There’s sad news from the House of Mouse as Bud Luckey, an accomplished and important animator and designer from Pixar Studios, has died. Luckey was 83. He died after an extended illness at a hospice facility in Newtown, Conneticut.
While Luckey isn’t a household name, every family in America probably knows his work. Luckey was instrumental for Pixar while developing the first Toy Story. It’s the movie that not only put Pixar on the map but revolutionized cinematic animation, moving from 2D to 3D. As far as Bud Luckey is concerned, he designed one of Toy Story‘s most famous characters and one of the biggest in pop culture, Woody.
The news of Luckey’s passing broke courtesy of THR. It was confirmed by Bud Luckey’s son, who is interestingly named Andy – though it doesn’t appear that Andy Luckey was the inspiration for the boyhood central figure of the original Toy Story trilogy. Bud Luckey, as mentioned, was very involved in the Toy Story franchise and several other Pixar projects.
Luckey was with Pixar from the very beginning. He was, in fact, the fifth animator the (originally) very small studio ever hired. Former Pixar CCO, John Lassester, once called Luckey “one of the true unsung heroes of animation.” In addition to his work on Toy Story, Luckey also created and directed a short film called Boundin‘ about a dancing sheep who is sheared. It earned him an Oscar nomination and an Annie Award win for best short film. Before Luckey went to work with Pixar, he animated and created several musical cartoons for Sesame Street, some of which he actually performed in as a vocal talent.
It is, of course, Luckey’s contributions to Toy Story that will be most fondly remembered. It’s Luckey who first decided that Woody should change from a ventriloquist dummy, as he was in early drafts, to a cowboy. Luckey explained, back in 2005, that a cowboy seemed like a better and more interesting match for antagonistic relationship with a spaceman like Buzz Lightyear. While Woody was his greatest and most influential achievement, Luckey also helped designed characters for Pixar movies like A Bug’s Life , Monsters, Inc., and Cars.
While his skills were primarily in animation, Luckey was also a performer. Through his work with Pixar, Luckey became a voice actor, appearing in multiple movies for the studio and Disney in bit roles. Luckey played Rick Dicker in The Incredibles. He also was Eyeore in 2011’s Winnie the Pooh. Perhaps Luckey’s most well-known role though, is as the comically broken-hearted Chuckles the Clown in Toy Story 3, where he interacted with Luckey’s “creation” Woody.
Luckey’s work as a voice actor outlasted his career as an animator. The Oscar nominated animator retired from animation in 2008. Yet he continued doing voice work, off and on, until 2014.
Andy Luckey wrote of his father that he “loved his work but got even greater satisfaction from seeing others enjoy it.” This fits with the family’s request that in lieu of flowers over the death of the Pixar genius, money be donated to the Bud Luckey Scholarship Fund at the California Institute of the Arts.
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