Jose Cuauhtémoc (Bill) Melendez was educated in Arizona and then later at the Chouinard Art Institute, known now as CalArts. Hired by Walt Disney in 1938, Bill contributed his talents to such projects as Fantasia, Dumbo, Pinnocchio and Bambi. Bill was one of the prime movers of the Disney strike of 1941.
In 1942, Bill moved himself over to Leon Schlesinger Cartoons (AKA Warner Brothers Cartoons), and in 1948 he went to work for United Productions of America (UPA). During this period, he won over 150 awards. In 1960, works he directed won 18 awards at the American TV Commercial Festival, which only gave out 20 awards that year.
Bill founded his own production company, Bill Melendez Productions, Inc., in 1964. Besides his commercial work, Bill produced his first television special, A Charlie Brown Christmas, and received both an Emmy Award (the first of eight) and the prestigious George Foster Peabody Award for Outstanding Children’s Program.
In international competition, he received an honorable mention in the 1965 Cannes International Advertising Film Festival. Bill received two dozen major foreign honors from Edinburgh, London, Annecy, Tours and Venice Festivals, finally bringing home The Venice Cup. This was the first time the United States had ever won the Cup, symbolic of overall excellence, in the festival’s history.
In addition to numerous awards and nominations for his Peanuts work, Bill won an Emmy in 1975 for Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus; an Emmy (the first awarded in the specific category of Animation) for The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe, as well as an individual Emmy for authoring that show’s script.
Bill Melendez Productions was the first to animate Jim Davis’ Garfield the Cat, and that first special won an Emmy Award in 1982. In 1987, Bill took on the character Cathy by Cathy Guisewite, and won a Best Animated Special Emmy for that show.
He was a past faculty member of the University of Southern California in the Cinema Arts Department. Bill lived in Los Angeles until his death in 2008 at the age of 91. Bill has two grown sons, six grandchildren and fourteen great grandchildren.
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