The Los Angeles animation industry is mourning the sudden death of Chris Reccardi. The artist, who was 54 years old, suffered a heart attack in Ventura, California, while he was surfing.

He was a leading character designer, storyboard artist, writer, and visual development artist in the industry. Born in New York City and a graduate of Sayville High School in Long Island, Reccardi entered the animation industry in the late 1980s. He described his path into animation in a 2008 interview with Hi-Fructose magazine:

I came to L.A. because I was hoping that my sister’s husband (Disney animator Chuck Harvey) could help me get into the business. I was never an animation geek (outside of early Fleischer Popeye, which were just cool to watch stoned) and didn’t go to art school, so even with Chuck’s leads, I couldn’t get hired anywhere. But I persisted, because anything is better than a $4.50 an hour stock room or warehouse job. My first real in-house animation job was when John Kricfalusi, who was producing The New Beany and Cecil show at D.I.C. decided to give me a chance as a layout artist. My drawings were pretty lousy, but they needed new people badly. Roger Rabbit came out that summer and a sort of renaissance in the animation biz happened after that. Mostly because some execs figured that you can make real money off of the shit.

Since those humble beginnings, Reccardi has had a hand in some of the most popular animated series and feature films of the last thirty years. A small sampling of his credits: Tiny Toon Adventures (storyboard), Ren and Stimpy (layout/writer), Powerpuff Girls (writer), Dexter’s Laboratory (writer), Samurai Jack (writer), The Simpsons (layout), The Regular Show (supervising producer), Secret Mountain Fort Awesome (supervising producer), Spongebob Squarepants (storyboard director), The Mighty B! (storyboard), Tron: Uprising (storyboard), Mickey Mouse Shorts (location design), Wander Over Yonder (character design), Shrek 3 (storyboard), Hotel Transylvania 3 (visual development), The Lego Movie (concept artist/designer), and Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (visual development).

He is expected to have screen credits on a number of films that have yet to be released, including next year’s The Spongebob Movie: It’s a Wonderful Sponge and Disney’s live-action remake of Lady and the Tramp, which will debut on its forthcoming streaming service.

Throughout his career, Reccardi also created numerous pilots based on his own ideas, including Meddlen Meddows for Cartoon Network and The Modifyers for Nickelodeon (the latter of which was co-created with his wife, Lynne Naylor):

In addition to his work in animation, Reccardi was both an exhibiting fine artist and musician.

As a painter and illustrator, he had gallery exhibitions in Palm Springs, Seattle, Australia, and Amsterdam. He also created custom art installations, including artwork for the Los Angeles chain Tender Greens at its locations in Pasadena (2011), Marina Del Rey (2013), and Westwood (2016). In 2014, he created a series of murals for the Linq Hotel’s High Roller, the wolrd’s largest observation wheel located in Las Vegas.

One of seven murals by Reccardi at the Linq Hotel's High Roller observation wheel in Las Vegas.
One of seven murals by Reccardi at the Linq Hotel’s High Roller observation wheel in Las Vegas.

As a musician, he was part of Der Screamin’ Lederhosen, the in-house music trio at Spumco that created the theme song for The Ren & Stimpy Show, in addition to other music for the series. He also composed the show’s iconic song “Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy.” Later, Reccardi performed with other bands including Elliot Easton’s Tiki Gods and Fono 66, and had more recently formed his own recording group Psellophane, which was expected to release its first album this year.

Reccardi is survived by his wife, Lynne Naylor.

News of Reccardi’s death was first reported in a public Facebook post by a colleague, Bill Wray:

Since the news was first reported, an outpouring of tributes has appeared on social media from other industry colleagues:

View this post on Instagram

I just heard some very sad news. My old friend and colleague Chris Reccardi has passed away. I was quite shocked. He wasn’t very old. Chris and I go way back to Beany and Cecil in 1988. He was one of the top artists and performers on Ren and Stimpy. His multi talents included storyboarding, layout, design and more. He was also an accomplished musician. He was the bass player in “Der Screamin’ Lederhosen” who recorded the Ren and Stimpy theme song. He and I wrote and performed the “Happy Happy Joy Joy” song for “Stimpy’s Invention”. It took us a few takes because we kept improvising and then stopping to laugh. Chris was an extremely nice guy – and funny too. I remember one night he and Lynne Naylor and I were hanging out. He picked up one of my Golden Books and started reading it aloud in a funny voice. His inflections gave the meaning of the story a double-entendre effect that had us in stitches. I had lunch with him a couple years ago and we talked over old times. Chris drew some of the most memorable scenes in Ren and Stimpy and of course added jokes of his own to plus the stories. I’ll do a blog post with some more about our collaborations and dig up some art or frame grabs to show some of his contributions to specific cartoons he worked on. My heart goes out to his wife Lynne and his friends and family. The animation world has lost a great talent and he will be missed. –John K, 2 May 2019

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