Thursday, September 4, 2008

Rest in Peace, Mr. Melendez

Like most folks of my generation, my introduction to art came in the form of hand-drawn animation: the movies and tv specials that peppered each year. I was sad this morning to hear of the passing of Bill Melendez, one of the great ones, known most of all as the animator of 70 "Peanuts" films and tv specials. He was Charles Schultz's number one guy for bringing his characters to animated life. "Charlie Brown Christmas" and "The Great Pumpkin" (my personal favorite) are just two of his creations; he won five Emmy awards for his "Peanuts" specials. He also won Emmys as the animator of the first "Garfield" and "Cathy" tv specials, and two Emmys for the animated version of "The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe" (which I remember very well) in 1979. Before partnering with Charles Schultz, Melendez worked for Warner Bros. animation studios and Disney. Before leaving Disney in 1941, Melendez drew for "Pinocchio," "Fantasia," "Bambi," and "Dumbo."

You can read more about Melendez's remarkable career here in his Washington Post obituary. Each time we lose one of the classic great animators, I can't help but think: they don't make 'em like they used to.


Anonymous said...

Sheramy, what a wonderful tribute to a gifted artist. I grew up on Peanuts and Disney films, and I'm sad to hear of Mr. Melendez' passing. And thanks for the link to his obituary. Animators deserve great respect, as they have excited and delighted our imaginations for many, many years. Peanuts rocks!
Thanks for the post.

Sheramy said...

Thank you, Claudia, for your comments! I think all of us of a certain age :-) grew up with Disney and Peanuts in a way that kids nowadays can't appreciate. The re-release of a Disney film in the theaters, in the days before vhs/dvd, was a Big Event! Great Pumpkin coming on tv every year was a Big Event! To my mind, the hand-drawn animation of the past (and that goes for all the 1940s/50s/60s cartoon shorts too -- Tom & Jerry was always my favorite of that genre) trumps the computer stuff any day and certainly deserves the respect and title of 'Art,' even though art historians tend to turn up their noses at it. Artists like Charles Schultz, Mr. Melendez, Walt Disney, etc were true pioneers!

I actually didn't know Melendez had drawn for Disney until I read his obituary. Very cool. 'Fantasia' is the quintessential masterpiece of hand-drawn animation, to my mind!

Margaret said...

Such a great animator--they certainly don't make them like that anymore! It's so interesting to watch old animated films--they look so different from the animation used today.

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