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Tuesday, September 02, 2014

September 2, 2008

Hello, everybody!  I hope you're ready for another edition of the Tuesday Timeline - the very first one for September 2014!  And, I'll have to admit that September 2 isn't exactly the most exciting day that I've ever flashed back to.

(Yes, I had a hard time picking a suitable topic for today.)

That said, I think that you will like this one.  Although the Tuesday Timeline blog will once again focus on the last day of a famous person's life, what that person did in the world of animation will forever be immortalized.  You might not know the name when we first begin this blog, but by the conclusion, you'll understand exactly who he was.

For now, let's take a look at the other events that took place on the second of September.  And, this time around, we'll be focusing on quite a bit of history in the BC years!

47 BC - Cleopatra declares her son, Ptolemy XV Caesarion, co-ruler of Egypt

44 BC - Cicero launches the first of his Philippics attacks on Mark Antony

31 BC - Forces of Octavian defeat troops under Mark Antony and Cleopatra in the Battle of Actium

1666 - Ten thousand buildings are destroyed when the Great Fire of London breaks out

1752 - The Gregorian Calendar is adopted by Great Britain two centuries after most of Western Europe did the same

1789 - The United States Treasury is established

1792 - The "September Massacre" begins during the French Revolution

1859 - Electrical telegraph service is disabled due to a solar super storm

1862 - After the defeat of General John Pope at the Second Battle of Bull Run, President Abraham Lincoln reluctantly restores Union General George B. McClellan to full command

1885 - The Rock Springs Massacre takes place in Rock Springs, Wyoming, killing twenty-eight Chinese miners

1901 - "Speak softly, and carry a big stick" is uttered by Vice President Theodore Roosevelt

1912 - Arthur Rose Eldred is awarded the first Eagle Scout award of the Boy Scouts of America

1935 - A massive hurricane strikes the Florida Keys, killing 423 people

1939 - The Free City of Danzig is annexed by Nazi Germany following the beginning of the invasion of Poland

1963 - CBS Evening News expands from 15 minutes to half an hour

1973 - "Lord of the Rings" author J.R.R. Tolkien passes away at the age of 81

1987 - Sonny Bono announces his plan to run for Mayor of Palm Springs, California

1998 - Swissair Flight 111 crashes near Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, killing everyone on board

2005 - "Gilligan's Island" actor Bob Denver passes away at the age of 70

And, we have some celebrity birthdays to share today as well.  A very happy birthday to Marge Champion, Milo Hamilton, Chuck McCann, Mary Jo Catlett, Rosalind Ashford, Walt Simonson, Terry Bradshaw, Rosanna DeSoto, Mark Harmon, Jimmy Connors, Mario Tremblay, Keanu Reeves, Lennox Lewis, Salma Hayek, Tuc Watkins, Cynthia Watros, Cedric "K-Ci" Hailey, Shauna Sand, Erin Hershey Presley, Jason Hammel, Rob Ramsay, Shayla Worley, Xenia Knoll, and Montana Cox.

Okay, so what is the date that we will be revisiting this week?

Well, it's not that far away.  We're only going back six years in time to September 2, 2008.  And, as I mentioned before, this date marked the last day that our Tuesday Timeline subject lived.  But don't grieve his loss too hard.  He lived a good long life.  In fact, had he lived, he would be celebrating birthday number 98 in November! 

Yes, his passing on September 2, 2008 at the age of 91 was a sad moment in the world of animation - particularly in the world of Peanuts cartoons.  As many people were well aware, the creator of Peanuts, Charles M. Schulz had died eight years prior to this man's death, on February 12, 2000.  But when this man passed on, it truly marked the end of an era in the world of Snoopy and his friends.

You see, it was this man that helped bring Charlie Brown, Snoopy, Woodstock, Lucy, Linus, Sally, Schroeder, Pig Pen, Peppermint Patty, Marcie, and Rerun onto the small screen.  Through the dozens of television specials, the Saturday Morning cartoon "The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show", and many, many commercials for A&W Root Beer and MetLife.  Charles M. Schulz trusted him and ONLY him to bring his animation magic to the cartoon.  And in the cases of Snoopy and Woodstock, this man literally gave both characters their voices.

Oh, but that's just a small piece of what this man did.  

And today, we're going to learn more about legendary animator, film director, and voice artist Bill Melendez.

Born in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico with the given birth name of Jose Cuauhtemoc Melendez on November 15, 1916.  I'm not entirely sure how he shortened that to Bill, but that's a different tale for another day.

(Well, that, plus I couldn't find any sort of information on the name change.)

Anyway, Bill grew up attending American schools, and he developed his love of art rather early in life.  He was talented enough to attend the Chouinard Art Institute in Los Angeles, California (which has since been renamed the California Institute of the Arts).  And some of his earliest animation projects were based out of a couple of well known animation studios.  Would you believe that he worked for both Walt Disney Productions and Warner Brothers Cartoons?  Not many people can claim that they have worked with Mickey Mouse and Bugs Bunny, but certainly Bill Melendez could make that claim...or at least, he could claim that he worked alongside both iconic mascots.

Of course, his work with Disney dried up right around the time that Disney went on strike in 1941, which was when Melendez shifted over to Warner Brothers, working with famed animators Robert McKimson, Arthur Davis, and Bob Clampett.  By the time the 1940s ended, Melendez began working for United Productions of America, where he helped out in the animation process behind such UPA shows as "Gerald McBoing-Boing", as well as further supplementing his income by filming over a thousand television commercials.

By 1963, Melendez had enough money to start up his own company - in the basement of his house!  And it was right around that time that Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz was making huge plans to bring his creations to television.  Schulz had seen his work from prior projects and was absolutely intrigued by the man. 

So, Schulz hired Melendez to work on the animation for the very first Peanuts special to air on television, the 1965 classic "A Charlie Brown Christmas".

And so began a working relationship with the Peanuts gang that lasted forty-one years.

Believe me when I say that I have seen nearly every single Peanuts special ever made.  I have seen all the holiday ones.  I've seen the ones where Charlie Brown gets his heart broken by the little red haired girl.  I've even seen the one where Snoopy becomes Flashbeagle!  And to think that none of those specials would have been possible without the talent of Bill Melendez. 

Oh, by the way...remember how I mentioned that Melendez did the voices for both Snoopy and Woodstock?  It wasn't planned that way.  In fact, Melendez was quite content leaving Snoopy and Woodstock speechless.  But he relented, and he decided to give both characters a voice after all.

Would you like to know how he did it?  He would speak a lot of unintelligible gibberish into a tape recorder, and changed the speed of the recording depending on the character.  For Snoopy, he slowed it down.  For Woodstock, he sped it up.

And I should also note that Snoopy wasn't the only comic strip character that Melendez worked with.  He also produced the first two Garfield television specials that aired in the early 1980s.

And, Melendez continued working well into his eighties, with his last credited Peanuts special being "He's a Bully, Charlie Brown", which aired in 2006.

Although Bill Melendez passed away six years ago today, his work still lives on.  His vocal recordings of Snoopy and Woodstock have been archived and will be used in future Peanuts special, and he was survived by his wife of 68 years, Helen, and two sons, Steven and Rodrigo.  Steven currently is in charge of his father's production company.

Thank you for the childhood memories, Mr. Melendez.  Say hello to Charles for us.

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