- March 13, 1960
- Date of Death
- August 16, 2005 (age 45)
- Animator, Screenwriter, Voice Actor, Storyboard Artist, Film Producer
- Sue Barry Ranft
Joseph Henry "Joe" Ranft (March 13, 1960 – August 16, 2005) was an American screenwriter, animator, storyboard artist, voice actor and magician who worked for Pixar and Disney. His brother, Jerome Ranft, is a sculptor who also worked on several Pixar movies.
Ranft was born in Pasadena, and raised in Whittier. As a child, Ranft developed a love for magic, storytelling, film and comedy. At 15, he became a member of the Magic Castle Junior Group. After graduating from Monte Vista High School, Whittier, in 1978, Mr. 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, Joe 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 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.
On August 16, 2005, Ranft was a passenger in his 2004 Honda Element when the driver, named Elegba Earl, lost control and crashed through the guard rail while northbound on Highway 1. The car plunged 130 feet into the mouth of the Navarro River in Mendocino County, California. Both Ranft and Earl were killed instantly. Another passenger, Eric Frierson, survived by escaping through the sun roof; he received moderate injuries. Ranft, who was 45, died during the production of Cars, which he co-directed and voice acted in. The film was later dedicated to him. His remains were cremated. The film and tie-in game are dedicated to his memory, as is Tim Burton'sCorpse Bride, on which Ranft was executive producer. 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 Joe and brother Jerome, and Jerome Ranft voices one of the movers.
In the 2010 DVD re-release of Toy Story 2, there is a special feature that talks about Ranft and his life and accomplishments at both Disney and Pixar, and how the Pixar staff greatly enjoyed his sense of humor.