Popular comedian and Academy Award-winning actor Red Buttons passed away Thursday at the age of 87. Calif. Animation fans remember him best as Hoagy in Disney’s 1976 classic feature Pete’s Dragon, which featured a cel-animated dragon interacting with live actors. Buttons then lent his voice to the 1979 Rankin & Bass stop-motion holiday special Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July.
A performer since early childhood, Manhattan-born Aaron Chwatt got the nickname Red Buttons while working as an entertaining bell hop at a New York tavern. After working as a comedian in Catskills and appearing on Broadway, he started his film career with the 1944 war pic Winged Victory and earned a Best Supporting Actor Oscar and a Golden Globe for the 1957 feature Sayonara, starring Marlon Brando. He has acted in more than 80 film and television productions, appearing as recently as 2005 in an episode of NBC’s ER.
A couple years ago, Buttons was seen chatting with Julie Andrews and sharing some comic advice with a couple of up-and-coming talents named Mike Meyers and Eddie Murphy at a Los Angeles premiere party for DreamWorks’ Shrek 2 DVD.
Buttons died from vascular disease in his home in Century City. He is survived by son Adam, daughter Amy and a brother and sister.