Longtime Peanuts Animator Dies

Longtime Peanuts Animator Dies
Nick Ut/AP

09/04/2008 AT 09:10 AM EDT

It’s a sad day for Snoopy fans.

Bill Melendez, the 91-year-old animator behind the classic Peanuts TV specials, died Tuesday at St. John's Health Center.

The Mexican-born Melendez began his career in 1938 as an animator for Walt Disney Studios – where he worked on the groundbreaking Pinocchio and Fantasia.

He and Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz became friends in 1959. In the years to come, Melendez became the only man trusted to bring the cartoonist's beloved characters to life. (He also provided the voice for Snoopy, Charlie Brown's pet beagle.)

Along with his partner Lee Mendelson, the animator went on to produce, direct or animate four "Peanuts" movies and some 70 TV specials, including the classic A Charlie Brown Christmas.

In later years, Melendez created specials based on the cartoon characters Cathy and Garfield, and oversaw an animated version of C.S. Lewis's The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

In all, his work earned 17 Emmy nominations, with eight wins. He was also received an Academy Award nod for composing the music to A Boy Named Charlie Brown.

Melendez is survived by his wife of 68 years, Helen, and his two sons, six grandchildren and 11 great grandchildren.

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