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There are a lot of great new characters in the Toy Story universe thanks to Toy Story 4; however, one character who has been stealing the show has been Keanu Reeves’ Duke Caboom. The spirited (and somewhat gun-shy) Canadian Toy has been popular ever since he was introduced in the trailer. Apparently, animating Duke Caboom was pretty popular too.
Why? Well, not only does “Canada’s greatest stuntman” get to do things like fly through the air on his motorbike and work his little plastic body into weird positions, it also just so happens there are a slew of animators at Pixar who are from Canada – just like Duke Caboom!
At a press conference in Orlando ahead of the release of Toy Story 4, producer Mark Nielsen revealed that Canadian Pixar animators were more than happy to work on Duke Caboom.
There’s a lot of great Canadians who work at Pixar too and they all volunteered to animate all of the Duke Caboom shots. So, he’s mostly animated by Canadian animators. The 'maple leaf crew.'
The 'maple leaf crew' seems to have been a real thing around the Pixar lot, as both Keanu Reeves and producer Jonas Rivera echoed Mark Nielsen’s comments about that fun group. Director Josh Cooley also confirmed that Duke Caboom was 100% animated by the Canadian crew, so a lot of Canadian quirks and references in Toy Story 4 can be attributed to their work.
However, before Keanu Reeves was officially signed, the creative team had no idea that it was even Reeves they wanted in the role. He was just one of many voice recordings in a stack when the process was getting started. However, once his recording was played, director Josh Cooley said the actor jumped right out at them, noting,
When we cast these roles, we don’t want to see faces. We have a casting department. They bring in a bunch of recordings. We say turn the headshots over. We don’t want to see who this person. We just want to hear the voice. We don’t even know who we’re listening to. So we’ll listen to a bunch, [say], 'Who is that?' But right away, I think we grabbed [onto Reeves, said], 'What is that from?' One of your movies we grabbed and we were listening to [it] and we all went, 'Whoa, who is that?'
Keanu Reeves has a pretty unique background. Although his mother is English and his father is Hawaiian (and of multiple descents), he was born in Beirut. He spent his early childhood moving around before settling in Toronto, Ontario, Canada when his mother remarried. He currently holds naturalized Canadian citizenship, although he has a green card and lives and works in the U.S. Still, it's Canada we often identify the actor with, and it certainly fit for this role.
In fact, his voice was uniquely suited for this sort of role and the rest is history – because yes, he Can-ada!
In fact, director Josh Cooley previously revealed to CinemaBlend how "shocked" he was to find out that Keanu Reeves is a funny guy in real life as well as in the big screen comedies that kicked off his career. It was all put to good use in Toy Story 4, which is out in theaters now and has earned solid reviews so far.