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Bud Luckey at Senior

Pixar animator and Senior High School graduate Bud Luckey holds an amimation workshop for students at Senior High School in 2005.

LARRY MAYER/Gazette Staff

Bud Luckey, the Billings native who created iconic characters for Pixar and Disney, died Saturday. He was 83.

The Oscar-nominated animator died at a hospice facility in Newtown, Connecticut, according to the Hollywood Reporter, who spoke with Luckey’s son, Andy. The animator had been ill for some time.

Bud Luckey

Pixar cartoonist and character designer Bud Luckey, who is credited with creating the character Woody in the "Toy Story" franchise and narrated and wrote the Academy Award-nominated, animated short "Boundin'," was born and raised in Billings.

Luckey created Woody for the 1995 movie “Toy Story” and was a character designer for the 2006 movie “Cars.” He was also a character designer and story artist for “Monsters, Inc.” in 2001. He produced the “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles,” a cartoon series from the 1990s. Luckey’s animation work also included the 1961 TV series “The Alvin Show,” featuring Alvin and the Chipmunks.

The Billings native was the voice of Eeyore in the 2011 movie "Winnie the Pooh," Rick Dicker in the 2004 movie "The Incredibles" and Chuckles the Clown in the "Toy Story" film series. 

The animator’s Oscar nomination was for “Boundin,” a Montana-inspired short film featuring a forlorn lamb and a mythical antlered rabbit known as a jackalope. Luckey wrote and directed the short film.

"The most pathetic, sympathetic character I could think of was a sheep after he'd been sheared, out in the rain. I started there," Luckey told The Gazette in 2004.

The jackalope lends the sheared lamb some advice on how to pull through the crisis. As the film plays out, Luckey accommodates the action with a western waltz played on his banjo. His voice narrates the film.

The setting is a place "on a high mountain plain, where the sagebrush arranges a playground south of the snow." Rainbow trout jump in the creek against a backdrop of snow-capped mountains, but the landscape mingles scenery from Montana's prairie with images of the Southwestern desert.

After the lamb loses his magnificent fleece, he takes a teasing from his prairie peers.

"The schoolyard kids who kind of laugh and ridicule him, those are the prairie dogs," Luckey told the Gazette. "My grandparents had a little homestead out at Canyon Creek, and there was a prairie dog town out there."

“Boundin” won the 2003 Annie Award from the International Animated Film Society.

Lucky told the Gazette that his cartooning started with a broken stick and a piece of chalk on the sidewalk in front of his Billings home.

As a Billings Senior High School student, Luckey painted the mural "Canyon Creek Battle," which is on the south side of the first floor.  

Bud Luckey mural

Bud Luckey created his Senior High mural, "Canyon Creek Battle," in 1953. Through he's has a fruitful and lengthy career in many facets of the entertainment industry, the detail-oriented Luckey said he'd like a do-over on the dead horse depiction in the mural.

Luckey visited Billings throughout the years, including a 2005 appearance at Saturday Live, a fundraiser for public schools. Luckey attended Broadwater Elementary.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Luckey created animated films for “Sesame Street,” teaching kids to count, including “The Alligator King” and “The Ladybug Picnic,” both Sesame Street classics.


Agriculture and Politics Reporter

Politics and agriculture reporter for The Billings Gazette.