the voices were mechanically sped up at different speeds to represent the two different characters.
According to an article in The New York Times published shortly after his death, Melendez did not intend to do voice acting for the two characters. "Schulz would not countenance the idea of a beagle uttering English dialogue, Mr. Melendez recited gibberish into a tape recorder, sped it up and put the result on the soundtrack.“ He also directed, did the animation for, and provided voice acting in the first four Peanuts theatrical films, A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969), Snoopy, Come Home (1972), Race for Your Life, Charlie Brown (1977), and Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown (1980), as well as the video games Get Ready for School, Charlie Brown! (1995) and Snoopy's Campfire Stories (1996). The last Peanuts-related production he worked on was He's a Bully, Charlie Brown (2006).
Melendez and Lee Mendelson, who also worked on the Peanuts specials, films, and TV shows, formed their own production team and did other animated specials. They were responsible for the first two Garfield animated specials, Here Comes Garfield (1982) and Garfield on the Town (1983), as well as Frosty Returns (1992), the pseudo-sequel to Rankin/Bass' Frosty the Snowman (1969).
National Student Film Institute
On September 2, 2008, Melendez died at his home in Santa Monica at the age of 91. He had been in declining health after a fall a year earlier. No cause of death was made public. Melendez was cremated and his ashes were given to his family.
Posthumous return to Peanuts
Archive recordings of his work as Snoopy and Woodstock were used for the film The Peanuts Movie. This makes him the only member of the film's cast to have been involved in a previous Peanuts project, save for Kristin Chenoweth, who won a Tony Award for her performance as Sally Brown in You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown on Broadway.
- Melendez Films – Animation division : United Kingdom, video and interactive entertainment
- "Peanuts' animator Melendez dies". BBC. September 4, 2008. Archived from the original on September 6, 2008. Retrieved September 4, 2008.
- "Bill Melendez, Comics Creator, Businessman and Peanuts Animator". thecartoonists.ca.
- "Robert McKimson's "A Ham In A Role"". cartoonresearch.com.
- Solomon, Charles (September 4, 2008). "Animator of 'Peanuts' TV specials and voice of Snoopy". The Los Angeles Times.
- "Bill Melendez Prod. Inc". billmelendez.tv.
- "Bill Melendez at Moby Games". Retrieved 2017-10-29.
- Editor (June 10, 1994). National Student Film Institute/L.A: The Sixteenth Annual Los Angeles Student Film Festival. The Directors Guild Theatre. pp. 10–11.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- Editor (June 7, 1991). Los Angeles Student Film Institute: 13th Annual Student Film Festival. The Directors Guild Theatre. p. 3.CS1 maint: extra text: authors list (link)
- Fox, Margalit (September 4, 2008). "Bill Melendez, 91, 'Peanuts' Animator, Dies". The New York Times.
- Russ Fischer. "New 'Peanuts' Movie First Look: Charlie Brown and Snoopy Head Back to the Big Screen". Slashfilm.
- "Bill Melendez". Find a Grave. Retrieved August 11, 2010.
- Bill Melendez on IMDb
- Bill Melendez Productions Inc.
- Bio of Bill Melendez on Chuck Jones site
- Interview of Melendez (August '06)
- Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the gang flowed with good grief from his pen
- The Washington Post: Bill Melendez, 91; Award-Winning 'Peanuts' Animator
- Los Angeles Canyon News: Peanuts" Animator Bill Melendez Dies At Age 91
- Variety Magazine: Animator Bill Melendez dies at 91
- Bill Melendez at The Interviews: An Oral History of Television
- The Independent: Bill Melendez: Animator who worked on Disney classics and adaptations of the 'Peanuts' cartoons