Hispanic Heritage Month:
October 4, 2013
Name: Bill Melendez
Occupation: Animator, voice of Snoopy and Woodstock
Birth, death: Nov. 15, 1916-Sept. 2, 2008
Birthplace: Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico
(Photo: Ryan Watamura)
After being educated at California Chouinard Art Institute (CalArts), José Cuauhtémoc Bill Meléndez was hired by Walt Disney in 1938. Meléndezs father, a general in the Mexican army, gave his children Aztec names, according to the New York Times.
Mr. Meléndez worked as an animator on Fantasia, Pinoccio and Bambi, as well as many Mickey Mouse and Donald Duck cartoon shorts. After working with Disney, Mr. Melé ndez worked at Leon Schlesinger Cartoons, which later became Warner Bros. Cartoons. There he animated Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck, among other memorable cartoon characters, according to Bill Meléndez Productions, a company he formed in 1964.
Mr. Meléndez met Peanuts creator Charles Schulz in the late 1950s over a Ford Falcon automobile. Mr. Meléndez was speaking with the J. Walter Thompson advertising agency to produce an animated commercial for the car, and the Ford Motor Co. wanted to use Peanuts characters to do so. Schulz was unconvinced till he saw Mr. Meléndezs drawings, according to the Times.
The Times also pointed out that Mr. Meléndez was one of a very few Hispanics in the business when he started out in the 1930s.
Mr. Meléndez went on to produce TV specials, including A Charlie Brown Christmas, for which he won his first of eight Emmys. He also won a George Foster Peabody Award for Outstanding Children/Young Peoples Program, according to Bill Meléndez Productions.
Among his accidental accomplishments was how he became the voice of Snoopy and Woodstock. He recorded himself reciting gibberish, sped it up and voila.
Watch this interview of Mr. Meléndez with the Archive of American Television: