Lee Mendelson, who produced several “Peanuts” and “Garfield” television specials, died at his home in Hillsborough, Calif. on Christmas Day after a battle with lung cancer, according to Palo Alto’s Daily Post.
Mendelson is also known for writing the lyrics to “Christmastime Is Here” from the 1965 TV special “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”
The producer was born in 1933 and began his career in television in 1961 while working at San Francisco’s KPIX-TV. In 1963, he started Lee Mendelson Productions in Burlingame, Calif., according to his website. That same year, following a hit on NBC with a documentary called “A Man Named Mays” made by Mendelson and cinematographer and editor Sheldon Fay Jr., the two made their first Charlie Brown special, “A Boy Named Charlie Brown.” What followed was a 38-year long relationship with “Peanuts” creator Charles Schultz and animator Bill Melendez that lead to over 50 “Peanuts” specials.
“A Charlie Brown Christmas” followed in 1965, and later came “It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown” and many more. His last Charlie Brown special, “It’s Your 50th Christmas, Charlie Brown,” came out in 2015.
His first Garfield special, “Here Comes Garfield,” came in 1982, followed by “Garfield on the Town” in 1983. He was also behind the “Garfield and Friends” series that ran from 1991 to 1994.
Some of his other TV specials include “The Story of Babar, the Little Elephant” in 1968, the 1987 TV movie “Cathy” and two other “Cathy” specials, the 1970 series “Hot Dog” starring Woody Allen and Jonathan Winters, and the early 1990s “Mother Goose and Grimm” series.