"I busted my bird for 60 years in the business," Don Rickles told Maxim in 2013, "but my grandkids only know me as Mr. Potato Head." The comedian may have been joking—but he wasn't wrong, either. Shortly after E! News confirmed that the insult comic had died Thursday morning at the age of 90, those involved with the Disney/Pixar film franchise shared their grief.
Tom Hanks, who voices Woody, was among the first to express his condolences. "A God died today," he tweeted. "Don Rickles, we did not want to ever lose you. Never." Whoopi Goldberg, who voices Stretch, told her Twitter followers he was "one of the all time great men and comics," adding that he was "always a class act and funny as hell." Jodi Benson, who voices Barbie, shared a photo of her "amazing" friend during the making of 2010's Toy Story 3. "It was a blessing to work with him," the actress tweeted. "Lifting his family up with prayers and love."
"Don Rickles was a comic genius, and here at Pixar we were honored to also call him a friend. 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," John Lasseter, Pixar's chief creative officer, said in a statement released via Twitter Friday. " 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."
Lasseter added, "We will miss him tremendously."
Rickles was expected to reprise his role as Mr. Potato Head in Toy Story 4, slated for release on June 21, 2019. Pixar has not yet confirmed whether the late comedian had already recorded his dialogue for the upcoming movie; E! News reached out to the animation studio for clarification.
As it turns out, Rickles nearly passed on the role of a lifetime in 1995's Toy Story. "When John approached me for the first one, I said, 'I don't do comedy with cartoons, dummies and toys. Leave me alone.' And he said, 'No, you're gonna love this!'" he revealed to Slashfilm in 2015. "Then he told me the money and how nice it was going to be. I said, 'Yeah...I can give it a try.'"
Rashida Jones and Will McCormack were hired to write the script for Toy Story 4, and Hanks began recording his dialogue in December 2015. As he told Graham Norton that year, he will be summoned to record new lines about every six months. Lasseter, the film's director, has said the fourth film will prominently feature Woody's love interest, Bo Peep (Annie Potts). "I love Bo Peep, and we never got to know her backstory. She wasn't in Toy Story 3 at all, so it really set us up nicely for her to come back," Lasseter said at Disney's D23 Expo. "It's a very special story."
One fans, no doubt, hope Rickles' Mr. Potato Head will be a part of.