Tag: It’s the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown

The Peanuts Art of Dean Spille: animation history made watercolor

We are always looking for extremely rare art to offer our clients, but hand-in-hand with that, we are always trying to find ways to promote and expand awareness about the importance of artists.  There are so many important figures in the history of animation that fans and enthusiasts know little about, and we want to change that! That’s where Dean Spille comes in…

He is just such a luminary. Dean Spille, concept and background artist for Bill Melendez Productions, is the official background artist for all the Charlie Brown and Peanuts films. Indeed, he is responsible for the color stories, the graphic design, and the finished look of Peanuts TV specials all the way from the beginning.  He worked on A Charlie Brown Christmas in 1965, It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown in 1968, and continued to influence these classics all the way to the TV short He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown in 2006.  AND WE JUST GOT ART CREATED BY THIS AMAZING ARTIST!!

At first, Bill Melendez, in his desire to give credit to the many contributors on A Charlie Brown Christmas, Dean was listed as doing “graphic blandishment”, which is code for concept artist, background artist, or any other element not yet isolated as deserving of its own credit.  He was named as production designer for over 20 shows, shorts, or tv specials between 1977 through 2000, and as often credited as color stylist as well.

A scene from from Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown, which is the inspiration for one of the 3 originals we are offering:

Given that the art Dean created is from his nostalgia and memory, it’s amazing how close this is to what was used in Bon Voyage, Charlie Brown.  He certainly has the French village vibe down, not least because he’s lived in France for over 40 years!  See his art below:

Inside the animation industry, Dean Spille is widely regarded as one of the most celebrated, talented concept and background artists in history.  It’s impossible to extricate the evocative, inventive backgrounds when considering the look of the beloved Charlie Brown TV specials, and they are all thanks to Dean.

Though native to California, he’s been living in France for over 40 years, and is now 92.  Imagine my thrill and excitement when we were offered an extremely limited collection of original Peanuts watercolor paintings by this treasured artist of the animation world.  We aren’t even sure if we’ll get any more than these three, all of which were created by Dean from his recollections of his contributions over his career with Bill Melendez Productions on the Peanuts cartoons.

Who doesn’t remember the scene with the kids out trick-or-treating from It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown?

The art Dean Spille created is below.  Classic!

If you’re a fan of animation art, Peanuts, or the Charlie Brown specials, these are exceptional, rare originals that represent an essential element of the beloved cartoons.  We may have them in-house briefly after selling them, and we’ll post about that on our Facebook page, but in the meantime, as we only have three to sell, contact us soon if interested in any or all of them!  We won’t be putting them online for purchase, but rather will sell them to those who contact us, since there only 3 and are one-of-a-kind.

What a wonderful palette Dean created for this scene! The original he created is below, and it may be my favorite.  Dig his subjective use of color, and how well it works, or how well we recognize it from A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving!

We really want to find Snoopy lovers, those who watched the animated specials as kids (or with their kids!), and art aficionados who get excited by the opportunity to have an original by an artist who is so important to animation history!

MORE ABOUT DEAN SPILLE:

In the fifties, Mr. Spille began working with Bill Melendez at Playhouse Pictures, a studio created by innovative artists who made up UPA. Peanuts’ television endorsement of the Ford Falcon, created at Playhouse Pictures, was the beginning of a partnership and friendship that lasted a lifetime for Melendez and Spille. After leaving for Spain in 1963, Dean returned to find that Melendez had created his own studio. Spille worked on the first three specials while teaching design at California State College, Long Beach. Later a sabbatical from teaching took Spille to live and work in a small town in the hills of Provence. Working on “Babar the Elephant” and later “Dick Deadeye”, he also continued working on the Peanuts films, while splitting his time between Los Angeles and France.  A definitive move to France was made as an additional project was in the works, the Emmy winning “The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.” Dean Spille was, without question, an integral contributing artist to the success of Bill Melendez Productions, Inc.

Dean’s academic studies began at UCLA where he earned his BA in Cinema, furthering his studies at California State University earning his Master Degree in Fine Art. Dean continued his studies at the Accademia Delle Belle Arte in Florence, Italy and at Kokoshkaschule in Salzburg, Austria. Dean is also a former professor of Art at the California State University, where he taught Graphic Design and Animation. Today, he devotes his time to painting, and sells his traditional imagery throughout Europe, where he is known and celebrated for both his animation and fine art works.

Spille’s work is liberally shown through out the book, “The Art and Making of Peanuts Animation, Celebrating Fifty Years of Television Specials” .  Page 30-31 speaks of his process.

Limited Editions from Peanuts TV Specials Make Us Want To Do a Snoopy Happy Dance!

We just discovered we have a few super rare and hard-to-find Peanuts limited editions created for the anniversaries of the Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown TV specials. Given how much we at ArtInsights love all things Snoopy and Charlie Brown, it’s like we got an early Valentine’s Day gift!

What a coincidence.  Fans of the beloved Peanuts animated cartoons just celebrated the anniversary of the first airing of the 1975 Peanuts TV special Be My Valentine, Charlie Brown.  Although there are over 40 animated TV specials created over the years through Bill Melendez’s studio, many fans actually remember a few of them really well.  For me it was Snoopy Come Home, for which I had the board game, the Valentine special, and A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving. As an adult, I can to love this weird one that it turns out is the favorite of many of the animators who worked on multiple films for Melendez, What a Nightmare, Charlie Brown!. However, we can all agree that A Charlie Brown Christmas and It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown are the most classic, right?

MELENDEZ AND MENDELSON MAKE TV MAGIC

Beyond the fact that the Peanuts Christmas special was a huge deal in that it was the first time the comic strip characters by Charles Schulz were translated to animation, it was also the first religious-based animated special to ever be played on tv, and offered a wonderful jazz score by Vince Guaraldi.  This cartoon has been played during the holidays every year since it played in 1965. The music was also a huge success, selling millions of copies.  At the time, A Charlie Brown Christmas was seen by 45% of those watching television in the US.

It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown quickly followed the Christmas special in October of 1966, although it was the third, not the second, coming after Charlie Brown’s All Stars in June of the same year. It was nominated for an Emmy. Longtime Peanuts specials producer Lee Mendelson, (who brought Schulz and Melendez together to translate the Peanuts comic strip into a cartoon, among many other important roles in the history of Peanuts specials) was outvoted in the discussion about Charlie Brown getting rocks instead of candy.  He wanted him to get his fair share.  Apparently the audience that year agreed with him, sending the character thousands of bags and boxes of candy to Melendez’s animation studio!

My childhood is filled with memories of watching the specials with my dad.  We also played my Snoopy Come Home board game a lot together.  We quoted lines from all the cartoons and the comic strip, and I’d even say seeing them every year influenced my going into a career selling art and promoting the artistry of animation.

Dog on Duty, a limited edition with three hand-painted layers, was created for the anniversary of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown.
Dog on Duty, a limited edition with three hand-painted layers, was created for the anniversary of It’s the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown. It included the drawings that capture Snoopy’s struggles and bravery as a flying ace.

It was quite an experience the one time I got to eat dinner next to Bill Melendez at an event some years ago, only to discover what a wonderful sense of humor and quick wit he had.  I had already heard he was famously a great boss, according to many people in the industry who had worked at a number of studios.  In the interviews I conducted more recently, that compliment was repeated by everyone who had ever taken part in the creation of the Peanuts specials or any other Melendez studio project.

ANNIVERSARY PEANUTS LIMITED EDITIONS

This "Snoopy's Audition" limited edition was the first one released for anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas. #SnoopyVulture
This “Snoopy’s Audition” limited edition was the first one released for anniversary of A Charlie Brown Christmas. #SnoopyVulture

2015, the anniversaries were coming up for both the Christmas and Halloween specials.  The company connected with the Melendez family and his studio, who sells all things Peanuts and Bill Melendez Studio related in terms of art, planned a big event to celebrate with Peanuts art.  They spent a long time, with the help and design artistry of Peanuts specials director Larry Leichliter, creating an anniversary collection of Peanuts limited edition cels.  There were only 65 and 66 in each editions.  When the first piece was released, we all called those folks who had always bought art when the company released art.  They were allocated, so each gallery could only get a few of these A Charlie Brown Christmas limited editions and the It’s The Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown limited editions.  (I think I got as many as any gallery was allotted, with 6 of each edition).  Those who bought the first one, got right of first refusal on each subsequent piece so they could match the sets.  So some said yes to them all, some skipped one, and so it went.

My Peanuts collectors tend to leave their art with me for a while and come in only a few times a year.  One thing led to another, we did inventory, and POOF! We actually have a few Peanuts Charlie Brown and Snoopy limited editions (and of course some with the whole Peanuts gang!)  available for sale!  Imagine my surprise!

This Peanuts limited edition cel, "Dog Gone Commercial" captures when Snoopy was decorating his dog house for the holidays.  Classic!
This Peanuts limited edition cel, “Dog Gone Commercial” captures when Snoopy was decorating his dog house for the holidays. Classic!

Anyway, this is all to the benefit of big Peanuts fans who will fall in love with these images.  The largest Christmas and Halloween limited edition cels each took weeks to complete, there was so much hand-work involved.  If you think they look cool online, they are truly spectacular in person!  We look forward to a fan or a few fans who grew up with the cartoons and Peanuts comic strips like I did winding up with these pieces.  They can bring them home as a wonderful, nostalgic reminder of holidays gone by.  Or rather, holidays to come, because they will be playing these Peanuts TV specials every year until our great-grandchildren think they came out for them!

In this blog are all the images of the pieces we have.  Click HERE to see them all, or on each image for more information for those specific pieces.

The work-intensive A Charlie Brown Christmas limited edition art created for the anniversary called "50 Years of Joy and Wonder"
The work-intensive A Charlie Brown Christmas limited edition art created for the anniversary called “50 Years of Joy and Wonder”
The anniversary It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown limited edition that we have for sale sold out immediately when it was released, with only 66 created. Linus and Snoopy steal the show again!
The anniversary It’s The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown limited edition that we have for sale sold out immediately when it was released, with only 66 created. Linus and Snoopy steal the show again!

Remember if you love Peanuts and the Charlie Brown TV specials, there are some original production cels available from a number of cartoons you’ll remember we get directly from the Bill Melendez Studio.  None from the Christmas or Halloween specials, but we’ve found a few choice ones for fans from Snoopy Come Home, several Valentine specials, and others that would excite you. Contact us!

We’ll leave you with this an interview I did with the producer Lee Mendelson, talking about the history of the Peanuts cartoons: