Here’s The Mexican Immigrant Who Voiced Peanuts’ Snoopy And Woodstock
The more we dig, the more we are all learning of the Latinos who made the world what it is today. There are few places that have as many of these discoveries as entertainment. One often forgotten Latino trailblazer is José Cuauhtémoc “Bill” Meléndez who helped to create the most iconic cartoon special ever.
José Cuauhtémoc “Bill” Meléndez gifted us “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
Meléndez worked closely with Charles Schulz to help create the animated Charlie Brown classics we all know and love today. Born in Mexico, Meléndez had a storied career in entertainment and made a name for himself in the animation world. Meléndez was part of four Walt Disney classics: “Dumbo,” “Bambi,” “Pinocchio,” and “Fantasia.”
Meléndez became Snoopy’s voice by accident.
Meléndez was not cast to voice Snoopy. He worked with Schulz to created the animated works of Charlie Brown while Schulz focused on the comic strips. The two worked with an understanding that one could not do what the other brought to the table.
In an interview in the Archive of American Television, Meléndez tells the story of how he became the voice of Snoopy. It was nothing more than luck and a fast approaching deadline that make him the voice of America’s most popular canine.
“Happy accident. When we first started animating Snoopy and I wen to Schulz and I said, ‘You know, he talks. He’s got these balloons,” Meléndez says in the interview. “I had a whimsical actor here in Hollywood who had a great voice and I said to everybody, ‘This guy’s voice would be perfect for Snoopy. He should talk for Snoopy.’ I made some recordings of him reading some of the lines of Snoopy and I took them up the Schulz and he says, ‘What’s this?’ I said, ‘A voice for Snoopy.’”
Schulz was originally against Snoopy talking because he is a dog.
“So I went home and I said, ‘Well. Arf. Arf.’ I started making noises to imitate something that maybe I could give to an actor to use for him. I came up with an idea,” Meléndez recalls in the interview. “There was a lot of dialogue that Snoopy was talking, like in the classroom. So I said, ‘Let’s record this.’ I had them record at one-quarter speed. So I start saying, ‘Well, Charlie Brown. You are wrong. The teacher says for you to it down and to drop that ball.’ Then I told the engineer to run that fast for me. he ran it fast until he finally ran it at one-quarter speed and I said, ‘That’s it. That’s our voice for Snoopy.’”
The rest, as Meléndez says, is history.
Just another example of that Latino excellence that has always been here.
The Charlie Brown classic movies are part of so many holiday traditions. Fortunately, after a brief scare, they are all available to watch this year on television. Apple+ currently owns the specials but has decided to allow PBS and PBS Kids to air the specials this year. You can watch “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving Special” and “A Charlie Brown Christmas Special” on Apple+ from Nov. 25-27 and Dec. 11-13, respectively.
You can check out part of Meléndez’s interview below.
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