Bill Melendez (November 15, 1916 – September 2, 2008) was one of America’s most influential and legendary cartoon animators. Melendez worked continuously in film production since he was first hired by Walt Disney in 1938. As a Disney animator, his exceptional talent was featured in works such as Fantasia and Bambi, as well as many Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoons shown in movie theaters.
In 1941, Melendez left Disney and signed with Leon Schlesinger Cartoons – which later became Warner Brothers. There he worked on the classic cartoons from the Golden Age of Animation, starring Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, and Porky Pig. Melendez left Warner Bros in 1948 to work with United Productions of America. There he won international acclaim as an animator for the film shorts Gerald McBoing-Boing (1950) and Madeline (1952).
Melendez moved on again to join Playhouse Productions where he directed and animated thousands of industrial films and commercials. During a ten year period he won over 150 commercial awards for his work. In 1961, 18 of the 20 awards given at the American TV Commercials Festival were won by Bill Melendez! It was while creating a series of commercials for the 1960 Ford Falcon that Melendez first met Charles Schulz. Together they worked to animate the Peanuts characters to star in the Ford commercials, which were used as a lead-in to the popular Tennessee Ernie Ford Show.
In 1964, Melendez founded his own production studio – Bill Melendez Production, Inc. Shortly thereafter, Melendez and Charles Schulz collaborated to produce the now classic television special, A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965). Not only did Melendez animate and direct the Emmy and Peabody Award winning special, but he also provided the voice for Snoopy. Their working relationship became legendary, producing more than 30 TV specials and four theatrical films together.
Melendez Studios continued to win acclaim during the 1970s and 1980s with numerous awards which included Emmy’s for Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus and The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe. Bill Melendez Productions was the first to animate Jim Davis’ Garfield the Cat and Cathy Guisewite’s Cathy, both of which also won Emmy Awards. The last Peanuts related production that Melendez worked on was He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown, in 2006.