José Cuauhtémoc "Bill" Meléndez (November 15, 1916 – September 2, 2008) was a Mexican character animator, film director and producer, known for his cartoons for Warner Brothers, UPA and the Peanuts series. Meléndez provided the voice of Snoopy and Woodstock in the latter as well.
A native of the Mexican city of Hermosillo, Sonora, Meléndez was educated in U.S. public schools in Douglas, Arizona, and later in Los Angeles at the Chouinard Art Institute (which would later become California Institute of the Arts).
Disney and Warner Bros.
In 1938, Meléndez was hired by Walt Disney to work on animated short films and feature-length films such as Bambi, Fantasia, and Dumbo. While there, he worked to unionize the rank and file animators he was working with. A member of the Screen Cartoonists' Guild, he left as part of the 1941 Disney animators' strike and never returned as an employee, moving on to Leon Schlesinger Productions and its successor company, Warner Bros. Cartoons, along with Emery Hawkins, Basil Davidovich, and Don Williams, where he would remain until the early 1950s. On most of these productions, Meléndez was credited as "J.C. Melendez" and worked mostly for directors Robert McKimson and Art Davis.
UPA and commercial animation work
When the number of animation units at Warner Bros. was reduced from four to three in 1948, Melendez moved over to United Productions of America (UPA) where he animated on cartoons such as Gerald McBoing-Boing. Melendez also produced and directed thousands of television commercials, first at UPA, then Playhouse Pictures and John Sutherland Productions.
Bill Melendez Productions
In 1964, Melendez formed Bill Melendez Productions which produced the annual broadcast Christmas special A Charlie Brown Christmas, for which he won an Emmy Award and the George Foster Peabody Award despite having to work on short notice and with a tight budget. Meléndez performed the voice of Snoopy, who normally in the specials does not talk. Meléndez first started animating the Peanuts characters for a series of commercials in 1959 for the Ford Falcon, and it was during that time that he met Charles Schulz, the comic strip's creator. Melendez was the only animator authorized to work on Schultz's Peanuts characters.
Meléndez went on to do over 75 half-hour Peanuts specials, including the 1989 miniseries This is America, Charlie Brown, as well as four feature-length motion pictures – all with partner Lee Mendelson.
In 1979, he directed a made-for-TV animated version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe for Children's Television Workshop.
Amongst the other comic strip characters he animated were Cathy and Garfield, as well as the 1992 special Frosty Returns.
Melendez died on September 2, 2008 in Santa Monica, California. He was cremated.