Don Rickles was a legendary comic known for the endearingly non-PC insult style that earned him the ironic — but completely accurate — nickname Mr. Warmth. Yet he was also ingrained in the hearts of kids and moviegoers everywhere thanks to his role as Mr. Potato Head in the Toy Story series. Unfortunately, the late icon’s reps have confirmed that Rickles had not had the opportunity to voice the character for the in-the-works Toy Story 4 before his death last week at the age of 90.
Rickles voiced the crabby character in all three Toy Story films to date, from 1995’s Jon Lasseter-directed original to Lee Unkrich’s Toy Story 3 in 2010, as well as a number of shorts and TV specials. Pixar is still in the midst of rewrites on the fourth theatrical entry in the series, which is coming from co-directors Lasseter and Josh Cooley and set for a June 2019 release. Therefore, Rickles never had a chance to get back in the booth.
However, that does not mean Mr. Potato Head will be written out of the film — or that Rickles won’t have a presence. The Toy Story films have replaced deceased actors in the past, with Jim Varney voicing Slinky Dog in the first two movies and Blake Clark taking over the role after Varney’s passing in 2000. It’s also possible for sound editors to take dialogue Rickles recorded for previous films, both used and unused, and create new audio for the movie. (It’s essentially what happened with young Princess Leia at the end of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, or what filmmakers did for Furious 7 following the death of Paul Walker.)
Rickles’ Toy Story co-stars paid tribute to the comic on Twitter following his death. “Don Rickles is one of the biggest reasons I am a comic today,” wrote Tim Allen, the voice of Buzz Lightyear. “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.” Tom Hanks, who voices Woody, sent out this message:
In his own note, Lasseter said, “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. 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.”