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Joe Ranft

Born: 1960-03-13 - Died: 2005-08-16
Cause of Death:
Car Accident

Death Summary: Ranft was killed on August 16, 2005 when the car in which he was a passenger crashed through a guardrail on California State Highway 1 and fell into the Mendocino River mouth 130 feet below. The driver of the car, Elegba Earl, also died; a third passenger survived.

Who was Joe Ranft : Ranft (born Joseph Henry Ranft) was an American animator, storyboard artist and voice actor whose work for Disney Animation and Pixar was acclaimed.

Ranft grew up in California and long had a love for storytelling and magic tricks. He studied character animation at the California Institute of Arts, alongside fellow future Pixar co-workers John Lasseter and Brad Bird. After graduating he joined Disney (who were impressed by his student film Good Humor) in 1980. He worked as a writer and animator on television projects, before being promoted to the feature film department, where he learnt under Eric Larson.

There he began writing, animating and performing voices for a number of projects. For Disney this included animation and story work on hits such as The Lion King, Beauty and the Beast and The Little Mermaid and also James and the Giant Peach and The Brave Little Toaster for other companies. He also served as the storyboard editor for Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.

In 1992, Ranft was employed as chief story editor by Lasseter for his new CGI animation studio Pixar and would go on to help revolutionise filmmaking. There he worked on their entire feature film catalogue produced up to 2006, including the hits Toy Story, Toy Story 2, A Bug’s Life, Monster’s Inc, The Incredibles and Cars. He received an Academy Award nomination for writing Toy Story. He also provided a number of voices for the films including Wheezy the penguin and Lenny the binoculars in the Toy Story films, Jacques the shrimp in Finding Nemo and Heimlich the caterpillar in A Bug’s Life. His final works, Cars and Corpse Bride (which he executive produced), were both released posthumously and dedicated to him.

Leonard Maltin summarised: “Great storytelling is the foundation of every successful animated feature, and no one understood that better than Joe. . . he was one of the architects of Disney's animation renaissance and Pixar's emergence.” Henry Selick called him “the story giant of our generation.”
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