'Peanuts' Animator Bill Melendez Dies

Correction Sept. 5, 2008

Some versions of this story incorrectly said that CBS has broadcast "A Charlie Brown Christmas" every year since 1965. ABC has been airing the program since 2001.

Bill Melendez, the animator who gave life to Snoopy, Charlie Brown and other Peanuts characters on the small and big screens died Tuesday. He was 91. Melendez animated TV specials such as A Charlie Brown Christmas and was the voice of Snoopy.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

One final note from the world of cartooning: The man who made Charlie Brown move onscreen has died. Bill Melendez animated 70 "Peanuts" productions. NPR's Alison Bryce has this remembrance.

ALISON BRYCE: Charles M. Schulz said the only person he trusted to bring his characters to life was Bill Melendez. Melendez got his start at Walt Disney and Warner Brothers in the 1930s. He went on to produce commercials. And he found his calling in 1965.

(Soundbite of song, "Christmastime is Here")

Unidentified Group: (Singing) Christmastime is here. Happiness and cheer. Fun for all that children call their favorite time of year.

BRYCE: "A Charlie Brown Christmas" won an Emmy and a Peabody, and has been rebroadcast every holiday season since. It had no laugh track, and used children to voice the characters. Melendez was the voice of Snoopy. He recorded gibberish and then sped it up to give Snoopy language without having to use specific words.

(Soundbite of TV show, "A Charlie Brown Christmas")

Mr. TRACY STRATFORD: (as Lucy Van Pelt) What's that all over your tongue? Yuck! Cat hair.

Mr. BILL MELENDEZ (Animator): (as Snoopy) (Makes noise)

BRYCE: Besides animating dozens of "Peanuts" specials and hundreds of "Peanuts" commercials, he also animated comic strip characters Cathy and Garfield. Bill Melendez died Tuesday of natural causes in Santa Monica, California. He was 91 years old.

Alison Bryce, NPR News.

(Soundbite of song, "Linus and Lucy")

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