Good Grief
September 4, 2008 4:23 AM   Subscribe

Bill Melendez worked on such animated classics as Bambi, Fantasia, and Dumbo, and directed an animated version of The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe in 1979. However, he was best known as one of the animators who brought Charles Schulz's "Peanuts" characters to TV and film. Their collaboration spanned 40 years, starting with the legendary "A Charlie Brown Christmas" and eventually encompassing feature films and insurance commercials. Melendez died in his home on Tuesday morning. He was 91.

This famous scene from "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was almost removed from the show before it was broadcast; the opening from "It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown"; an old Ford commercial, starring Charlie Brown and Linus, and the opening credits for "The Tennesse Ernie Ford Show" featuring Lucy Van Pelt; 1986 commercial for MetLife.
posted by pxe2000 (29 comments total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
We told Schulz, 'Look, you can't read from the Bible on network television,' " Mendelson says. "When we finished the show and watched it, Melendez and I looked at each other and I said, 'We've ruined Charlie Brown.'"
posted by three blind mice at 4:40 AM on September 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Every year, without fail, I have watched the network broadcast of "A Charlie Brown Christmas" ever since I was two.

Godspeed, Mr. Melendez.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 4:48 AM on September 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

posted by rokusan at 4:55 AM on September 4, 2008

Wah wah wah wah-wah wahhh.

(Horn noises don't really work well in text.)
posted by Mr. Bad Example at 5:28 AM on September 4, 2008

Wasn't he also the voice of Snoopy?
posted by grubi at 5:30 AM on September 4, 2008

Yep, right there in the Wikipedia article on him:

Meléndez provided the voice of Snoopy and Woodstock in the latter as well.
posted by grubi at 5:31 AM on September 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Is this the thread where I temporarily applaud the supernaturalization of secular culture for sentimental reasons?

Great work on the animation, though. We just finished reading Lion, maybe we should check out this animated version.
posted by DU at 5:34 AM on September 4, 2008

Oh, dear. I have a terrible soft spot for that 1979 cartoon Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. They handled the story and characters really well, and just seeing this tiny thumbnail of Aslan's death makes me want to go back and hug my nine- or ten-year-old self: "Dummy, you read the books. You know it's going to be okay."
posted by steef at 5:46 AM on September 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

posted by Thorzdad at 5:47 AM on September 4, 2008

Well, 91, eh? He had a nice long run.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 6:13 AM on September 4, 2008

posted by Kimothy at 6:49 AM on September 4, 2008

Wikipedia: "Meléndez went on to do over 75 half-hour Peanuts specials..."

They did more than 75 Charlie Brown cartoons? I thought there was just Christmas and Halloween and... Christmas and Halloween and... and what? "January is National Careers in Cosmetology Month, Charlie Brown"?

Anyway, the real god of the Charlie Brown cartoons is Vince Guaraldi.
posted by pracowity at 7:14 AM on September 4, 2008


The recent Schulz bio looks at the Melendez-Schulz collaboration, and the man deserves credit for his accomplishments. Guaraldi's score is of course tremendous, but to a large extent, the animated Peanuts pieces that we recall are Melendez', serving Schulz' vision.


posted by mwhybark at 7:47 AM on September 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

Oh, and wamph wamph wa mammph mppgh mphh mm mph.
posted by mwhybark at 7:48 AM on September 4, 2008 [2 favorites]

''''' ''''' ''' ''''''''''
posted by parilous at 9:07 AM on September 4, 2008 [4 favorites]

I'm glad he lived a long life.

posted by batmonkey at 9:27 AM on September 4, 2008


A great talent.

They did more than 75 Charlie Brown cartoons?

Aside from the obvious, there's

It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown
What Have We Learned, Charlie Brown
It's Arbor Day, Charlie Brown
A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
There's No Time For Love, Charlie Brown
Snoopy Come Home
What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown
It's Magic, Charlie Brown
Charlie Brown's All-Stars
A Charlie Brown Celebration (I think this one was an hour)
This is America, Charlie Brown series
The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show series

and that's just off the top of my head.

Anyway, the real god of the Charlie Brown cartoons is Vince Guaraldi.

Perhaps, but John Scott Trotter deserves credit too, for taking over after Guaraldi bowed out.
posted by Dr-Baa at 9:40 AM on September 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

I hate the animated specials. To me they signified a long ruinous relationship with a season I was disconnected from. For me, what people called Christmas was a time of tumultuous emotions which I as a child was ill-equipped to deal with.

The pacing of the story—lull, lull, emotional bump, lull, lull, emotional bump, lull, lull—was especially tortuous. It was the very pregnant build-up, leading-up to one of the most heavy-handed climax in modern story-telling: Linus' preachy soliloquy, equal in pedantry to anything George Bush delivered post-9/11.

Considering all the turmoil the hero fool-of-fate has experienced, his feeble smile at the end speaks not of resolution but of uncertainty, and of a reality which is both adversarial and unpredictable.

This was Christmas with my family-then in a nutshell. The cartoon haunted me. The music still makes me physically nauseous.

posted by humannaire at 9:52 AM on September 4, 2008

Count me in among those who watch the Christmas and Halloween specials every year. I'm going to be forty and I still grab a blanket and popcorn as part of my viewing ritual.

posted by gummi at 10:28 AM on September 4, 2008

The music still makes me physically nauseous.


humannaire, of all the humannaires in the world, you're the humannairiest.
posted by grubi at 10:44 AM on September 4, 2008 [3 favorites]

Curse you, Red Baron old age.
posted by schoolgirl report at 10:57 AM on September 4, 2008

"Good Grief", such an excellent use of that phrase pxe2000.

Anybody who had anything to do with creating Dumbo is beloved in my book. aww Dumbo.

wow. He won over 400 international awards in a career spanning seven decades. He animated Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig too. He had a fun website. Guess his son, Steven, will take over now, as he has his own animation studio in London.

What a lovely face he had, seriouslytwinkly. Quite interesting videos of him with entertaining history of animation in the USA tidbits. Video second part. I like his accent too.

He had such artistic finesse in working with the character of the original cartoon, animating them in keeping with the original.

Besides the Peanuts figures, the jovial artist also created the first animated cartoons of Jim Davis's Garfield the cat and Cathy Guisewite's character Cathy, for which he won two Emmys.

And he was Mexican born, working in a time of such racism in the USA, he must have had cojones to succeed so well, along with his talent. He went from working in a lumber mill to Disney. Great story. He must have been proud too that his son was Rear Admiral Rodrigo C. Melendez. It sounds like he had a happy, satisfying, creatively fulfilled life and died peacefully at an old age with an accomplished family. Really nice to hear about.
posted by nickyskye at 11:04 AM on September 4, 2008 [1 favorite]

posted by Smart Dalek at 12:09 PM on September 4, 2008

He won.
posted by orange swan at 1:23 PM on September 4, 2008


posted by welephant at 1:44 PM on September 4, 2008

He contributed some commentaries to the Golden Collection DVDs of classic Warner Bros. cartoons. It was delightful to listen to the enthusiasm in his voice as he pointed out the work of various collaborators.
posted by evilcolonel at 2:25 PM on September 4, 2008

posted by Quidam at 2:47 PM on September 4, 2008

I liked the article in PopMatters a few years ago called "The Lonely Tree" on the Christmas special. 91 is a great run in life. RIP, dear sir.
posted by sleepy pete at 11:15 PM on September 4, 2008

Opening sequence from A Boy Named Charlie Brown, the best of the feature length films.
posted by Atom Eyes at 9:55 AM on September 5, 2008

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