R.I.P. Peter Robbins, the voice of Charlie Brown and Blondie sitcom star
Blondie reunited him with the voice of Lucy Van Pelt.
Bill Melendez was an ideal animator to bring the Peanuts comic strip to life. Earlier in his career, he worked for Disney, contributing to classics such as Pinocchio, Dumbo and Bambi. He later worked for Warner Bros., crafting Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies shorts on Robert McKimson's team. In the 1960s, he was handed the keys to Charles Schulz's kingdom.
First, Melendez had to find voices for his characters. Well, he himself would handle Snoopy and Woodstock's "voices." But what about all the kids, those Browns and Van Pelts?
"There were two key factors in our search," Melendez told papers in 1965. "We were looking for voices that would best express our characters, and for voices that differed from each other."
For the central character, Charlie Brown, the producers settled on Peter Robbins, a local nine-year-old kid from Los Angeles who was no stranger to acting.
"We feel that young Robbins has what we call 'the Charlie sound,'" Melendez said. "It's a quality, an elusive something one feels rather than hears."
Robbins typically had worked on-camera. He made his television appearence on Rawhide, as an orphan in "Incident of the Pied Piper," an episode that also happened to feature a young Butch Patrick. The two would appear together again on The Munsters, in "Rock-a-Bye Munster." Robbins played Elmer, a doctor's son who comes to visit the Munsters, causing Herman to think Lily is expecting a child.
As Robbins continued to voice Charlie Brown in TV specials — starting in A Charlie Brown Christmas, going on to It's the Great Pumpkin, You're in Love, He's Your Dog, etc. — the child actor turned up on shows like F Troop and The F.B.I.
Finally, in 1968, Robbins landed his own starring sitcom role, in another adaptation from the newspaper funny pages. Robbins was cast as Alexander Bumstead in Blondie. He was Dagwood's and Blondie's boy. The girl who played the daughter, Cookie? Well, that was Pamelyn Ferdin — the voice of Lucy Van Pelt. Blondie reteamed the core Peanuts voice actors. A Boy Named Charlie Brown (1969) would be his final time voicing Charlie Brown.
Robbin's final screen appearance came in 1972, on My Three Sons. He later attended the University of California, San Diego, graduating in 1979.
Later in life, like many child stars, Robbins struggled with mental health issues and had issues with substance abuse and the law. He was imprisoned and arrested several times. Tragically, last week, Robbins took his own life, according to The Hollywood Reporter. He was 65.