As reported by The Hollywood Reporter, Sesame Street animator and Pixar character designer Bud Luckey has died. His family says he died this weekend after an “extended illness.” Luckey was 83.
Born in Montana in 1934, Luckey served in the Air Force during the Korean War and later attended art school thanks to the benefits of the G.I. Bill. While studying animation at the University Of Southern California, Luckey learned under classic Disney animator Art Babbit and later worked for Babbit as an apprentice. Luckey worked at an advertising agency in the ‘60s, doing animation work for a number of now-iconic mascots like Tony The Tiger and Toucan Sam, and while working in advertising he ended up meeting and becoming friends with Jim Henson.
This led to Luckey eventually getting a chance to animate some segments for Sesame Street about numbers, including “The Alligator King,” “The Ladybug’s Picnic,” and “The Old Woman Who Lived In A Nine.” He occasionally provided voice and musical tracks to the cartoons as well, often working with lyricist Don Hadley.
In the ‘90s, Luckey joined Pixar as a character designer, storyboard artist, and animator for Toy Story. He’s credited with designing Woody, having supposedly gone through 200 alternate ideas—including a “sarcastic ventriloquist dummy”—before deciding that it would be “more interesting” to have a cowboy working with the spaceman toy. He also worked as a character designer on A Bug’s Life, Monsters Inc, and Cars. In 2004, he wrote, directed, voiced, and composed the Academy Award-nominated short Boundin’, which screened before The Incredibles.
Luckey retired from animation in 2008, but he did voice work—including an appearance as Chuckles The Clown in Toy Story 3—up until 2014. His son, Andy Luckey (a producer on the old Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles show and supposedly the inspiration for Toy Story’s Andy) posted a remembrance for his father on Facebook: