At age 69, Luckey wrote, directed, composed and performed as the solo singer/narrator on the Pixar 2004 Animated Short film Boundin' which won the Annie Award as well as an Academy Award (Oscar) nomination in the Best Animated Short Film category.
Luckey semi-retired from Pixar in 2008 but continues to work with the studio from time to time and with the parent Disney organization, primarily as a performer of character voices.
Luckey is the father of animator/director/producer Andy Luckey who, in turn, is best known as a producer of the animated Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles television series and the creator, writer and designer of the Spin & Sparkle children's book series. Following his retirement from Pixar, Bud Luckey has served as an Advisor to Greater Family, LLC, of which his son Andy is co-founder and President.
Luckey was born and raised in Billings, Montana. He served in the United States Air Force during the Korean War. He later served as an Artist-Illustrator (a specialty now called "Visual Information 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. Among Luckey's Air Force duty stations was Nouasseur Air Base/a/k/a Nouasseur Air Depot a nuclear bomber strike base and nuclear weapon storage depot south of Casablanca, Morocco. There he served with the Third Air Force Air Material Command, Southern District ( now part of the Air Force Materiel Command). Additional duty stations were Lackland AFB and Kelly AFB (now collectively part of Joint Base San Antonio) as well as Portland AFB (now known as Portland Air National Guard Base). He remained an Air Force reservist through the mid-1960s.
After leaving active Air Force duty and with the benefits of the Korean War G.I. Bill, he attended Chouinard Art Institute (which later merged with the California Academy of Music to form California Institute of the Arts (Cal Arts) from 1957 to 1960. He was a Disney scholar, and received professional animation training at the University of Southern California with Disney veteran animator Art Babbitt. After graduation Luckey worked for a time as Babbitt's assistant/apprentice at Quartet Films in Los Angeles.
He served as an animator for The Alvin Show in 1961. He also worked as an animator and sequence director on a pilot for Mad magazine television special produced by longtime friends Jimmy Murakami and Gordon Bellamy. He would later serve as an animator to the 1977 animated feature, The Mouse and His Child and as an uncredited assistant animator to Don Bluth's first animated feature, The Secret of NIMH.
As an advertising agency Art Director and Producer from 1961 to 1969 at the Guild, Bascom & Bonfigli (Advertising)Agency (which agency merged with Dancer Fitzgerald Sample, now Saatchi & Saatchi, in 1967), 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' Dolly Madison products featuring Charles M. Schulz' Peanuts characters. He created the "Bosco Dumbunnies" characters for the Best Foods Chocolate Flavor Milk Amplifier product Bosco Chocolate Syrup – the commercial spots were animated by renowned animators Fred Wolf and Jimmy Murakami. 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, as well as the more obscure Crusader Rabbit. Anderson was the Vice President of Television at the Guild-Bascom-Bonfigli Agency at that time.
The Guild-Bascom-Bonfigli Agency, despite its San Francisco location, was also well known for its work on political campaigns. The agency's Creative Director, Maxwell "Bud" Arnold, was considered a foremost expert in the budding field of television advertising for politics and Arnold's expertise brought many key political figures to the agency's roster. In that regard Luckey also did work on the presidential campaigns of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey who were clients of that agency during his tenure.
Charles M. Schulz's Peanuts characters, such as Charlie Brown and Snoopy were used by the Dancer Fitzgerald Sample agency for its client Interstate Bakeries's products sold under the Dolly Madison brand name. Bud Luckey was placed in charge as the Senior Art Director/Producer for all advertising containing Schulz characters. As a result, Luckey often visited Schulz to review material as well as famed animator Bill Melendez, whose studio produced the animation containing the Schultz characters. Luckey's relationship with Schultz and Melendez was such that after Luckey left the agency in 1969 to form his own animation company, Dancer Fitzgerald Sample contracted him for several years to continue working on the Dolly Madison campaigns featuring Schultz' characters.
Whilst working at the Guild Bascom & Bonfigli / Dancer Fitzgerald Sample agency, Luckey first collaborated with copywriter Don Hadley. The two became lifelong friends until Hadley's death in 2007. After leaving the agency, Hadley and Luckey co-created numerous short films for the Sesame Street television series. Hadley also worked with Luckey at Pixar in the early 2000s prior to his death. Their collaborative work at Pixar had not been publicized by the studio as of April 2012.
Puppeteer Jim Henson worked with Luckey on commercials during the mid-1960s. They remained close friends until Henson's death in 1990. That friendship later resulted in Luckey's work on Sesame Street and his illustration work featuring Henson's Muppet characters in the 1970s and 80s.
Luckey wrote and animated many short films for Sesame Street and the Children's Television Workshop during the 1970s, often doing the voice work himself as well. Among them are "The Ladybugs' Picnic," "That's about the size of it", the Donnie-Bud Series (with co-writer Don Hadley) featuring numbers 2 to 6, "Penny Candy Man", "Martian Beauty", "#7 The Alligator King", "Lovely Eleven Morning", "The Old Woman Who Lived in a Nine" and the award-winning "Longie and Shorty the Rattlesnakes" mini series. He returned to work on one more segment for Sesame Street in 1990, called "Z - Zebu". Many of Luckey's Sesame Street works were created with his long-time friend and creative collaborator writer/lyricist Don Hadley (1936-2007).
Luckey founded his own animation studio, The Luckey-Zamora Picture Moving Company, in the early 1970s and merged its operation with Colossal Pictures in the late '80s before joining Pixar in 1992. Initially Luckey's studio was in his family's home, until it outgrew that small townhouse and Bud's own 6'x8' (mini)"house" in the back yard (in which he worked long hours). The company then took studio space in the Produce District of San Francisco. In the 1970s and 1980s it was the largest animation studio in the San Francisco bay area.
His film credits include the 1977 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 2005 DVD release of 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 true unsung heroes of animation."
Luckey joined Pixar in 1990 as a character designer, storyboard 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, a cowboy. Originally the character was a ventriloquist's dummy like Edgar Bergen's character Charlie McCarthy. He evolved into a talking doll with a pull string and a gun-less holster.
Luckey's character designs can also be seen in A Bug's Life, Toy Story 2, Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, Cars, Ratatouille, WALL-E, Up, and in Toy Story 3, in which he also voices a clown named Chuckles.
In 2003, Luckey gained attention for the short film Boundin', which was released theatrically as 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, and also composed the music and lyrics, and sang and performed banjo on the soundtrack for the cartoon. Boundin' won the ASIFA Hollywood Annie Award that same year.
In The Incredibles, Bud Luckey voiced the role of National Supers Agency (NSA) Agent Rick Dicker. In the film's DVD commentary, director Brad Bird jokes that he had an idea to start Boundin' with Rick Dicker coming into his office late at night, pulling out a bottle of "booze" and a banjo to start singing the song about the dancing sheep who is sheared and has his confidence restored by the Jackalope. He also lent his voice to Chuckles in Toy Story 3 and Hawaiian Vacation.
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.
Luckey also featured in the film Winnie the Pooh as the voice of Eeyore.