Bill Meléndez has passed away

>> Thursday, September 04, 2008

I see in the news today that Bill Meléndez has died. Meléndez was the animator who directed the classic Peanuts animated features and television specials back in the day, including A Charlie Brown Christmas, and continued to produce Peanuts animated specials up through the past twenty years or so. Meléndez directed other animated specials and features, including the 1979 adaptation of C.S. Lewis' The Lion, The Witch, And The Wardrobe that was an annual part of many of our childhoods.

Before becoming a director and producer of newspaper strips-to-TV/big screen projects, Meléndez had a career at Disney and later at Warner Brothers as an animator. His work goes back to at least the early '40s, a sixty-something year run in animation.

Although A Charlie Brown Christmas is an innovative special in terms of its groundbreaking Vince Guaraldi score and deft, effective use of religious material (Linus' famous and moving recitation from Matthew), I'm not sure how to evaluate Meléndez's impact as an animator: i.e. Meléndez was never a Disney or Tezuka, nor (perhaps because so much of his work lay in adaptations) am I sure he had the distinctive flair of a Jones or Park. That having been admitted, judging Meléndez by what he was instead of comparing him to what he wasn't, he still remains a vital piece in any GenX-ers' childhood: if you were a kid who watched television between 1965 and 1985, you almost certainly grew up with Meléndez's prime work. Your seasons may indeed have been marked by Charlie Brown's Christmas, Thanksgiving, not to mention his Valentine's Day and--last but far from least--Halloween.

He was a part of my childhood landscape, and doubtlessly a part of yours; if you're an older reader, he was almost certainly something your kids watched, and maybe you watched with them.

So, if you raise a glass this evening, raise one for Bill Meléndez, who brought measured sobriety, thoughtfulness, and excellent music to children's entertainment.

From 1972's Peanuts feature Snoopy Come Home, here's a clip. In addition to directing and producing the film, Bill Meléndez also played another usual role--he's the voice of Snoopy.


Janiece Murphy Thursday, September 4, 2008 at 10:48:00 AM EDT  

"It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown!"

Thanks, Bill. You'll be missed.

vince Friday, September 5, 2008 at 10:10:00 AM EDT  

I've been a Peanuts fan since I was a kid, and still am. Meléndez' animation was perfect for those Charlie Brown specials, and I, too, will miss him, as I do Charles Shultz.

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