Don Rickles, who died Thursday at the age of 90, was known for his biting wit and cutting insults, but for a generation of moviegoers, he was known as Mr. Potato Head, with his endlessly detachable body parts.
The legendary comedian voiced the loudmouth spud in the Toy Story movies, beginning with the John Lasseter-directed original in 1995. Two decades, three more movies and nearly $2 billion in box-office returns later, Rickles was set to voice Mr. Potato Head in the upcoming fourth installment of the Pixar series, which is set to be co-directed by Lasseter and Josh Cooley for a 2019 release.
Rickles, though, had not yet recorded new material for Toy Story 4, his rep confirmed to The Hollywood Reporter. Pixar has been doing rewrites on the film, and Rickles had not yet been called in to record his voice tracks for Mr. Potato Head’s role in the fourth film.
Lasseter remembered Rickles in a statement released by Pixar, lauding the comedian as “a comic genius, and here at Pixar we were honored to also call him a friend.”
The plot for the film and how big of a role Mr. Potato Head plays in it are still unknown, but it is possible that Rickles could still be included in Toy Story 4, using previously recorded material from the prior films.
That approach was taken following the accidental death of Paul Walker while Furious 7 was in production. The film was completed with digital versions of Walker, and the late actor’s vocal performance in those scenes was carefully crafted by the sound editors, using existing recorded dialogue.
Similarly, in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, a 1977 version of Carrie Fisher’s Princess Leia says the film’s final line, “Hope.” In that instance, the Skywalker Sound team found reel-to-reel tapes in its archives, featuring original takes of Fisher voicing the line, “Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi; you’re my only hope.” They selected one take, and that’s what was used to conclude Rogue One.
Toy Story franchise co-stars Tom Hanks and Tim Allen, who provide the voices of cowboy Woody and spaceman Buzz Lightyear, respectively, remembered Rickles on Twitter. Hanks wrote, “A God died today. Don Rickles, we did not want to ever lose you,” while Allen remembered: “Don Rickles is one of the biggest reasons I am a comic today. I feel bad, mostly for everyone in Heaven who will now learn first hand from the sharpest wits ever, what it’s like to be Rickled.”
“The wit, personality, and incredible timing he brought to Mr. Potato Head lit up the character and made him an essential part of the Toy Story ensemble,” Lasseter also wrote. “Even though Mr. Potato Head’s facial features fell off in every Toy Story movie, his heart never left him — that was because of Don.”