If you’ve managed to make it all the way through to the end credits of Toy Story 4, whether with or without tears streaming down your face, you’ll find that two people get special mentions at the end of the film.
One of them is Don Rickles, who voiced Mr. Potato Head for the prior three movies, but sadly passed away before filming began but his family gave their blessing for Pixar to use old recordings of his for the film. The other name at the end of Toy Story 4, Bud Luckey, might not be as familiar to most off the top of your head, but he’s an incredibly important person for not just the Toy Story franchise, but the wide world of animation, too.
Luckey sadly passed away in early 2018, which is why the film (along with last year’s Incredibles 2) is dedicated to him and his work at Pixar. He was not only a long-time animator, writer, director, and voice actor for the studio, but he was also responsible for the initial design of Sheriff Woody, along with receiving an Academy Award nomination for Best Animated Short in 2003 for his work on the short "Boundin’". Luckey also voiced Chuckles the clown in Toy Story 3.
But well before he joined Pixar, Luckey worked as a 2D animator creating short cartoons for Sesame Street (there’s a high chance you’ve seen at least one of his shorts, and it’s probably “The Ladybugs’ Picnic”). For a while, Luckey even had his own animation studio and used to work closely with Charles Schultz, of Peanuts fame, when it came to using Charlie Brown and Snoopy in ad campaigns. He also had a close friendship with Jim Henson and contributed to some Muppet illustrations, both on and off Sesame Street.
In 1992, Luckey then joined Pixar during the very early days of the studio — at the time, he was only the fifth animator — well before Toy Story was even a thing. Originally, Woody was supposed to be a ventriloquist dummy, but it was Luckey who suggested he be a pull-string cowboy because he thought people were spooked by dummies thanks to The Twilight Zone (hey, he was right!). He started drawing up new designs for the character and, well, the rest is history.
Before he retired from Pixar in 2008, Luckey worked on A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, Cars, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, and Toy Story 3. But, he kept doing voice work until 2014, and can be heard as Chuckles the Clown (one of Bonnie’s toys) in Toy Story 3, and as National Supers Agency Agent Rick Dicker in The Incredibles (his voice was recast for The Incredibles 2 with Jonathan Banks). As for "Boundin’", he wrote, directed, starred in, narrated, choreographed, and did the music for "Boundin’". Though it didn’t take home an Oscar, it did win the Annie Award for Best Animated Short Subject.
Wherever Toy Story (and the rest of Pixar) go next, Luckey’s inspiration will live on through the characters he helped design. If you’d like to know a little bit more about Luckey, from those at Pixar themselves, one of the special features on The Incredibles DVD is all about him and the work he did for the studio over the years.