Longtime producer Lee Mendelson, who brought the characters from Charles Schulz' Peanuts comic strip to life through the medium of television, passed away in his home on December 25, Christmas Day. A new report from TMZ reveals that Mendelson died after a long battle with cander. Mendelson's son Jason said: "It wasn’t great for us, but to have him pass on Christmas really ties into his history and legacy."
The late Mendelson began his television career in documentaries, an art form that he would continue to work in even after finding success with with the "Charlie Brown" animated specials. One of the first subjects of Mendelson's documentaries was none other than Schulz for the TV documentary "A Boy Named Charlie Brown." While working on that special the pair began work on bringing the comic strips to life, resulting in the "A Charlie Brown Christmas" special in 1965. Mendelson not only wrote the lyrics for the iconic "Christmas Time is Here" song that appears in the special, but also won the Primetime Emmy Award for "Outstanding Children's Program" for the special, his first of six Emmy Awards.
Following the success of the Christmas special, Mendelson went on to produce over forty Peanuts/Charlie Brown TV specials including classics like the Halloween-themed "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown," plus "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving," and "Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown." Mendelson also produced the character's first feature film for the big screen A Boy Named Charlie Brown, which was released in 1969 and later nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song.
“He was, and is, the ultimate survivor in overcoming bulliness," Mendelson previously said about Charlie Brown in an interview with The Washington Post. "Lucy or otherwise."
Mendelson's creative career wasn't limited to just the Peanuts gang though, as he also collaborated with cartoonist Jim Davis to bring Garfield to television. The orange cat made his debut with the special "Here Comes Garfield" and later the TV series Garfield and Friends, both of which were produced by Mendelson. In addition he also brought Jean de Brunhoff's classic Babar books to life with two animated specials, which were released well before the French-Canadian TV series.
Mendelson is survived by his wife Ploenta and children Glenn, Lynda, Jason, and Sean; his stepson Ken, and eight grandchildren.