Bill Melendez, who’s best known for bringing the Peanuts characters to life on TV and in the movies, was an astonishingly prolific animator whose 70-year career ended with his death at 91 on Tuesday. His vocation began in 1938 at Disney, where he worked on such classics as Pinocchio and Fantasia (and famously helped unionize Disney’s animation shop). He also worked on classic Looney Tunes shorts, animating such classic Warner Bros’ characters Bugs Bunny, Porky Pig, and Daffy Duck, and he worked at UPA, where he toiled on the Oscar-winning cartoon short “Gerald McBoing-Boing.” He made more than 1,000 commercials, including a 1959 Ford ad that featured Charles Schulz’s Peanuts kids. Six years later, he gave Charlie Brown & Co. their first primetime TV special, the indispensable A Charlie Brown Christmas, which earned him his first Emmy. (He won six altogether, out of 28 nominations.) Melendez himself provided the voice of Snoopy, who (being a dog) never spoke but made all kinds of funny, guttural cackling noises.
Melendez would go on to animate countless Charlie Brown TV specials and movies over the next four decades. In later years, he also brought Garfield and Cathy out of the funny pages and onto the small screen, and he helped revive such venerable characters as Frosty the Snowman and Betty Boop. You can get a good eye for his whimsical style in the “Portfolio” section of his website. Or you can just watch this classic Snoopy clip and marvel at how much Melendez could accomplish with minimal movement and dialogue.