When comedian Don Rickles passed away in April 2017, fans were left wondering what would become of his character, Mr. Potato Head, in Toy Story 4. With his representative having confirmed that no lines had been recorded at the time of his passing, rumors have circulated for the past two years. Would they write him out? Cast a new voice actor? Or would they be able to utilize old recordings? Finally, Pixar has given us our answer, and it’s a fantastic one.
Toy Story 4 director Josh Cooley tweeted the news first himself:
Cooley also spoke to Entertainment Weekly about Rickles’ role:
“Of course we loved Don obviously, and after he passed, his family contacted us and asked if there was any way that we could create a performance using the recordings that we had. Now, he signed to be in Toy Story 4. Unfortunately we did not get a chance to record him for the film. But we went through, jeez, 25 years of everything we didn’t use for Toy Story 1, 2, 3, the theme parks, the ice capades, the video games — everything that he’s recorded for Mr. Potato Head. And we were able to do that. And so I’m very honored that they asked us to do that, and I’m very honored that he’s in the film. Nobody can replace him.”
I think it’s very touching that his family made this request. And I think it was the correct thing for Pixar to do in these circumstances, since he had signed on for the film and was looking forward to being a part of it. In this instance, the movie’s rewrite was probably beneficial, because they could tailor his scenes in order to use the audio they had available.
This is not the first time Pixar has honored a voice actor by utilizing their previous recordings. When Paul Newman passed away after Cars, his character Doc Hudson was memorialized in Cars 2, and then flashbacks in Cars 3 tapped into existing clips he had recorded.
If there happen to be any more Toy Story shorts or films in the future, Pixar will have to make a decision then what to do with Mr. Potato Head’s role. But in the meantime, I’m so glad we get to see – and hear – him again in Toy Story 4, and that Don Rickles’ voice gets to live on in this character he created!
Images c Disney/Pixar.