Michael “Mike” Camarillo, an industry artist who worked across a variety of roles, died on December 25, 2021, aged 57. The cause of death was believed to be an undiagnosed heart condition.
Hailing from Hawaii, Camarillo attended Calarts. He started his L.A. career on The Simpsons, where he worked on more than 30 episodes — as well as the “Do the Bartman” music video — in the early 1990s as a background clean-up artist.
Moving into effects animation, Camarillo worked on a range of features throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, including The Swan Princess, Quest for Camelot, The Road to El Dorado, Spirit: Stallion of the Cimarron, The Powerpuff Girls Movie, and Bébé’s Kids. He also picked up a credit on an episode of Rugrats as an assistant animator.
Later in the 2000s, he switched to prop design, working on shows such as Cartoon Network’s Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends and Sym-Bionic Titan, and the special The Powerpuff Girls Rule!!!.
While leaving his mark on all these productions, Camarillo was busy creating concepts for shows of his own. In the mid-1990s he came up with Bushido Egg, a comic spin on the samurai genre set in a world of egg-shaped characters. His friend Sasha Alexeev, who was to compose the music, tells Cartoon Brew that the series was optioned by Disney but never greenlit.
Another project of Camarillo’s was Robots on Cruzo, which Alexeev describes as “a great idea about robots with quirky personalities having adventures traveling around the galaxy on a spaceship.” He says Camarillo worked on the project with the team for about a year with a view to pitching it to Cartoon Network, but ultimately shelved it.
After Camarillo’s death, his friend and colleague Teri Shikasho launched a Gofundme to support his wife Elisabeth and sons Timmy and Vincent. “Mike Camarillo was truly one-of-a-kind,” wrote Shikasho. “He was the sweetest, gentlest soul, belying that unmissable mohawk-sporting, tank top-wearing, warrior physique in cargo shorts and slippahs. He was goofy as hell, slipping in and out of Pidgin to make any story extra funny.”
Artist and creator Lauren Faust, who worked alongside husband Craig McCracken with Camarillo on Powerpuff Girls and Foster’s Home for Imaginary Friends, wrote on the page: “Craig and I are so deeply saddened to hear of Mike’s sudden passing. Mike was kind, fun, talented, and a true joy to work with. May loving memories bring some peace and comfort to family and friends during this difficult time.”
Image at top from Shikasho’s Gofundme page