Four-time Emmy Award-winning producer J. Michael Mendel, a veteran in the animation industry, has died in his sleep at the age of 54, just two days away from his 55th birthday. Although the cause of death hasn’t been announced, his wife, Emmy-winning casting director Juel Bestrop, said that he died of natural causes Sunday night at their CA home.
Mendel began his career in television on the Tracey Ullman Show where Matt Groening’s The Simpson had its start. He went on to win 4 Emmy awards for producing The Simpsons until its 10th season.
Mendel went on to produce other animated shows including Drawn Together and Rick and Morty from (2013 to 2017). Rick and Morty is centered on the adventures of a brilliant scientist and his grandchild. The animated series won raves from viewers and critics alike for its adult-oriented humor and themes. Rick and Morty led to another Emmy win in 2018.
Adult Swim has released a statement following Mendel’s passing:
“All of us at Adult Swim are devastated by the untimely passing of Mike Mendel. 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.”
Meanwhile, his Rick and Morty co-creator Dan Harmon gave his tribute in an Instagram post:
“I can’t handle seeing his cropped photo in headlines with the word dead in them. I hate the phrase RIP it makes me picture styrofoam tombstones at a Halloween party. Rick and Morty has lost Mike Mendel, a man that deserves a better obituary and in my angry opinion, a better god. That opinion is a projection of my shame. I took Mike for granted. He was always needed and he was always there. He’s going to be needed tomorrow and he won’t be there. The wound will scar but there will be a hole through everything we do from now on. I have only angry things to say for now, that’s how valuable mike was. I can’t keep editing these words so here’s a kitten and I’m gonna take a nap.”
Mendel’s other animated credits include The Critic; The PJs; The Oblongs; The Pitts; Kid Notorious; Sit Down, Shut Up; Good Vibes; and Napoleon Dynamite. He is survived by his wife Juel Bestrop and two children Jacob and Jesse. The family lived in Studio City, a neighborhood in LA.