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Death of an Animator

The only person whom Charles M. Schultz authorized to animate his “Peanuts” characters, Bill Meléndez, died of natural causes at age 91 on Tuesday, at St. John’s Health Center in Santa Monica.

Melendez was born in 1916 in Hermosillo, in the Mexican state of Sonora. He moved with his family to Arizona in 1928 and then to Los Angeles in the 1930s, where he attended the Chouinard Art Institute.

Bill Meléndez began his nearly seven decades as a professional animator in 1938 at Walt Disney Studios, working on Mickey Mouse cartoons and the classic feature movies “Pinocchio” and “Fantasia.” Meléndez participated in a strike that led to the unionization of Disney artists in 1941. He later moved to Warner Bros. and worked on Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig and Daffy Duck cartoons.

Bill Meléndez met Charles Schultz in 1959 while making Ford Motor Co. TV commercials that featured characters from “Peanuts.” After he founded his own production company in 1964, Bill Meléndez and his partner, Lee Mendelson, produced, directed, or animated 70 “Peanuts” TV specials, four movies, and hundreds of commercials. The first TV special was in 1965, “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” which broke new ground for a cartoon – no laugh track, children as voice actors, and a jazz score.

The productions of Bill Meléndez earned 19 Emmy nominations, including six awards.

His wife Helen and sons Steven Meléndez and (Retired) Navy Rear Admiral Rodrigo Meléndez survive him, as do six grandchildren and 11 great-grandchildren.

All in all, a very fine legacy for a man who made so many people laugh….

-Bill at Cheshire Cat Photo™

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