How Did Ryder Buck Die? Director Chris Buck Explores Son's Death In New 'Into The Unknown: Making Of Frozen 2' Doc

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How Did Ryder Buck Die? Director Chris Buck Explores Son's Death In New 'Into The Unknown: Making Of Frozen 2' Doc
Entertainment And News

In 2014, director Chris Buck accepted an Academy Award for Best Animated Feature for his movie Frozen. In his speech, he said "We’d like to dedicate this to our guardian angel, that’s my son Ryder Buck. Thank you, Ryder.” 

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What many in the audience didn't know was that Buck had lost his 23-year-old son just a few months earlier. The whole team behind Frozen was mourning the loss of the aspiring musician at the same time that the Disney animated film was skyrocketing to success. When the cast and crew reconvened to make Frozen II, they named a character after Ryder Buck and tried to give him the same positive energy that Buck had shown in life.

In the new Disney+ docuseries Into The Unknown: Making Frozen II Chris Buck talks about the loss of his son and how he inspired the second film. 

How did Ryder Buck die?

He died in a car accident.

On October 27, 2013, Ryder Buck was returning home from a friend's house and he was tired out from a weekend of surfing, recording music, and generally having a good time. His car blew two tires so he pulled off the road, but couldn't locate his phone to call for help. He apparently decided to walk the rest of the home, following the path for the freeway. He had been drinking that night, which may have factored into why he wandered into the road instead of staying on the shoulder. It was a foggy night with low visibility and two cars struck him as he walked. He didn't survive the accident.

It wasn't rules a suicide. 

Authorities didn't find Buck's car right away and that led to confusion about why he was wandering the highway late at night. Some may have wondered if he deliberately ended his life but his mother was certain that it was only a terrible accident. "Those that knew him know that it was an accident,” Shelly Buck told reporters. “I mean, there is just no sane reason that he would walk across the freeway. He had so much going on.”

In Into The Unknown, Buck's parents talked about the impact he had had on the lives of people who knew him, including some friends who credit Buck with helping them when they considered suicide. It seemed inconceivable to them that he himself would have not asked for help if he were wrestling with such feelings. 

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He was in a good place in life. 

When his mother said he had so much going on, she wasn't exaggerating. The aspiring musician was optimistic and excited about his future. He and his bandmates were recording an EP with his band Ryder Buck and the Breakers and he was set to open for one of his favorite bands, Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeros. He had booked a gig teaching guitar lessons to the son of Taboo, of the Black Eyed Peas. Not only that, he was finally healthy again after two bouts with cancer. 

He loved music. 

He was a testicular cancer survivor.

Buck had been diagnosed with stage 4 testicular cancer in 2012. He underwent chemo to fight the disease, something that left him sick and fatigued but never took away his desire to play his music. He continued to play and write music and he credited the songs of his favorite band with getting him through the tough times. He had to undergo a second round of chemo when the cancer started to come back in late 2012. But the second treatment protocol worked and he was declared cancer-free in 2013. 

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Buck during chemo. 

His memorial was overflowing.

The Buck family planned a memorial for the son a few days after he died. They expected a modest gathering and short program but they were stunned when over 1,200 people turned out to help them say goodbye to their son. It was the largest memorial the town had seen and the church had to set up additional rooms with TV monitors so everyone could hear the tributes. The services ended up being two and a half hours long, thanks to all the people wanting to share their memories. 

He never saw Frozen.

Buck died on October 27, 2013. Frozen, the movie his father had been working on was released a month later and become one of Disney's biggest hits. Chris Buck recalls trying to come to terms with his son's death as his professional life was in such an ascent. "The wrap party was the weirdest thing for me," he remembers. "One moment people would come up to me and say, 'I love this movie,' and then 10 seconds later say, 'And I'm so sorry.' And I got that all night." 

The character of Ryder in Frozen II is based on Ryder Buck.

Chris Buck's co-director Jennifer Lee was the one who suggested basing a character in the sequel on Ryder Buck. They created the character Ryder, a member of the fictional Northuldra tribe, who bonds with Kristoff over their shared love for reindeer. "We've given him more to do [in the movie] because he's a very light spirit, he's a very positive character. He's actually really fun; really, like I said, kind of hopeful," Buck said of the tribute character.

Jason Ritter provided the voice for Ryder in the film. 

The Buck family has also set up a scholarship fund for music students in Ryder Buck's name

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Rebekah Kuschmider has been writing about celebrities, pop culture, entertainment, and politics since 2010. She is the creator of the blog FeminXer and she is a cohost of the weekly podcast The More Perfect Union.