Thursday, May 09, 2019

Chris Reccardi Remembered

We've lost a great talent and an old friend and colleague of mine.

Chris and I go way back. We first worked together on 1988's Beany and Cecil, although he mostly drew for Eddie Fitzgerald's unit.

Once we started the Ren and Stimpy series, he came on as a storyboard artist. He quickly became one of the top artists on the series.

Usually we had 2 cartoonists per board. Each artist would draw half of the cartoon themselves but would collaborate on gags with the other. Chris worked particularly well with Jim Smith. 

Here are some boards Chris drew for Space Madness: the eating soap sequence.

He also did a lot of work on Nurse Stimpy, Firedogs, Marooned and many more cartoons.
I'd love to show you more of his pencil drawings but unfortunately someone stole all my original storyboards.

I'll have to rely on some layouts and frame grabs - which wouldn't be his actual drawings.
It was important to me to have each of the artists with unique styles to be able to see their drawings appear in the finished cartoon and be credited for it - not an easy task considering that at least three more artists down the animation production line have to follow the storyboard poses and not redraw every pose from scratch or put them "on model" as was the custom in animation at the time.

I encouraged the artists that followed him in layout, animation and assisting to try to preserve the poses and expressions of the storyboard while layering their own style on them and adding more poses.

 Mike Fontanelli layout interpretations of Chris' storyboard for Royal Canadian Kilted Yaksmen.

By the 2nd season of Ren and Stimpy I started sharing my direction duties with Bob, Vincent, Jim and Chris.

In those cartoons the style of the individual directors really came through.

Chris drew the storyboard for Dog Show and co-directed it with me, which means he also supervised the layouts while drawing many of them himself.

Chris could also draw devastating caricatures and often used them in his cartoons.
This is a drawing of David Koenigsberg who was our ace special FX wizard and camera man. 
Mike Fontanelli interpretation of David from Chris' storyboard.
Chris drew the boards for Man's Best Friend and added a lot of gags himself.

But here's how it all started...

One fine morning at Roscoe’s – pitching Man’s Best Friend

Vincent Waller and I wrote an outline for “Man’s Best Friend” the origin story of Ren and Stimpy in which George buys them at a pet store and lovingly trains them to be rugged, disciplined and obedient dogs.

I gave Chris the storyboard to draw.
We met one morning at Roscoe’s Chicken and Waffles so I could pitch it to him.
(Roscoe’s is a soul food restaurant near Spumco where the crew often ate and gagged up stories. Chris and I were the only white guys in the restaurant so far on this particular day.)

As I went into the pitch I got more and more excited while acting it out.
There weren’t many customers in the restaurant yet, but there was one little old guy sitting at a table behind Chris.

He kept looking over at us, especially the louder I got. 

I talked about the scene where George was trying to potty train Ren by pushing Ren's butt down on some newspapers on the floor. Ren was too nervous to crap although he tried real hard. A disappointed George snatches away the newspaper and hands it to Stimpy. “Let’s see if your buddy does any better!!”

Stimpy holds the newspaper in his hands. The mere touch of the newsprint texture instantly causes him to release all his wastes in one long chunky successful stream.

I could see that Chris was getting sort of embarrassed at how loud I was. His face was beet red by now.

I began acting out a topper scene that never made it into the final. After Ren smells Stimpy ‘s dump he starts puking all over the floor. I started making the sound of a good puke and all of a sudden the little guy behind Chris tossed his knife and fork on the table and started yelling at us:

Hey Hey Hey Hey!!! I’m trying to eat here! – and you’re talking about puke       and shit      and snot ...try to have some consideration for other people!”

Chris - a big strapping lug of a guy, turned around meekly and tried to explain in a squeaky voice what we were doing. “Sorry mister – we’re making a cartoon…”

The little guy cut him off: “I don’t care what you’re doing! I’m trying to eat…hey wait a minute, WHAT KIND OF CARTOON HAS SHIT AND PUKE AND ASSHOLES and who knows what else in it???!!!”

Anyway, we quieted down somewhat to let the poor guy finish his meal, but the whole event was etched in my brain. It was just too good not to put to practical use.

We then whispered through the next story session - “Ren’s Toothache” and I said, “Hey let’s use this whole thing in the scene where Ren’s rotting gums start stinking up the house! We’ll have some flies eating out of Stimpy’s litter box and as Ren’s stinkmouth wafts into the room, the flies throw down their utensils and scream,
“Hey Hey Hey Hey!! 
We’re trying to eat here! 
And you go and stink up 
our dinner with your foul mouth!"

Needless to say, the little guy had had enough, paid his check and stormed out.

Once we got to work  a relieved and inspired Chris went ahead and drew brilliant boards for these cartoons.

Here are some studies he did for the oar sequence in Man's Best Friend.

Chris drew some layouts too. Here is a sequence he really outdid himself on.
 Ren: "But I CAAAAN!" was one of Chris' lines. He loved to draw Ren with a chin for intense scenes like this one where his Master George Liquor asks him to attack him.

 Kelly Armstrong did the outstanding animation for this scene inspired by Raging Bull.

Chris' passing is a loss not only for his friends and loved ones, but to the animated cartoon business as a whole.

His drawing style had a great influence over the industry in the 90s, 2000's and on.

He will be missed.