Tuck Tucker, an animation veteran behind animated Nickelodeon cartoons Hey Arnold! and SpongeBob SquarePants, died on December 22. He was 59. "We know he was loved by all of those whom he met," the Tucker family wrote when announcing Tucker's death on Facebook, where the Arnold and Fairly OddParents director is remembered as a "father, husband, son, brother, and uncle." Across a career spanning three decades, starting with Filmation's Pinocchio and the Emperor of the Night in 1987, Tucker worked on such animated films as Disney's The Little Mermaid and Family Guy spin-off Stewie Griffin: The Untold Story.
As a character layout artist, Tucker's credits include numerous episodes of The Simpsons (1990-1993) and Rugrats (1991); Tucker served as a storyboard artist on the latter from 1994 to 1995. Tucker worked on multiple seminal Nicktoons, including The Ren and Stimpy Show (layout artist, 1992-1993), Aaahh!!! Real Monsters (storyboard artist, 1994-1995), and Hey Arnold! (1996-2004).
On Arnold!, about a football head-shaped fourth-grader, Tucker was storyboard and supervising director. He also directed the beloved animated show's first feature film, Hey Arnold!: The Movie, released in theaters in 2002.
Tucker was a writer, storyboard director, and supervising storyboard director on SpongeBob, penning such episodes as "Best Day Ever" and "Breath of Fresh Squidward." Tucker also served as the supervising storyboard director on "It's a SpongeBob Christmas!," a stop motion animation special that aired on CBS and Nickelodeon, and storyboard artist on the 2004 feature film The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie.
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Animator and Hey Arnold! creator Craig Bartlett paid tribute to Tucker on Instagram, remembering Tucker as a "great friend, a master draftsman, a tireless practical joker, a brilliant storyteller, the first one I reached out to when I began 'Hey Arnold!' because he was the best board guy I had ever met."
"I'll always remember him at his drawing board, arms blackened to the elbows with graphite, eraser shavings everywhere, bringing my characters to life. A killer work ethic, passionately into it," Bartlett wrote. "I'm so lucky I got to work with him for so many years. He gave and gave. I miss him already, my heart is broken. Rest in power, Tuck Tucker."
- I would not be where I am today without his guidance. I can’t get over the fact that I won’t be able to chat on the phone with him again. Don’t forget to tell the important people in your life how much they mean to you. One day it may be too late. Thanks for everything, Tuck.— Nick Lauer (@nicklauerart) December 23, 2020
Tucker's final credit is as the storyboard revisionist on the upcoming 20th Century Studios release Bob's Burgers: The Movie, the first feature film adaptation of the animated FOX sitcom. Bob's Burgers: The Movie is scheduled to release on April 9, 2021.
Photo credit: Mike Kropf / Longwood