Animator Melendez dead

LOS ANGELES: Bill Melendez, the Emmy Award-winning animator of more than 70 cartoons featuring characters from the Peanuts comic strip, has died at a hospital in Santa Monica, California. He was 91.

Melendez died on September 2 and the cause of his death was not reported, according to a statement on his website. Melendez’s most famous work was A Charlie Brown Christmas, a half-hour special produced in 1965 that is still replayed every year on US network television. The show represented Melendez’s first attempts at animating cartoonist Charles M Schulz’s popular characters.

Under the pressure of a tight deadline he even voiced the beloved character of Snoopy. He went on to serve as Snoopy’s voice in 63 subsequent half-hour specials, five one-hour specials, the Saturday morning TV show and four feature films.

Melendez also animated more than 370 commercials using Peanuts characters and remains the only animator Schulz trusted to bring his famous comic strip figures to life.

Prior to working on Peanuts, Melendez drew many of the famous Disney and Warner Bros animated figures of the 1930s and 1940s, including Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, Bugs Bunny and Porky Pig, and worked on the film classics Pinocchio, Fantasia, Bambi and Dumbo.

Melendez won five Emmy Awards for his work on Peanuts. He also won Emmys for creating the first animated cartoons of Jim Davis’ Garfield and for animating CS Lewis’ The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

Melendez was born in 1916 in Hermosillo, Mexico and moved to Douglas, Arizona in 1928, and later to Los Angeles. He began drawing as a child. He studied at what is now the California Institute of the Arts and joined the Disney studio in 1938.