John Bush, an Emmy-winning producer of The Simpsons with dozens of credits to his name, died of B-cell lymphoma in the brain stem on Thanksgiving Day, November 23, 2023.
Bush’s career spanned over three decades, during which he worked on a vast range of productions. He was a producer on early episodes of Family Guy, animation executive producer on King of the Hill, and was a line producer on some of Warner Bros. Animation’s early forays into cg animation.
Bush was born in Albert Lea, Minnesota, on July 6, 1954. When he was six years old, the Bush family moved to Japan, where he attended American schools in Tokyo and then Chofu. After graduating high school, John returned to the U.S. to study theater arts at San Francisco State College.
Bush spent several years acting in stage productions, including a multi-year run on the hit musical Beach Blanket Babylon. He eventually moved to Los Angeles to pursue a performing career. In 1985, he appeared on the game show Super Password, where he won over $23,000.
While working to establish himself as an actor, Bush picked up a job at Vestron Productions. There, he began working in production for the first time and launched a career that would eventually span more than three decades.
Bush’s longest consecutive tenure at any studio came during a six-year stretch in the 1990s at Hyperion Pictures, where his producer credits included direct-to-video films and series such as The Brave Little Toaster to the Rescue, The Brave Little Toaster Goes to Mars, The Oz Kids, and Itsy Bitsy Spider.
Towards the end of the decade, he joined Film Roman and began doing work that changed the adult animation landscape forever. In 1998-99, he served as an animation producer on several episodes from the first two seasons of Family Guy, and even received credits as an animation director on a couple episodes of the show: “The King Is Dead” – appropriately about a stage production of The King and I – and “If I’m Dyin’, I’m Lyin’.” He then joined Walt Disney Television Animation to produce the cult favorite Clerks: The Animated Series.
After his brief Disney stint, Bush returned to Film Roman where he took on the role of vp of production, working on an incredible sequence of iconic animated series that included The Simpsons, King of the Hill, X-Men Evolution, and The Oblongs. While there, Bush was nominated for two Emmys for the “She Of Little Faith” and “HOMR” episodes of The Simpsons, winning the award for the latter.
Bush’s second stint at Film Roman was the last time he stayed at one studio for more than two years. For the next decade and a half, he alternated between independent productions and studio work, picking up credits on films and series such as Rick & Steve the Happiest Gay Couple in All the World, Edgar & Ellen, and a the pilot for the Jim Henson Company’s cg series Dinosaur Train.
During a 14-month stop at Warner Bros. Animation, Bush once again found himself at the forefront of an animation revolution as the studio began integrating some of its classic 2d characters into cg shorts. Bush served as a line producer on I Tawt I Taw a Puddy Tat, Daffy’s Rhapsody, and Flash in the Pain.
He continued producing through the 2010s, picking up credits on the animated feature Open Season: Scared Silly and line producer credits on Scooby-Doo! And the Gourmet Ghost and Wabbit.
Outside of the industry, Bush was active in the San Francisco and Los Angeles gay rights communities and would frequently attend protests and marches and write to local, state, and federal representatives. He was a die-hard fan of the cinema, especially musicals and campy comedies. His favorites starred Barbra Streisand or Julie Andrews.
Bush is survived by his sister Mary, brother Rick, and niece Taylyn.
A memorial service will be held this Sunday, January 28, at noon. Contact Dan at dan [at] danshaner [dot] com for more information.
Pictured at top: Family Guy “The Kind Is Dead,” John Bush, The Simpsons “HOMR”