Mumbai: Bill Melendez, considered a pioneer in animation and best known for bringing the Peanuts characters to life, died early Tuesday morning, 2 September at St. John’s hospital in Santa Monica. Doctors said Melendez died peacefully. He was 91 years old preparing to celebrate his 92nd birthday in November.
With his trade mark handle bar mustache, Melendez was a phenomenal talent whose unique style and distinct sense of humor inspired a generation.
Melendez began his career at Walt Disney Studios and worked on Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi, Dumbo and classic Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoons. Years later, Melendez expanded his resume when he moved to Warner Bros. to animate other famous cartoons such as Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck and Porky Pig.
In 1948 Melendez left Warner Bros. and over the next decade and a half he served as a director and producer on more than 1,000 commercials and films for United Productions of America (UPA), Playhouse Pictures and John Sutherland Productions. It was at UPA that Melendez started doing work for New York-based J. Walter Thompson ad agency, whose clients included Ford Motor Co. The car maker expressed interest in using Peanuts characters to sell its cars on television. In 1959 Melendez prepared his animation work and showed it to Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz.
A partnership and friendship followed and as a result, Melendez gave the Peanuts kids life in more than 63 half-hour specials, five one-hour specials, four feature films and more than 372 commercials. Favorites include A Charlie Brown Christmas, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, She’s a Good Skate Charlie Brown, and You’re a Good Sport Charlie Brown. In addition to creating the cartoons, Melendez also provided the voices for Snoopy and Woodstock.
Over the years, Melendez also animated Garfield on the Town, Cathy, Babar Comes to America, and The Lion, The Witch, & The Wardrobe, among others.
Melendez won numerous awards and accolades including: 17 Emmy Award nominations and eight (8) Emmy Award wins, one (1) Oscar Award nomination, two (2) Peabody Awards, one (1) Clio, three (3) National Cartoonist Society Awards, and more than 150 Advertising Awards.