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J. Michael Mendel, an animation producer who won four Emmy Awards for his work on The Simpsons and Rick and Morty, has died. He was 54.
His wife, Emmy-winning casting director Juel Bestrop (Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Life in Pieces), told The Hollywood Reporter that he died of natural causes Sunday night at their home in Studio City.
On Twitter, Justin Roiland, co-creator of Rick and Morty, wrote: “I don’t know what I’m going to do without you by my side Mike. I’m destroyed.” Longtime Simpsons producer Al Jean also reported the news.
Mendel moved from his gig as a postproduction supervisor on Fox’s The Tracey Ullman Show to The Simpsons in 1989 when it was spun off as its own series. He served as a line producer, working between James L. Brooks’ Gracie Films and the network to make sure the show was finished on time and on budget.
Mendel had various producer credits on 207 episodes ranging from 1989 to 1999 and won Emmys for his work in 1995, ’97 and ’98.
He then teamed with Roiland as his line producer on Adult Swim’s Rick and Morty from 2013 to 2017, receiving another Emmy in 2018.
“All of us at Adult Swim are devastated by the untimely passing of Mike Mendel,” the network said in a statement. “Mike was the heart of the Rick and Morty production family; his fantastic talent and wit will be sorely missed. Mike was a universally respected Emmy-winning producer with over 25 years in the industry who guided and supported a generation of artists, writers and creators, and his absence will be felt by the entire community. Our deepest condolences go out to his family, friends and colleagues during this difficult time.”
Born on Sept. 24, 1964, Mendel attended Monroe Woodbury High School in Woodbury, New York, and Syracuse University. He served as a production assistant on the Brooks-directed Broadcast News (1987) and the Brooks-produced Big (1988), then was an associate producer on Jerry Maguire (1996), also produced by Brooks.
Mendel’s animation credits also included The Critic; The PJs; The Oblongs; The Pitts; Kid Notorious; Drawn Together; Sit Down, Shut Up; Good Vibes; and Napoleon Dynamite.
Survivors also include his son, Jacob, and daughter, Jesse.
Sept. 23, 8:08 p.m. Updated to include details of Mendel’s death from his wife and additional survivors.
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