Joseph Henry Ranft
March 13, 1960
|Died||August 16, 2005 (aged 45)|
|Cause of death||Injuries sustained in a single-vehicle traffic collision|
|Education||Monte Vista High School|
|Alma mater||California Institute of the Arts|
|Employer||Walt Disney Animation Studios (1980–99)|
Pixar Animation Studios (1991–2005)
(m. 1985; his death 2005)
|Relatives||Jerome Ranft (brother)|
Joseph Henry Ranft (March 13, 1960 – August 16, 2005) was an American screenwriter, comedian, animator, storyboard artist, voice actor and magician who worked for Pixar Animation Studios and Disney at Walt Disney Animation Studios and Disney Television Animation. His brother, Jerome Ranft, is a sculptor who also worked on several Pixar films.
Ranft was born in Pasadena, California, and raised in Whittier. As a child, Ranft developed a love for magic, storytelling, film and comedy. At age 15, he became a member of the Magic Castle Junior Group. After graduating from Monte Vista High School, Whittier, in 1978, Ranft began studying in the character animation program at the California Institute of the Arts alongside John Lasseter and Brad Bird. After two years, Ranft's student film Good Humor caught the attention of Disney animation executives, who offered him a job.
In 1980, Ranft joined Disney as a writer and storyboard artist. During his first five years with Disney, Joe worked on a number of television projects that were never produced. Later in his Disney career, he was promoted into the Feature Animation department, where he was mentored by Eric Larson. Ranft later spoke about training under the Disney legend: "He always reminds me of just the fundamental things that I tend to forget. You know, it's like, animation is so complex; 'How many drawings are in there?' and stuff, but Eric always comes back to like; 'What does the audience perceive?'"
Around this time, he studied under and began performing with the improvisational group, The Groundlings. Ranft stayed with Disney throughout the 1980s, writing the story on many animated features, including Oliver & Company, The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast. He also worked on The Brave Little Toaster in 1987 for Hyperion Animation and James and the Giant Peach in 1996 for Allied Filmmakers.
Ranft reunited with Lasseter when he was hired by Pixar in 1991 as their head of story. There he worked on all of their films produced up to 2006; this included Toy Story (for which he received an Academy Award nomination) and A Bug's Life, as the co-story writer and others as story supervisor. His final film was Cars. He also voiced characters in many of the films, including Heimlich the caterpillar in A Bug's Life, Wheezy the penguin in Toy Story 2, and Jacques the shrimp in Finding Nemo.
In the movie Monsters, Inc., Ranft had a monster named after him (J.J. Ranft) as most of the scarers in the film were named for Pixar staff. Ranft used a German accent to voice Heimlich the caterpillar in A Bug's Life and a French accent to voice Jacques the shrimp in Finding Nemo. He was also given lead story credit on The Brave Little Toaster (1987) and voiced Elmo St. Peters, the appliance salesman.
On August 16, 2005, Ranft and his friend Eric Frierson were passengers in Ranft's 2004 Honda Element, which was being driven by another friend, Elegba Earl. Earl suddenly lost control and crashed through a guard rail while northbound on Highway 1. The SUV plunged 130 feet into the mouth of the Navarro River in Mendocino County, California. Ranft and Earl were both killed instantly. Frierson survived by escaping through the sun roof, though he received moderate injuries. Ranft, who was 45, died during the production of Cars, which he co-directed and voice acted in. The film and tie-in game are dedicated to his memory, as is Tim Burton's Corpse Bride, on which Ranft was executive producer. Ranft is survived by his wife Sue and their two children, Jordan and Sophia, and his brother Jerome.
Henry Selick called him "the story giant of our generation." In honor of Ranft, in Selick's animated film production Coraline, the moving SUV that moves Coraline into her new apartment is emblazoned with a "Ranft Moving, Inc." logo. The movers themselves are modeled after Ranft and his brother Jerome; Jerome Ranft voiced one of the movers.
The 2010 DVD re-release of Toy Story 2 includes a special feature that focuses on Ranft and his accomplishments.
Following his death, most of Ranft's voice roles were taken up by his younger brother Jerome Ranft.
|1987||The Brave Little Toaster||Elmo St. Peters||also screenwriter story artist and directing animator|
|1988||Who Framed Roger Rabbit||Story artist|
|Oliver & Company||Story|
|1989||The Little Mermaid||Storyboards|
|1990||The Rescuers Down Under||Animation screenplay and story supervisor|
|1991||Beauty and the Beast||Story|
|1993||The Nightmare Before Christmas||Igor||also storyboard supervisor|
|1994||The Lion King||Story|
|1995||Toy Story||Lenny the Binoculars||also story/story supervisor|
|1996||James and the Giant Peach||Storyboard supervisor|
|Toy Story Animated Storybook||Lenny the Binoculars|
|1998||A Night at the Roxbury||Hottie Dancer|
|A Bug's Life||Heimlich||also story/story supervisor|
|A Bug's Life: The Video Game||Heimlich|
|1999||Toy Story 2||Wheezy||also story supervisor|
|Fantasia 2000||Additional art, story|
|2000||Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins||Wheezy|
|2001||Monsters, Inc.||Pete "Claws" Ward||also story artist|
|2002||Monsters, Inc. Scream Arena||Additional Voices|
|2003||Finding Nemo: The Video Game||Jacques the Shrimp|
|Finding Nemo||Jacques the Shrimp|
|Disney's Extreme Skate Adventure||Wheezy|
|2004||The Incredibles||Crowd Member|
|2005||Corpse Bride||Executive Producer|
|2006||Cars||Red and Peterbilt||Co-director, screenplay, and dedication|
|Mater and the Ghostlight||Story|
|2007||The Pixar Story||Himself||also Dedication|