Lee Mendelson, the six-time Emmy winner who produced more than 60 specials featuring Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the Peanuts gang, has died. He was 86.
Mendelson died on Christmas Day at his home in Hillsborough, California, after a long battle with cancer, his family told the Palo Alto Daily Post.
“It wasn’t great for us, but to have him pass on Christmas really ties into his history and legacy,” one of his sons, Jason Mendelson, told the newspaper.
Working often with the late Bill Melendez — the only animator permitted by Charles M. Schulz to work with the Peanuts characters — Mendelson collected his first Emmy in 1966 for A Charlie Brown Christmas — he wrote the lyrics to “Christmastime Is Here” for that one — and his last in 2016 for It’s Your 50th Christmas, Charlie Brown. He also wrote and directed for the franchise.
He amassed 29 Emmy noms during his career, 26 for his work with Peanuts characters, and earned a pair of Grammy nominations as well.
His landmark résumé included 1966’s It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, 1967’s You’re in Love, Charlie Brown, the Oscar-nominated A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1971), 1973’s A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, 1975’s You’re a Good Sport, Charlie Brown, 1976’s It’s Arbor Day, Charlie Brown and 1980’s She’s a Good Skate, Charlie Brown.
The San Francisco native and Stanford graduate also won Emmys in 1984 and 1987 for producing programs featuring the cartoon characters Garfield and Cathy, respectively.
Mendelson’s first TV credit was a documentary that followed San Francisco Giants star Willie Mays through the 1963 baseball season.
A few weeks later, while reading the Peanuts comic strip, Mendelson had a thought: “You’ve just done the world’s greatest baseball player, now you should do the world’s worst baseball player, Charlie Brown,” he told Stanford Magazine in 1997. He then hired San Francisco composer Vince Guaraldi to write music for A Charlie Brown Christmas.
Survivors include his wife, Ploenta; children Glenn, Lynda, Jason and Sean; stepson Ken; and eight grandchildren.
This article was originally published by The Hollywood Reporter.