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Friday, 11 February, 2000, 11:22 GMT
Toy Story star dies
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US comedy star Jim Varney, the voice of Slinky Dog in the Toy Story films, has died of cancer at his Tennessee home aged 50.
Comedy actor Jim Varney
Cancer battle: US comedy star Jim Varney
His death came just months after he reprised his voice role for the sequel to the 1995 computer-animated Disney blockbuster, Toy Story.

His spokesman and former wife, Jane Varney said: "He passed away very peacefully."

Varney, who was diagnosed with cancer in August 1998, lost two-thirds of his right lung to cancer the following month.

He will return posthumously to the big-screen in two films. He co-stars with Oscar-winner Billy Bob Thornton in the comedy love story Daddy and Them, to be released later this year.

"Any of us who knew Jim well, know that the world will never exactly know what a great talent and extraordinary human being we have lost," said Thornton. "I loved him dearly."

Cult figure

He also will supply the voice of a cook named Cookie in the forthcoming Disney animated feature Atlantis, due for release next year.

Toy Story's Slinky Dog
Varney provided the voice for Slinky Dog
Varney became a cult figure in the US in the 1980s, portraying the character Ernest P Worrell in a series of TV commercials.

Between 1987 and 1990, he starred in four Ernest movies for Disney. Five more Ernest films were released independently, mainly for the video and television markets.

He began acting at the age of eight and by the time he was 16 he was appearing in professional Shakespeare productions - although he didn't tell his teachers.

He began his comedy career when he was 18. Known for his "rubberneck", he made hundreds of TV and film appearances.

He played Jed Clampett in 1993's The Beverly Hillbillies, while his TV credits include Roseanne and The Simpsons.

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