Bud Luckey, 83, animator who designed Woody from ‘Toy Story’

Mr. Luckey’s rosy-cheeked cowboy was the film’s pull-string star.
Mr. Luckey’s rosy-cheeked cowboy was the film’s pull-string star.

WASHINGTON — Bud Luckey, an Oscar-nominated animator who crafted hand-drawn, two-dimensional characters for more than three decades before using new digital tools to create Woody, the pull-string star of Pixar’s ‘‘Toy Story,’’ died Feb. 24 at a hospice center in Newtown, Conn. He was 83.

Mr. Luckey began his career as a protege of Art Babbitt, the Walt Disney animator who developed the long-eared character Goofy and the wicked queen of ‘‘Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.’’

Working out of San Francisco, he animated the original “Alvin and the Chipmunks” television series, collaborated with ‘‘Peanuts’’ creator Charles M. Schulz on advertisements for Dolly Madison snack cakes, and devised entire segments for ‘‘Sesame Street,’’ in which his hillbilly-fiddler character Donnie Budd introduced young viewers to the numbers two through six.


By the early 1990s, however, Mr. Luckey’s curiosity was piqued by plans for a computer-generated film at Pixar, the Bay Area studio that Apple co-founder Steve Jobs had helped establish in 1986. He was soon hired as the studio’s fifth animator and worked variously as a character designer, storyboard artist, or voice performer for ‘‘Toy Story’’ (1995) and nearly every Pixar movie that followed.

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Mr. Luckey was ‘‘one of the true unsung heroes of animation,’’ John Lasseter, who directed ‘‘Toy Story’’ and went on to become the studio’s chief creative officer, said in a 2004 Pixar documentary on the animator.

Known to some colleagues as Bud Low-Key, Mr. Luckey helped shape the whimsical worlds and characters of movies such as ‘‘A Bug’s Life’’ (1998), ‘‘Toy Story 2’’ (1999), ‘‘Monsters, Inc.’’ (2001), ‘‘Cars’’ (2006) and ‘‘Ratatouille’’ (2007).

He also performed voice work, lending his native Montana baritone to characters including government agent Rick Dicker in ‘‘The Incredibles’’ (2004), the despondent clown Chuckles in ‘‘Toy Story 3’’ (2010), and Eeyore in the 2011 adaptation of ‘‘Winnie the Pooh.’’

Still, he remained best known for his work on ‘‘Toy Story,’’ which set a benchmark for computer-generated animation and made more than $370 million worldwide.


The movie’s characters — toys that come to life whenever they are separated from their owner, who shared the same name as Mr. Luckey’s son Andy — included an astronaut named Buzz Lightyear (voiced by Tim Allen) and, initially, a decidedly creepy-looking ventriloquist’s dummy.

Luckey suggested a change: Turn Woody (Tom Hanks) into a cowboy. ‘‘As soon as he said that, I knew it was just perfect,’’ Lasseter recalled in Karen Paik’s book ‘‘To Infinity and Beyond!: The Story of Pixar Animation Studios.’’ ‘‘The whole idea of a buddy picture is to pair up two characters who are as opposite as possible, and you can’t get more opposite than a spaceman and a cowboy.’’

Mr. Luckey said he ‘‘did 200 Woodies,’’ sketching different possibilities with a pencil and pen, before Lasseter selected the rosy-cheeked version that appeared in the movie. Mr. Luckey and his Pixar colleagues — many of them half his age — then set to work turning the sketch into a computer-generated character.