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Quills & Queues: The ‘Art of Peanuts Animation’ at Houston’s Fine Art

Houston’s Custom Framing and Fine Art is opening a new show on Friday, July 6, as their contribution to the Ashland First Friday Art Walk. The show will launch a world debut of a limited edition release from the studio Bill Melendez Productions, based in Los Angeles. Melendez, who died in 2008 in his early 90s, was a character animator who worked closely with some of the largest names in Hollywood and elsewhere, including Walt Disney, UPA, and Warner Brothers Cartoons. His work can be seen on films that include “Bambi” and “Fantasia.”

He was primarily recognized as a close collaborator of Charles M. Schultz, the creator of the “Peanuts” cartoon strip. Melendez was the only animator who was permitted to turn Schultz’s comic strips into television specials. The upcoming show at Houston’s will debut an animated scene from one such special, 1985’s “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown.” The piece in question (“Suppertime!”) depicts a scene featuring Snoopy, Charlie Brown’s pet beagle, enjoying dinner on top of his doghouse. The edition is limited to 20 pieces and will be made available exclusively at Houston’s, according to a press release from Stephanie Houston, the gallery owner.

The evening will include a special live demonstration in the art of animation by Larry Leichliter, the director of animation at the studio, who has a storied history as an animator, beginning his career in the mid-1970s on a Charlie Brown short. Leichliter has worked on multiple shorts and theatrical releases for the Bill Melendez Studio, as well as on productions for Cathy Guisewite, and on television series as varied as Spiderman, Aladdin, and the “SpongeBob SquarePants” franchise. Jennifer Damiani, an artist and archivist for the studio, will be in attendance to hand paint the final stages of four of the 20 animation cels.

Also featured for sale at the event will be a series of rare and original vintage character drawings and additional animation cel set-ups from Melendez’s 1968 TV special, “He’s Your Dog, Charlie Brown.” Additional limited edition works from “You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown” as well as from “A Boy Names Charlie Brown” — a full-length feature film from 1969 — will be on show and available for purchase.

Leichliter and Damiani, along with a group of Studio staffers, will be on hand to the public for questions and answers after their presentation, and will stay for the duration of the evening to answer any questions that collectors might have about the work.

Charles M. Schultz’s “Peanuts” cartoon strip ran from 1950 until 2000, and is still the most popular strips in history. At the height of its fame, the strip was published in 2,600 papers in 75 countries, and in 21 languages. Mr. Melendez collaborated with Shultz from 1965 onward. He went on to produce, direct or animate nearly 70 Peanuts TV specials.

Houston’s Custom Framing & Fine Art is at 280 East Hersey St., #11, in Ashland. The show will open at 5:30 p.m. For additional information, call the gallery at 541-482-1983.

Ashland resident Jeffrey Gillespie is a Tidings columnist, arts reviewer and freelance writer. Email him at gillespie.jeffrey@gmail.com.

June 29: Column updated to correct the event date, July 6 (not 9).

Photo copyright and courtesy of Bill Melendez Studio“Suppertime”