Bud Luckey was born in Billings, Montana in 1934. He is an American cartoonist, animator, singer, musician, and composer. Wow! He's best known for his work at Pixar as a character designer for Toy Story, Boundin', Toy Story 2, A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, Cars, The Incredibles, Ratatouille and Wall-E. Luckey is also beloved by generations of Sesame Street viewers for his numerous short animated films on that program. “I used to go to a dude ranch which is when you spend your holiday on a ranch so I became a bit of a cowboy. And I used to draw a lot, particularly cowboys and horses!”
Luckey was born and raised in Billings, Montana. He served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. He later served as a graphics specialist with the NATO Allied Occupation Forces in Europe and North Africa from 1953 to 1954 and, finally, with the Strategic Air Command from 1954-'57.
After leaving active Air Force duty, he attended the California Institute of the Arts from 1957 to 1960. He was a Disney scholar, and received professional animation training at the University of Southern California. “I used to draw on the sidewalk using a broken brick in place of chalk. I got really into art at school and then went onto art college in California.”
He served as an animator for The Chipmunks in 1960 and 1961. He also worked as an animator and sequence director on a pilot for Mad Magazine Television Special. “It is very important to do art in school. I think it would be criminal if there was no art in school.” As an advertising agency artist from 1961 to 1969 Bud Luckey worked on TV commercials for Kellogg's Frosted Flakes (Tony the Tiger), Froot Loops (Toucan Sam), and Rice Krispies (Snap, Crackle and Pop) as well as Interstate Bakeries' products featuring Peanuts characters. He won a Clio Award in 1966 for the General Mills commercial Betty Crocker 'Magic Faucet.'
Luckey also worked with animator Alex Anderson, who created the characters of Rocky the Flying Squirrel, Bullwinkle, and Dudley Do-Right. Luckey wrote and animated many short films for Sesame Street and the Children's Television Workshop during the 1970s.
Bud Luckey founded his own animation studio, The Luckey-Zamora Picture Moving Company, in the early 70's and merged its operation with Colossal Pictures in the late 80's before joining Pixar in 1992. Initially Luckey's studio was in his family's home, until it outgrew that small townhouse and turned into Bud's own mini ‘house’ in the back yard where he worked long hours. The company then took studio space in the Produce District of San Francisco. In the 1970s and 80's it was the largest animation studio in the San Francisco bay area.
His film credits include the 1974 animated feature The Extraordinary Adventures of the Mouse and His Child. He worked on a 1990 television special, Betty Boop's Hollywood Mystery, and did character design for Back to the Future: The Animated Series from 1991 to 1992.
In the 2004 video release of Disney/Pixar's The Incredibles, in addition to Bud Luckey's Oscar-nominated short Boundin', the studio included a short biography of Luckey entitled "Who is Bud Luckey?" In that video biography, Pixar and now Disney's Creative Executive Vice President John Lasseter declared: “Bud Luckey is one of the unsung heroes of animation!”
Luckey joined Pixar in 1990 as a character designer, story board artist and animator for Toy Story. He was Pixar's fifth artist/animator. John Lasseter credits Bud Luckey with the creation and design of the star of Toy Story, Woody. Originally the character was a ventriloquist's dummy but he evolved into a talking doll with a pull string and a gun-less holster.
According to Toy Story Producer Ralph Guggenheim, John Lasseter and the story team for the first Toy Story film reviewed the names of Pixar employees' children looking for the right name for the film's boy character. “Andy”, was ultimately named after Luckey's son, Andy Luckey. In press interviews Bud's son Andy Luckey has claimed he had no idea if he was the namesake of the character or not. He said with a chuckle. “I'd be flattered if it were true but I kind of doubt it. I was 30 when that first film came out, more than twice the age of the character…If the character ‘Andy’ was named after a real person, it was probably Andrew Stanton. At least that's my guess.”
Luckey's character designs can also be seen in Toy Story 2, A Bug's Life, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, Cars, Ratatouille as well as Wall-E and Toy Story 3. “My high school art teacher was the best in the world.”
In 2003 Luckey gained attention for the short film Boundin', which was the opening cartoon for The Incredibles. It was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Animated Short in 2003. Luckey wrote and designed the short, composed the music and lyrics, sang and performed banjo on the soundtrack for the cartoon. Boundin' won the ASIFA Hollywood Annie Award that same year. Also, in The Incredibles, Bud Luckey voiced the government agent Rick Dicker.
Luckey has designed and illustrated more than 100 children's books containing his characters, recently including the Golden Book Mater and the Ghostlight featuring the Cars character 'Mater'.
In an interview on the Incredibles DVD set, Luckey reminisced about the experience: “About thirty years, I'd done some Sesame Street stuff...I like to think these days that thirty years ago, I used animation to teach kids their numbers, and now these kids are teaching me how to animate with numbers. So it was a good deal.”
‘A jackalope is a mythical beast that is half-rabbit, half-deer and features in Boundin'. So, do you believe they exist?’ asked an interviewer from the BBC.
“Well I've never seen one but I'm sure I've heard them! Animation is the perfect place to bring mythical creatures to life.”