"It's fun to draw for me and explore what's there." To create a drawing and see it "come alive, (that) you've caught something, something unique."

Happy Birthday, Joe Ranft!


Joe Ranft (March 13th, 1960 - August 16, 2005) was an American screenwriter, voice actor and animator most known for his work with Disney and Pixar. Ranft was inspired by art, magic and comedy from a very young age. His success with art both in school then in college led him to pursue it as a career. Ranft was lifelong friends with Pixar creative officer John Lasseter and his brother Jerome Ranft also worked at Pixar. Ranft's best known films include Oliver and Company, The Rescuers Down Under, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, Beauty and the Beast, The Nightmare Before Christmas, The Lion King, and Fantasia 2000. Ranft appeared as a voice actor in Finding Nemo where he played French shrimp Jacques and also in A Bug's Life where he played Heimlich the caterpillar. Ranft died in a car accident in 2005 but his name and memory lives on in the stories of now classic Disney and Pixar films.

600full-joe-ranftJoseph Henry Ranft was born in Pasadena, California on March 13th, 1960 but raised in nearby town Whittier. Ranft expressed an interest in art and in magic tricks from a young age. His parents supported his talents by buying him paint and taking him to art classes. Ranft won a local art contest while in school and this inspired him even more. Ranft's love of comedy meant he was always trying to make people laugh. He would do impressions of Warner Bros. cartoons, Cheech & Chong and reenact Monthy Python sketches. He was also an avid reader and greatly admired the work of Kurt Vonnegut, Hunter S. Thompson, and Tom Wolfe.




Joe_Ranft_John_Lasseter_1After graduating from the Monte Vista High School in Whittier, Ranft attended California Institute of the Arts. Here, he met John Lasseter and Brad Bird - two future Pixar workmates. While studying character animation, Ranft made a short comedy film called Good Humor. It caught the attention of Disney and they offered him a job.

Ranft began working at Disney in 1980. He served both as a writer and storyboard artist. During the first five years there, Ranft worked on television projects that never came to fruition. Nevertheless, he was transferred to working in features. Ranft trained under Disney legend Eric Larson and spoke high praise of Larson's wisdom and fundamental knowledge of storytelling. Ranft concurrently joined comedy improvisational group The Groundlings, who also produced alumni such as Will Ferrell, Phil Hartman, Lisa Kudrow and Kristen Wiig.

Heimlich the Caterpillar in A Bug's Life

In 1987, Ranft received several credits including screenwriter, screen story and voice actor on the animated film The Brave Little Toaster. Throughout the 1990s, Ranft also helped write the story of Oliver and Company (1988), Who Framed Roger Rabbit (1988), The Rescuers Down Under (1990), Beauty and the Beast (1991), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993), The Lion King (1994), and Fantasia 2000 (1999).


Pete Docter, Andrew Stanton, John Lasseter, Joe Ranft

"You get these characters, they're not real; it's an illusion that they're alive, that they're got something inside of them that's motivating them, driving them."

Clip from Toy Story Bloopers

A Short clip from Finding Nemo featuring Jacques

MV5BNDY2NDY2ODM5N15BMl5BanBnXkFtZTcwMzU4MDM5OA._V1._SX214_CR00214314_Joe Ranft joined his old friend John Lasseter at Pixar in 1991. He was hired as the Head of Story. Ranft worked on Toy Story (1995) where he was integral to drawing some of the most memorable scenes in the movie. Ranft was credited as a co-writer and received an Oscar nomination. Ranft performed as a voice actor in A Bug's Life (1998) and would also lend his voice to Wheezy the Penguin in Toy Story 2. Ranft worked in the story departments on all the early Pixar releases and served as Storyboard Supervisor on Allied Filmmakers' James and the Giant Peach (1996).

"I love characters. I like people and I'm very curious about what makes people tick ... what makes me tick."

Joe Ranft appeared in Finding Nemo as the voice behind Jacques, the Shrimp in 2003. He helped craft the story for Toy Story 2 (1999), Monsters Inc. (2001) and shortly afterwards, began work on Cars (2006) on which he would be credited as co-director. During the production of Cars, Joe Ranft died tragically in a crash. He was 45 years old. Ranft was commemorated with mentions in films Corpse Bride (2005) and Coraline (2009). Ranft was named by American director Henry Selick as "the story giant of our generation." The bonus features on the Toy Story 2 DVD include a special feature of all of Joe Ranft's achievements and accomplishments at Disney and Pixar.

Cars Trailer


A character in Coraline modeled in memory of Ranft

A Tribute to Joe Ranft

Additional Info

  • Birthday Date: Thursday, 13 March 2014
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