During my first years in college I was fortunate enough to take an animation class at USC taught by Bernie Gruver, who had a long career as a draftsman and worked on the classic A Charlie Brown Christmas special that's aired on CBS and ABC since the mid-1960s.
One evening Bernie took our class on a field trip to Bill Melendez Productions, the company responsible for producing many of the Peanuts animated specials and motion pictures. Bill was a character: with his enormous handlebar mustache he looked like a caricature come to life. We were surprised to learn that he provided the "voice" for Snoopy whenever he spoke (really just a bunch of gibberish played at high-speed).
That trip was my first exposure to the world of professional animation. Years later, I read that Bill Melendez was one of the most active participants in the Disney strike of 1941, which led to the formation of animation unions, and protections for artists who painstakingly created drawings of characters that live on to this day.
Bernie Gruver passed away a few years after I attended his class, but his work, and the work of Bill Melendez, director, producer, writer and tireless champion of the labor movement, have not been forgotten.
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