Bill Melendez 1916-2008

Bill Melendez

Bill Melendez, the Mexican-born American character animator, film director, and film producer, best known for his animation for Warner Bros, UPA and the Peanuts specials and feature films, has passed away.

In 1938, Melendez was hired by Walt Disney to work on animated short films and feature-length films such as Bambi, Fantasia and Dumbo. Three years later, he joined Leon Schlesinger’s team at Warner Bros. studios, where, as a member of the Bob Clampett and Art Davis units, he animated on a number of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck shorts. Among the classic Warner Bros. shorts he animated on are Book Revue, The Great Piggy Bank Robbery, Baby Bottleneck, and The Big Snooze. UPA put him on their payroll in 1948 to work on many television commercials, as well as the Gerald McBoing Boing and Madeline shorts.

After a decade working on commercial and industrial films at studios like John Sutherland Productions and Playhouse Pictures, Melendez founded his own production company in 1964. Bill Melendez Productions helped produce the annually broadcast Christmas special A Charlie Brown Christmas, for which he won an Emmy Award and the George Foster Peabody Award despite having to work on short notice and with a tight budget.

Melendez has gone on to do over 75 half-hour Peanuts specials, including the 1989 miniseries, all with partner Lee Mendelson. In 1979, he directed a made-for-TV animated version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Bill Melendez(click on image for bigger version) Bill Melendez (far left) at UPA in 1953 during a story session for Ballet-Oop (1954). Other artists in photo from l. to r. are Jules Engel, Alan Zaslove, Frank Smith, T. Hee, C.L. Hartman and Bobe Cannon.

An 8-minute interview with Melendez posted on YouTube:


  • Mike Fontanelli

    Melendez was an animator on the Clampett unit at Warners. He worked on classics like The Big Snooze and The Great Piggy Bank Robbery. That’s (arguably) his richest legacy, even more so than the Peanuts specials, which I also love.

    Like Hirschfeld, he had “ageless cartoonist syndrome”, and looked all of 68 when he was closer to 90. I never got to meet him, but everyone I know that did loved him. The last Golden Age pioneer; I just took it for granted that he’d live forever.

  • http://weirdocorner.blogspot.com Weirdo

    Goodbye Mr. Melendez. Thanks for the memories.

  • http://deleted Kevin Martinez

    That’s tragic. His animation for WB was superlative, and his Peanuts specials were perhaps the best adaptations of any newspaper comic ever

    R.I.P., Bill.

  • Paul N

    Rest in peace, Bill

  • Rick Farmiloe

    Bill Melendez was the very first animator I ever met. I grew up in Santa Rosa, where Charles Schulz lived. I went to see him and told him of my interest in being animator. He put me in touch with Bill Melendez. My parents took me to see him here in LA in the mid-70′s. He must have spend 90 minutes with us, answering questions and giving great advice. He really put me on the right track….and was one of the nicest guys you could ever meet!! I would see him occasionally over the years and always thank him for spending so much time with me all those years ago. He was a great animator in Bob Clampett’s unit at Warners….but his legacy was giving life and movement to the Peanuts gang. His tv specials are continuing all these years later, and will continue to entertain millions all over the world. His lively spirit and integrity never diminished through the years. His disdain for the business guys (“Those no-nothings”) and his love for the ART of animation was truly inspiring. Another of the true animation pioneers has passed…..but his legacy and contribution to animation will certainly continue to live on. R.I.P. Bill.!

  • air

    had a lot of brilliant and harsh things to say about working with disney. (his interviews are still up on youtube i believe) i grew up with his version of the lion, the witch and the wardrobe which still holds up pretty well today, and a hell of a lot better than that crap disney version that came out.

    rest in peace.

  • Christopher Cook

    To think that CBS hated “A Charlie Brown Christmas” because it didn’t look or act like a typical cartoon, it had kids doing the voices and it had no laugh track (not to mention Linus quoting from the Bible). Only Melendez could have put in the magic that’s kept the special on for so long.

  • http://www.funnypagesprod.com Tom Bancroft

    Sad to hear. Melendez’s studio was my first character “animation” job in the industry! I did a couple character pose layouts for a Peanuts special back in ’88 and met Bill briefly. He is a legend and he employed many, many artists throughout the years. That is always something a person can be proud of. My prayers go out to his family.

  • http://inklingstudio.typepad.com/chronicles David Nethery

    Thanks for the great animation and inspiration over the years, Bill.
    We will miss you. Aloha.

  • http://classicshowbiz.blogspot.com Kliph

    Melendez was so great. Glad that rather than fade away toward the end of his life we got to hear his voice on the Looney Tune commentaries.

  • Liam Scanlan

    I’m glad his studio will still produce features and commercials according to the first article about his death I just read before I came here.

  • Mr. Semaj

    You see all the tumbleweeds?

    That’s because all of the major league players of Classic Animation are gone.

    GONE!

    ALL OF THEM!

    All of my memories watching Charlie Brown were made possible by Mr. Melendez and his long-term collaboration with Mr. Schulz.

    RIP

    :(

  • http://www.forthebirdsblog.blogspot.com Michael J. Ruocco

    What a terrific animator with such a great lasting legacy. He was (& still is) one of the few animators I really look up to.

    Thanks for everything, Bill!

  • Steve Gattuso

    Thanks for the childhood memories, Mr. Melendez.

  • Bill Perkins

    I first met Bill Melendez in 1976, a visit arranged for me by Bob Clampett. He took the time to sit down with me a dispense some truly good career advice. What I remember most was his studio. Two side by side bungalows in a well kept residential part of Hollywood. No fluff, nothing superfluous, no big board room, just a well kept neat and tidy small studio spread over what were formally two residences. Also nothing showy pointing out that they were even there. I was convinced holding the address that I had the directions wrong till I rang the bell. What I loved about him was he was an animators animator. Loved the art of it and stayed with it till the end. If there’s a Animation studio in the great beyond its the only place I can see him being. Rest in peace.

  • http://www.strugglingyoungman.com Shaw

    He was also the voice of Snoopy for those Peanuts cartoons.

    I have a lot of fond memories of those specials – thanks Bill! Animation is not going to be the same . . . I doubt that there will be any more Peanuts specials now…

  • Tom Minton

    Bill Melendez remained a cartoonist in his heart no matter what other hats he had to wear. I got to spend some time with him years ago at his studio on Larchmont. Bill had the energy of someone a quarter of his age when enthused about the creative possibilities of animation.

  • http://kitschensyngk.deviantart.com/ Kitschensyngk

    I have never let a holiday season go by without watching A Charlie Brown Christmas.

    I watched a lot of his Peanuts specials when I was growing up and I loved all of them.

    Bill Melendez was the most magical person behind Charlie Brown and Snoopy, second only to Mr. Schulz himself.

    He shall be missed.

  • Rat

    Thanks for all the graphic blandishments.

  • http://cheekyentertainment.blogspot.com/ Craig Clark

    Bill will be greatly missed. One of the nicest guys guys in animation, and a pleasure to work for. I’m forever thankful for the opportunites he gave me to work on those classic characters and shows. Rest in peace.

  • http://www.brooksillustration.com Micah Brooks

    I really enjoyed his commentary on the Looney Tunes Gold Collections. He showed such a great enthusiasm for the art.

    Rest in peace, Mister Melendez.

  • P.C. Unfunny

    I think he should have been a director in his years at Warners. Oh well, RIP old boy.

  • Sam Filstrup

    Just from listening to him from his commentaries he seemed to a very humble man. Thanks for the memories, I won’t forget watching his work while I grew up. Rest in peace Bill Melendez you’ll be missed.

  • Artisticulated

    “Thanks for all the graphic blandishments.”

    A smile and a tear.

  • Andrew

    I’m surprised at the complete lack of press releases online about this! He was one of the animators in US history who made a name for himself- I may be biased, since his work was played countless times in my family when I was a kid. I saw him on a Schulz retrospective documentary. :) Sad to see him go.

  • http://www.bishopanimation.com Floyd Bishop

    A great loss, but what a fantastic body of work to leave behind. The animation world is much richer for having had the talents of Bill Melendez.

  • http://doubleben.blogspot.com Emmett Goodman

    Your work is still being enjoyed by many, Mister. Melendez. Many more generations are discovering your contributions to animation, especially in Warner Bros. and Peanuts, and possibly many more.

    Thank you and rest in peace, Bill Melendez.

  • http://gavinscartoons.blogspot.com Gavin Freitas

    I met Bill in 2006 for a documentary I have been working on for June Foray. He donated his time to talk about her and man did he have some funny stories from Walt Disney, to Bob Clampett, he was great individual. I loved his animation on Clampett’s “Falling Hare”. If you own Looney Tunes Vol 3, he does commentary on it with some great stories about the studio. My heart goes out to his family and friends. What he did in a lifetime, most may never achieve. God bless you Bill, I miss you already…

  • http://www.itsthecat.com Mark Kausler

    Like so many others, Bill Melendez was one of the first animators I met out here in Los Angeles who would sit and talk to me, a young no-nothing. I’ll never forget a lunch we had together in his Larchmont studio many years ago. As we sat talking about cartoons, Bill ate an entire jar of red-hot yellow chilis without even a glass of water to wash them down! I think I tried one and had to drink about a gallon of water right afterward. Bill could take it and dish it out too! I think he realized his career was in the shadow of Charles Schulz, but it didn’t seem to bother him very much. He loved being an animator and cared a lot about his fellow animators. I can’t believe he is gone. I’ll always love you, J.C.

  • Pedro Nakama

    This is sad news. I remember back in the 80′s getting a tour of his studio, those 2 converted houses on Larchmont. I remember him telling me that when he would cast child voice actors for the Peanuts cartoons he would ask if they had a younger brother or sister so when one’s voice would change the other could take his place. SMART!

  • Ridgecity

    I feel this is the guy that made Charlie Brown and Snoopy so famous and loved even if he didn’t create them.

    Sad that he is gone, and hopefully all his works will be released for all his fans to watch again.

  • http://www.awprunes.blogspot.com/ Larry Levine

    The loss of Bill Melendez hits us on so many levels. Bill was part of animation history: whether it’s Disney, Warner Bros, UPA, the earliest animated television commercials or the Peanuts holiday specials we have all grown up with–Bill was there (both in creating these classic cartoons & fighting for the rights of his fellow animators).

    Most importantly, we have lost a true gentleman. I had the honor of meeting Bill several times & he was the real deal, the nicest person you would ever want to meet.

    Rest in peace, Bill.

  • Nicolas Orizaga

    nobody gives him credit for being a great Mexican-American animator? aside from the great legacy of animation he left behind, this is what i admire most about him…being able to compete and excel in a field that normally only hired white males for his position…one of a few that paved the way…rest in peace

  • Kent Butterworth

    I was fortunate to animate for Bill Melendez for a few months back in the late ’80s on “This Is America, Charlie Brown”. Bill gave me lots of encouragement and advice. I especially remember his lecture on the importance of “holds” in animation – how sometimes the right action to tell the story is no action. Bill was one of the last of the real “old school” of animators.

  • Charles H.

    Rest in peace Bill. And thanks not just for the cartoons, but also for those great stories about working at Termite Terrace.

  • http://animated-detour.blogspot.com/ Carlos

    A Boy Named Charlie Brown stands as one of my favorite movies. The cartoons he made were part of my childhood and inspiration, and I’ll never forget them. Thanks Bill Melendez.

  • Alfons Moline

    This thread could be titled “You´re an orphan for the second time, Charlie Brown”…
    J.C. ‘Bill’ Melendez was not just one of the very last survivors of the Golden Age of animation… he was also one of the last true ‘artisans’ of mainstream animation (as opposed to ‘independent’ animation), being able not to turn his studio into yet another ‘cookie-cutter’ factory, like unfortunately so many others… even his Saturday Morning ‘Charlie Brown and Snoopy’ series had a higher level than the remaining kiddie fare from the 80´s.
    He also had contributed to the animation industry here in Spain, since several ‘Charlie Brown and Snoopy’ episodes, as well as one third of the animation of ‘The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe’ (a shame that Disney´s current Narnia movies have overshadowed that delightful T.V. special, much as the live-action ‘Lord of the Rings’ trilogy has overshadowed Bashki´s version) were farmed out to Pegbar Productions, a studio in Barcelona headed by American Robert Balser. A number of then-fledgling Spanish animators (including Raul García, later a key animator on Disney features in the 90´s) benefited from that work, and are currently well-recognized names in the international animation scene.
    Rest in peace, José Cuahutemoc (I guess not many people know that J.C. stands for that) Melendez, and thanks for everything.

  • http://daryl-rhystaylor.blogspot.com Daryl T

    Thankyou Mr. Melendez. May your work be continued to be appreciated for all eternity.

  • http://www.shadowness.com/Novid Novid

    I am in tears. UTTER Tears! This is a giant of a man, that came at the time when everybody was going along just to get with the networks good graces. His Peak was around the same time Ceszar Chavez was fighting for workers rights – and I cant imagine why both men are rarely mentioned in the southwest and central LA…

    Oh wait – I see why.

    RIP Mr Melendez

  • http://www.animationinsider.net/ Aaron H. Bynum

    What a great mustache. What a great animator. What a great man.

  • http://segaltoons.com Steve Segal

    This is sad news. Bill was so full of life, I thought he’d never die. And of course he never will, as long as we can enjoy his wonderful work.

  • http://jasonswickportfolio.blogspot.com/ Jason Swick

    Rest in peace Mr. Melendez. You are a positive influence in the hearts of children everywhere.

  • top cat james

    When I was growing up in the early-mid 1970′s, nothing matched the excitement of hearing about an upcoming Peanuts special on TV. I can honestly say they were one of the highlights of my youth. Thank you so much, Bill, for all the treasured memories,and your great work for WB and UPA. Say hello to Bob Clampett, Tex, Chuck and Sparky Schulz for me.

  • Brad Constantine

    A great Artist who could match any style and make it alive. The Peanuts shows are the best example of not ruining the creators
    vision while pushing that vision forward into new ground. His Snoopy versus Red Baron sequence where he used the color so boldly is still one of my alltime favorites. I would sit in the toy store when I was a kid and watch that over and over on one of those Fisher Price hand crank movie viewers. He was also really nice guy who was always willing to share his secrets with anyone interested in knowing. His eyes would just sparkle whenever he talked about animation. He will be missed but never forgotten.

  • http://dailygrail.com/blog/8389 red pill junkie

    “I can draw!”. He proved it. And he got the job… that was definitely another age.

    Gracias Señor Melendez, y descanse en paz.

    PS: Cool “Zapata” moustache.

  • Hooper

    As great as “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” are, there are so many MORE ‘Peanuts’ specials I would LOVE to see on network television (unedited, of course!) again! “Charlie Brown’s All-Stars”. “It Was A Short Summer, Charlie Brown”. He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown”. “There’s No Time For Love, Charlie Brown”. “What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown”. When I was growing up…whether it was brand-new, or one I’d seen before…a Peanuts special was an EVENT!
    Thank you, Mr. Melendez.

  • Bruce

    Man, this was unexpected, and he looked like he was in good health for a man of his age.

    Besides his work during Hollywood’s Golden Age and his collaboration with Charles Schulz on the many Peanuts episodes and films, and the first Garfield Special, he was also strong in the field in character design. And let us not forget he provided the voices for Snoopy and Woodstock.

    So long, Bill. We won’t be forgetting about you anytime soon, or your magnificent moustache.

    From an aspiring animator/ artist

  • Mitch Kennedy

    OH man… He was around for this long, it was kind of like he was going to stay.

  • Rick Farmiloe

    The Schulz family is planning on releasing a lot of the tv specials on DVD in the coming months so be patient. You’ll be able to own these UNCUT versions soon.

    Stay tuned…..

  • http://willfinn.blogspot.com/ Will Finn

    i just heard the news and was thrown, like others have mentioned, he just seemed eternally vital and quite literally immortal. i never got to meet him in person but his amiable presence was always a plus on any interview or panel. and who else could have met the exacting standards of Charles Schulz so beautifully and effortlessly?

    he will be missed.

  • http://Mr.FunsBlog Floyd Norman

    This is truly the end of an era.

    How many of you have worked in studios where you could chat with the big boss almost anytime you wanted? There was a time you could. You could talk with guys like Bill, Friz, and Chuck. Heck, even Hanna and Barbera and Walt Disney. Somehow, I doubt many of you do that today.

    I never felt like an employee when I worked for Bill. It was almost like being a guest in his home. That’s the way studios use to be.

    Damn! I guess I’m getting old.

  • http://ryuuseipro.deviantart.com John Paul Cassidy

    I was very sad to read this news today. Bill was always one of my favorite animators, and an inspiration to me.

    Rest in Peace, Bill. You’ll be missed, always.

  • Rick Farmiloe

    Floyd

    Good point about being able to talk to ‘the big boss.” The point now is not so much being able to talk to the “big boss’ now……but whether you’d even WANT TO!! ;-)

  • steve w.

    I met Bill Melendez in 1978 when he was a guest speaker at Bernie Gruver’s animation appreciation class at USC. (Bernie worked for Bill as a designer on the ‘Peanuts’ specials.) Bill was like a dynamo, full of energy, in contrast to Bernie’s gentle, soft-spoken approach. It was fun knowing both of them.

  • catalina

    goodbye dear bill

  • Emperor Tomato Catsup

    Anyone else think that he looks just a tiny bit like Sergio Aragones (longtime MAD Magazine artist and co-creator of Groo) in that picture at the top?

  • Rookie

    Thank you Mr. Melendez for all your talent. I’m hearing Vince Guaraldi’s “Linus and Lucy” instead of a funeral march.

  • http://www.davemackey.com Dave Mackey

    There are, contrary to some posts in this thread, a handful of golden age animators still alive and kicking. Bill Littlejohn, who worked at Melendez’ studio, immediately comes to mind.

  • http://inklingstudio.typepad.com/chronicles David Nethery

    Re: Dave Mackey:
    “There are, contrary to some posts in this thread, a handful of golden age animators still alive and kicking. Bill Littlejohn, who worked at Melendez’ studio, immediately comes to mind.”

    Indeed, Bill Littlejohn comes to mind , as does Blaine Gibson who was a Disney animator and Imagineer. He’s still around , too.

    http://jimhillmedia.com/blogs/floyd_norman/archive/2008/06/24/toon-tuesday-getting-a-head-in-the-game-with-blaine-gibson.aspx

  • Chris Leonido

    Its sad to see Bill gone…We first lose Hanna-barbera, Heath Leadger, Bo diddley, and Now this happens….): Animation will porbally never be the same again…Rest in Peace Bill.

  • http://arebelcomics.blogspot.com/ André

    Gracias, Señor Melendez!

  • Joseph

    This remarkable man’s legacy should never be forgotten. His life’s work is beyond comparison and stands alone for all others who have come after to acknowledge and respect.

  • http://smomotion.com :: smo ::

    i’ve been drawing a little comic based on the early 70′s monster cereal commercials bill melendez’s studio produced and just wandered back at the brew to look at this again. those commercials are amazing and well designed! so much better than any for the same brand that came after. melendez’s commercial work more than holds up, it sets standards!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=ZF_Dhgisbys