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.
(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: