Most of you have probably never heard of Joe Ranft, but chances are that you have seen a movie he has written or heard his voice. Ranft was the head of the story department at Pixar, the animation studio responsible for such hits as The Incredibles and Finding Nemo. Ranft was one of Pixar's writers and co-wrote two of their biggest successes (Toy Story and A Bug's Life. He provided the voices for Heimlich the catepillar in A Bug's Life and Wheezy the penguin in Toy Story 2. Ranft was killed Tuesday in an accident involving the Honda Element he was riding. He was 45 years old.
Ranft attended the California Institute of the Arts along with Pixar directors Brad Bird and John Lasseter. His student film attracted the attention of Disney and he began his work there in 1980. He wrote the story for The Brave Little Toaster and wrote on the screenplay for The Rescuers Down Under before going on to such important Disney projects as Beauty and the Beast and The Lion King. He provided the storysketch for Who Framed Roger Rabbit and supervised the storyboards for The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and the Giant Peach. At Pixar Ranft played a role in nearly every movie they made. On the forthcoming Cars he supervised the story.
Ranft did a good deal of voice work, beginning with providing the voice for Elmo St. Peters in The Brave Little Toaster in 1987. He provided the voices of Heimlich on A Bug's Life, Wheezy on Toy Story 2, Jacques on Finding Nemo, and additional voices on The Incredibles.
Joe Ranft was a remarkable man who worked in nearly every aspect of animation. He was considered one of the best storytellers in animation today. In fact, his profile at Salon.Comsimply described him as a "story man." He was loved by his fellow animators at Pixar, not simply for being a great talent, but also for being one of the kindest, gentlest men around. I don't think it is truly possible to measure the enormity of his loss not only to Pixar, but to the animation community as a whole. He will most certainly be missed.