When it comes to canine cartoon characters in pop culture, you can’t get much more famous than the loveable and loyal Snoopy from Charles M. Schulz’s Peanuts franchise. The black and white beagle has been making people smile since his debut in a 1950 comic strip. Since then, Snoopy has brought fans of the series joy in everything he’s featured in–from TV specials to movies to live stage productions.
But did you know, ever since Snoopy appeared for the first time in animated form on TV in the late-1950s, his voice has been provided by Mexican-American character animator, film director and producer José Cuauhtémoc “Bill” Meléndez? Meléndez, who was born in Hermosillo, Sonora, Mexico, called it a “happy accident” that he landed the voice gig when his team was up against a deadline and used some of the recordings he had made just testing out the sounds a character like Snoopy might make.
“When I showed it to [Schulz], he said, ‘Yeah, that’s good…That’s a good Snoopy sound,’” Meléndez said in a past interview, which is now part of the Archive of American Television’s video collection. “But from then on, see, I got stuck with it.”
Not only did Meléndez give voice to Snoopy, but he also lent his voice to Snoopy’s yellow, birdy sidekick Woodstock. Along with the voice work for the characters (and, yes, we realize Snoopy and Woodstock have always had limited dialogue), Meléndez was the lead animator for Peanuts and directed a couple of the TV specials, including A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Sadly, Meléndez died in 2008 at the age of 91, so he didn’t get a chance to see how wonderful the computer-animated The Peanuts Movie turned out in 2015. Meléndez, however, was still part of the film since archival recordings of his voice were used for Snoopy and Woodstock.
So, when you and your family sit down this holiday season and watch A Charlie Brown Christmas, as we’re sure all good Latino families do, know that although there is a scene where Snoopy joins the Peanuts’ kids around the Christmas tree to sing “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” he was really humming “Feliz Navidad.”