Lee Mendelson

Producer


The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences Foundation Presents

02:26

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About
About this interview

In his over two-hour Archive interview, Lee Mendelson speaks about his early work in television as a writer-producer at San Francisco's KPIX, including a Peabody Award-winning documentary on the history of California. He discusses other documentaries he produced for television, including A Man Named Mays (about baseball player Willie Mays) and Charlie Brown and Charles Schulz. This latter show led to Mendelson's long association with Charles M. Schulz as the producer of the "Peanuts" specials, including such classics as A Charlie Brown Christmas, It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. Mendelson reminisces about the casting, music, and creation of the specials by Schulz, animator Bill Melendez, and himself. He also describes his later documentary work, including the Emmy-winning NBC special John Steinbeck's America and Americans. He discusses other programming he was responsible for, such as the acclaimed children's series Hot Dog. Additionally, Mendelson talks about the television adaptations of the comic strip characters "Garfield" and "Cathy," which he produced. B-roll consists of photos related to the "Charlie Brown Specials," Hot Dog and his documentary work. Karen Herman conducted the interview on June 11, 2003.

"I'm going to be remembered for 'A Charlie Brown Christmas.' And that's a great thing to be remembered for... 'Charlie Brown' was Charles Schulz to a certain extent. And he hated bulliness. I think all those 50 years was an attack on bulliness... He left words in the dictionary like 'security blanket' and 'great pumpkin'... And the sense of loss, first when he retired and then when he passed away... was phenomenal. Because whole generations grew up with this guy -- his legacy was deep."

Highlights
Lee Mendelson on the initial creation of A Charlie Brown Christmas, and on hiring Vince Guaraldi to compose the jazz score
04:16
Lee Mendelson on winning and being nominated for several Emmy Awards for his various animated works
01:56
Full Interview

Chapter 1

On his early life and influences; on his favorite comic strips growing up; on going to work at KPIX in San Francisco, and on the first time he saw television
On starting his own production company, and producing a documentary about Charles M. Schulz, Charlie Brown & Charles Schulz; on the initial creation of A Charlie Brown Christmas, and on hiring Vince Guaraldi to compose a jazz score; on the initial network reaction to A Charlie Brown Christmas

Chapter 2

On working with Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz on A Charlie Brown Christmas; on coming up with the story for A Charlie Brown Christmas, and on the religious aspect of the show; on sponsor Coca-Cola's involvement with A Charlie Brown Christmas
On the production of the Charlie Brown Specials, and on his responsibilities as producer; on how the storylines of the Charlie Brown Specials have evolved over the years, and on the decision to exclude adults from the "Peanuts" world; on the casting process of the Charlie Brown Specials, and on the decision to use children to voice the characters
On the business aspect of the Charlie Brown Specials, and on dealing with the network and the merchandising; on producing It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown; on the character of "Charlie Brown" on the Charlie Brown Specials
On various Charlie Brown Specials; on his favorite Charlie Brown Special: A Charlie Brown Christmas, and other favorites; on the "Charlie Brown" feature films

Chapter 3

On The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show and This is America, Charlie Brown; on the death of Charles M. Schulz; on the legacy of Charles M. Schulz
On producing the documentary specials The Magic of Broadcasting and The Fantastic Funnies, and on creating the "entertainment documentary"; on producing the documentary special John Steinbeck's America and Americans, featuring Steinbeck and Henry Fonda; on producing The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant, Cathy, and Garfield, and on being nominated for and winning several Emmy Awards
On the challenges of producing Garfield, and on working with creator Jim Davis; on producing The Cathy Specials, based on the comic strip by Cathy Guisewite; on producing the Saturday morning children's show Hot Dog

Chapter 4

On producing various shows, documentaries, and specials; on then-current projects, including producing new Charlie Brown Specials, and on working with the Charles M. Schulz estate; on then-current projects, and on how producing television documentaries has changed over the years
On how animation for television has changed over the years, and the then-new digital way of doing animation, and on doing work that impacts American life; on his favorite projects over the years; on advice to aspiring television producers and animators
On how television animation has changed since he began; on career highlights and regrets; on how he'd like to be remembered

Chapter 5

On b-roll pictures from his career; interviewing Joe DiMaggio; with Bing Crosby; Magic of Broadcasting ad; with David Niven; with Charles M. Schulz; recording a Charlie Brown Special; "Peanuts" album; with George C. Scott; with Olivia de Havilland and Butterfly McQueen; with John Steinbeck; with Butterfly McQueen; with Gene Kelly; Woody Allen on the set of Hot Dog; Jonathan Winters on the set of Hot Dog; "Charlie Brown" on the cover of "San Francisco Magazine"; with Steven Spielberg and Richard Dreyfuss; with Paul Newman and Joanne Woodward; with Muhammad Ali; with Mr. T; with Telly Savalas; Emmy winning cartoons Charlie Brown, Cathy, and Garfield; the hosts of his shows; his Emmy Awards collection
Shows

Cathy Specials, The

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Lee Mendelson on producing The Cathy Specials, based on the comic strip by Cathy Guisewite
01:24

Charlie Brown Specials

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Lee Mendelson on the initial creation of A Charlie Brown Christmas, and on hiring Vince Guaraldi to compose the jazz score
04:16
Lee Mendelson on the musical style of the Charlie Brown Specials, and on the initial network reaction to A Charlie Brown Christmas
02:30
Lee Mendelson on starting his own production company, and producing a documentary about Charles M. Schulz, Charlie Brown & Charles Schulz
06:55
Lee Mendelson on working with "Peanuts" creator Charles M. Schulz on A Charlie Brown Christmas
02:12
Lee Mendelson on coming up with the story for A Charlie Brown Christmas, and on the religious aspect of the show
02:01
Lee Mendelson on sponsor Coca-Cola's involvement with A Charlie Brown Christmas
00:53
Lee Mendelson on the production of the Charlie Brown Specials, and on his responsibilities as producer
01:27
Lee Mendelson on how the storylines of the Charlie Brown Specials have evolved over the years, and on the decision to exclude adults from the "Peanuts" world
02:50
Lee Mendelson on the casting process of the Charlie Brown Specials, and on the decision to use children to voice the characters
03:35
Lee Mendelson on working with animator Bill Melendez on the Charlie Brown Specials
01:53
Lee Mendelson on the business aspect of the Charlie Brown Specials, and on dealing with the network and the merchandising
01:57
Lee Mendelson on producing It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown
01:14
Lee Mendelson on the character of "Charlie Brown" on the Charlie Brown Specials
01:06
Lee Mendelson on the special You're in Love, Charlie Brown, and on the various side characters
02:09
Lee Mendelson on A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving
00:34
Lee Mendelson on It's the Easter Beagle, Charlie Brown, and on Snoopy's doghouse
01:44
Lee Mendelson on various Charlie Brown Specials
01:35
Lee Mendelson on his favorite Charlie Brown Special: A Charlie Brown Christmas, and other favorites
01:37
Lee Mendelson on the "Charlie Brown" feature films
01:23
Lee Mendelson on This is America, Charlie Brown
02:30
Lee Mendelson on then-current projects, including producing new Charlie Brown Specials, and on working with the Charles M. Schulz estate
01:09

Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show, The

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Lee Mendelson on The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show
01:58

Children's Letters to God

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Lee Mendelson on producing Children’s Letters to God, and The Unexplained
03:30

Emmy Awards, The (Primetime and Daytime)

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Lee Mendelson on winning and being nominated for several Emmy Awards for his various animated works
01:56

Fantastic Funnies, The

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Lee Mendelson on producing the documentary specials The Magic of Broadcasting and The Fantastic Funnies (misidentified here by Mendelson as The Fabulous Funnies), and on creating the "entertainment documentary"
04:11

Garfield Specials

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Lee Mendelson on producing The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant, Cathy, and Garfield, and on being nominated for and winning several Emmy Awards
03:43
Lee Mendelson on the challenges of producing Garfield, and on working with creator Jim Davis
03:01

Going Back Home

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Lee Mendelson on producing Going Back Home and The Romance of Betty Boop
01:33

Hot Dog

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Lee Mendelson on producing the Saturday morning children's show Hot Dog
01:00
Lee Mendelson on producing Hot Dog
01:32

John Steinbeck's America and Americans

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Lee Mendelson on producing the documentary special John Steinbeck's America and Americans, featuring Steinbeck and Henry Fonda
04:16

Magic of Broadcasting, The

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Lee Mendelson on producing the documentary specials The Magic of Broadcasting and The Fantastic Funnies (misidentified here by Mendelson as The Fabulous Funnies), and on creating the "entertainment documentary"
04:11

Story of Babar, the Little Elephant, The

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Lee Mendelson on producing The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant, Cathy, and Garfield, and on being nominated for and winning several Emmy Awards
03:44

Unexplained, The

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Lee Mendelson on producing Children’s Letters to God, and The Unexplained
03:53

Wonderful World of Pizzazz

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Lee Mendelson on producing Wonderful World of Pizzazz
01:56
Topics

Advice

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Lee Mendelson on advice to aspiring television producers and animators
02:29

Emmy Awards

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Lee Mendelson on winning and being nominated for several Emmy Awards for his various animated works
01:56

Television Industry

View Topic
Lee Mendelson on then-current projects, and on how producing television documentaries has changed over the years
03:00
Lee Mendelson on how animation for television has changed over the years, and the then-new digital way of doing animation, and on doing work that impacts American life
02:13
Lee Mendelson on advice to aspiring television producers and animators
02:29
Lee Mendelson on how television animation has changed since he began
01:52
Professions

Producers

View Profession
Lee Mendelson on advice to aspiring television producers and animators
02:29
Genres

Animation

View Genre
Lee Mendelson on producing A Charlie Brown Christmas
06:46
Lee Mendelson on producing the Charlie Brown Specials
28:11
Lee Mendelson on The Charlie Brown and Snoopy Show
01:58
Lee Mendelson on This is America, Charlie Brown
02:30
Lee Mendelson on producing Garfield
06:45
Lee Mendelson on producing The Cathy Specials, based on the comic strip by Cathy Guisewite
01:24
Lee Mendelson on then-current projects, including producing new Charlie Brown Specials, and on working with the Charles M. Schulz estate
01:09

Children's Programming

View Genre
Lee Mendelson on producing the Saturday morning children's show Hot Dog
01:00
Lee Mendelson on producing Hot Dog
01:32

News and Documentary

View Genre
Lee Mendelson on producing the documentary specials The Magic of Broadcasting and The Fantastic Funnies (misidentified here by Mendelson as The Fabulous Funnies), and on creating the "entertainment documentary"
04:11
Lee Mendelson on producing the documentary special John Steinbeck's America and Americans, featuring Steinbeck and Henry Fonda
04:16
Lee Mendelson on producing Wonderful World of Pizzazz
01:56
Lee Mendelson on producing Children’s Letters to God, and The Unexplained
03:30
People

Jim Davis

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Lee Mendelson on the challenges of producing Garfield, and on working with creator Jim Davis
03:01

Bill Melendez

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Lee Mendelson on working with animator Bill Melendez on The Charlie Brown Specials
01:43

Charles M. Schulz

View Person Page
Lee Mendelson on starting his own production company, and producing a documentary about Charles M. Schulz, Charlie Brown & Charles Schulz
06:55
Lee Mendelson on working with Peanuts creator Charles M. Schulz on A Charlie Brown Christmas
02:12
Lee Mendelson on the death of Charles M. Schulz
03:59
Lee Mendelson on the legacy of Charles M. Schulz
02:31
Lee Mendelson on then-current projects, including producing new Charlie Brown Specials, and on working with the Charles M. Schulz estate
01:09

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