Toy Story 4 director Josh Cooley says the film will pay tribute to Don Rickles. Announced in 2014, the Pixar animated sequel was originally scheduled to arrive in 2017, but was ultimately delayed by two years due to its changes in writers and director. Sadly, as a result, the studio wasn't able to record Don Rickles' lines as Mr. Potato Head before the actor's passing at age 90 in April 2017. It was later reported that Pixar would be replacing him as the married spud in Toy Story 4, with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks being the top candidates rumored for the job.
However, when the character finally spoke in the Toy Story 4 trailers, some people were quick to notice that he still sounded an awful lot like Rickles. Sure enough, Cooley has since revealed the actor is voicing Mr. Potato Head in the movie after all, thanks to a performance created from older vocal recordings. After all, the comedian spent twenty-five years voicing Mr. Potato Head in Toy Story movies, video games, shorts, and even theme park attractions, so there was a whole lot to draw from.
Speaking at Pixar's Toy Story 4 press day, Cooley confirmed that Rickles' performance as Mr. Potato Head will be created from recordings he made going back to the mid-'90s. He also said the actor will receive a proper tribute in the film, explaining:
Yes, we're going to have a tribute to him. We went through everything that he's recorded. So we went through all past films, all the shorts, all the video games, all the theme park stuff, all the ice capades, all the toys. He's done a lot over the last 25 years. And he did sign on to be on this film before he passed, so we were very honored for that. We were also very honored that his family asked us to see if we can create a performance. Obviously, we can't say anything that's specific to the plot, but we've found enough that it just felt natural and he fits in just like everybody else does.
The news that Rickles will receive a tribute in Toy Story 4 is unsurprising, but welcome all the same. After all, the actor has been part of the Toy Story family since the very beginning, and his vocal delivery helped make Mr. Potato Head a loveably cantankerous supporting player to begin with. Obviously, since Cooley and his team are using Rickles' old recordings, there's only so much they'll be able to do with his character, as far as his role in the movie's story is concerned. Then again, Mr. Potato Head has played an increasing reduced part in the Toy Story franchise as more and more toys have been introduced with each passing film. With even more newcomers joining the party (plus the return of Bo Peep), audiences may not even notice if the character is a little less talkative than normal here.
While most people felt Toy Story 3 was a strong ending to the franchise, it seems Toy Story 4 is aiming to deliver a conclusion to Woody and his pals' tale that's even more definitive and otherwise satisfying. This makes it all the more meaningful that Rickles is being included, giving everyone a chance to bid farewell to both the actor and one of his most beloved characters on the big screen. Both Tom Hanks and Tim Allen have alluded to the very emotional nature of the film already, admitting they had a hard time just recording their lines. Add Rickles' final hurrah on top of that and you have a sequel that (like so many Pixar movies before it) will try pretty dang hard to leave audiences crying, by the sound of it.
- Toy Story 4 (2019) release date: Jun 21, 2019