Friday, November 27, 2015

Charlie Brown Resurgent

ABC (as did CBS before it) runs and runs this animated half-hour.

... "We thought A Charlie Brown Christmas was a little slow, and it was certainly not a traditional Christmas show," said Lee Mendelson, the producer who persuaded "Peanuts" cartoonist Charles M. Schulz to adapt his popular strip about lovable loser Charlie Brown and his childhood friends into an animated holiday offering. ...

The story above points out how the producer of ACBC believed the show about a Loser would be a loser. (In Tinseltown, almost always somebody thinks they've got a flop on their hands, and are proven resoundingly wrong.)

But there is a better, unremarked story underneath the Times article that involves animator/director Bill Melendez ... and Disney.

Mr. Melendez, owner-operator of the studio that made A Charlie Brown Christmas, was one of the artist-strikers out on the sidewalk in front of Walt Disney Productions, way back in 1941, when Art Babbit, Bill Melendez and numerous others walked out in a labor action designed to get Disney employees recognition under the Screen Cartoonists Guild. The picketing was lengthy and bitter. After the strike was over, Mr. Melendez never went back to WDP, and didn't want to.

He told me once: "I'm never going back there! I'm STILL on strike!"

And Bill's issues with Disney didn't end with that '41 job action. Ten years later, Walt Disney -- not a man who forgot old betrayals -- was trying to dislodge the Screen Cartoonists Guild as the labor union repping animation artists inside WDP's gates. IATSE representative Roy Brewer plotted with Walt to set up a NEW organization called the Motion Picture Screen Cartoonists (now called the Animation Guild), Local 839, IATSE. The plan was to replace the old union (SCG) with the new one.

In an industry-wide election, the Screen Cartoonists Guild was pushed out, and Local 839 was ushered in. (Many of Walt's key creative personnel had their names on Local 839's founding documents, which ought to tell you something.) At the time, Bill Melendez was the President of the Screen Cartoonists Guild, and he didn't forget what had happened to the guild he'd led. Years later, when he formed Bill Melendez Productions, his studio signed with the Teamsters union, not Local 839.

"I'm STILL on strike!"

So of course, ABC now controls the rights to one of Bill Melendez's great cartoon achievements, and ABC is owned by the Walt Disney Company.

Nothing is forever.


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