The Latino behind 'A Charlie Brown Christmas'
The Christmas classic was directed by Bill Melendez, who had Mexican roots.
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A Charlie Brown Christmas was the first animated television special based on the cartoon Peanuts by Charles M. Schulz. The 30-minute short film was written by Schulz, directed by Bill Melendez, and released on the CBS network on Dec. 9, 1965.
Melendez directed the special at a time when few Hispanics were working in the entertainment business, and quietly worked on what is now one of the most beloved cartoons of the holiday season.
Melendez was born in Hermosillo, Mexico, and raised in Arizona and California.
The Mexican-American had previously worked for Disney, where he helped animate such films as Bambi, Dumbo and Pinocchio.
In 1964, he founded his own production company, Bill Melendez Productions, which brought A Charlie Brown Christmas to the public.
Schulz, writer of the story, insisted that Melendez be the person in charge of directing the project, for which he had only six months and a small budget.
Melendez used children's voices and the piano of jazz musician Vince Guaraldi for the soundtrack. He himself was given the task of dubbing the voice of Snoopy, a character who normally does not speak in the specials.
On Dec. 9, 1965, more than 15 million households tuned in to watch the Christmas special for the first time — more than nearly half of all television sets at the time, according to Smithsonian magazine.
This year, A Charlie Brown's Christmas aired in the U.S. on Dec. 19 on most PBS stations, and around the world via Apple TV+.
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