A friend of mine forwarded this link to me yesterday. I can't tell you how much your kind words about Joe mean to all of us. My parents arrived here last night. They are devastated. My mother stayed up and read all of your comments. It was a great comfort.
Joe was not only my big brother, he was one of my best friends. I will miss him.
from animation nation:
Member # 462
posted August 17, 2005 11:43 PM
for hours i have sat, stunned at this news. joe was everything that everyone here has said about him and more. he was never too big for his britches and remained the same guy throughout the years - a special quality indeed. joe, for those that didn't know it, was also a fine magician and had been a junior member of the magic castle as a young man. You'll find that many animation folk have been involved in magic, puppetry or related hobbies because they are an expression of creativity and bringing a sense of wonder, which is what we do in animation - and joe did this better than most. Another interesting fact I just learned was that it was joe who gave the idea of corpses bride to tim burton and was listed as an exec. producer on the project - wow! we have been honored to experience his fine work on all of the great pixar and disney films that he worked on, and will surely miss his influence on future productions. I send my heartfelt condolensces out to his family and extended family. joes memory and work will live on forever. goodbye my friend.
JOE RANFT (1960-2005), RIP
Update (1:20am): An obit from Joe Ranft's hometown newspaper, the WHITTIER DAILY NEWS.
Update (4:45pm): Pixar story artist Ronnie del Carmen writes in his BLOG:
People cannot say much but just gave each other embraces to quell the sadness. Eventually we all met at the atrium. It is the saddest day at Pixar. The population at work had never been this silent except for the sound of grief. Ed Catmull, visibly shaken walked out to deliver the sad news. John Lasseter stood beside him but could not speak...Joe is the very best story man ever and the best human being I've known in animation. He is mentor, friend and inspiration to all of us who do this job. The last meeting I had with Joe was a Story Lead meeting where we share the collective known knowlege of those of us who've done Head of story jobs. Great stories of how to and why. And we earmark things we want to improve. As always with Joe it was about accentuating the positive and finding what works with people. I will miss him.
Update (3:54pm): Here is the HOLLYWOOD REPORTER obit with scary details of how the auto accident happened. Ranft was a passenger in the car. The car's driver, Elegba Earl, was also killed, while another passenger, Eric Frierson, survived the accident.
Update (2:32pm): Here's a nice SALON article/interview with Joe Ranft that offers some insight into his personal background and his approach to storytelling, as well as explains how he became involved with voice acting at Pixar.
Update (1:32pm): Pixar story artist Enrico Casarosa writes in his journal:
Joe Ranft, the heart of Pixar, was killed yesterday in a car accident. We are all hit hard by this sudden news and we're all beyond sadness here at the studio. Joe's contribution to Animation has been immense and far reaching. He taught and mentored a whole generation of creators, I can't even begin to describe how dearly he will be missed. His spirit and legacy will live on through the hundreds of stories that are being told and will be told by all the artists and directors he mentored and inspired. A prayer from all our community goes to his family.
Update (1:00pm): ASIFA-San Francisco president Karl Cohen emailed me with the following:
Bill Plympton called me and said Joe was one of the nicest guys in the world and that he had helped Bill a great deal with his career. Bill was quite upset by this tragic event as I'm sure all of us who knew him are. I first met Joe when he worked for Selick on Nightmare. Bill Plympton took me there to meet him and the 3 of us had a lovely lunch together. I knew him as a warm, friendly nice guy who didn't let his success fill him up with self-importance. He had already worked for Disney and I believe I saw him on TV win an Oscar for his work at Pixar, but the few times I saw him over the years he was just Joe.
Update (12:41pm): A remembrance by 'Sputnik' on Animation Nation:
I was already working for Disney features when this new guy showed up one day from CALARTS. He was big, funny and had the most joy and life in him that I have seen in anybody before or since. We all knew a giant was among us. A giant heart, a giant talent, a giant smile-maker. Darrell Van Citters was the first to spot his storytelling and entertainment talent and put him on Roger Rabbit as a story artist. He and Tim Burton hit it off immediately too. We used to play volleyball at break and Tim would act like he had a remote control in his mad scientist hand and shout orders to TOR---the Plan Nine actor. Joe was a lovable zombie. Tim cast Joe in his live action short called "Luau" as I.Q--the big doof in the gang. Joe got laughs and had real screen sincerity. No wonder he made a fantastic voice actor later. Joe was always sought after by every top director at the studio--including John Lasseter. Nobody appreciated or loved Joe more than John. My heart goes out to him today and for nothing to do with animation. That is a seperate loss. This is the loss of the best friend a guy could ever have. A gentle soul with a heart of gold who magically knew how to make us interested in any stories he wanted to tell us. And after the story was told---we had met new animated friends that would be with us for our entire lives. And so will Joe.
Update (12:21pm): A report on this blog by Tara about the scene at Pixar:
Yesterday the main story guy at Pixar, Joe Ranft, passed away in a car accident near Mendocino. He'd been at the studio since '92, and been a lead person on just about every movie made here, so _everybody_ knew him. They called a company meeting at 10am, but the news was already known by then. I walked into the Atrium to over 700 people standing silently, looking at Ed Catmull and John Lasseter try to speak through their grief. ... I'd never seen an entire company come screeching to a halt the way it did today. It was sobering, though also sort of beautiful. I'm sure Joe would have been pleased to know how loved he was.
Update (12:08pm): Animation legend Floyd Norman remembers Joe Ranft:
Joe was the finest of the new generation of animation story tellers. I was lucky enough to work with Joe at both Disney and Pixar, and he always amazed me with his ability to tell a story. What a terrible loss for all of us who love animation. Boy, I'm going to miss him.
Aug. 18, 2005
A spokeswoman for the Mendocino County Sheriff-Coroner's Office confirmed Wednesday that Ranft was one of two people who died when the 2004 Honda Element they were traveling in veered off the road while heading north on Highway 1.
The California Highway Patrol said the crash occurred at about 3 p.m. Tuesday as the driver tried to regain control of the car after swerving when he headed into a tight left curve. The car fell 130 feet over the side of the road, overturning twice before it landed in the water near the mouth of the Navarro River where it meets the Pacific Ocean, the CHP said.
The driver, identified by the Coroner's Office as Elegba Earl, 32, of Los Angeles, also was killed in the crash. The third person in the car, whom the CHP identified as Eric Frierson, 39, of Los Angeles, survived by climbing through the sun roof. He was hospitalized with moderate injuries at Mendocino Coast Hospital, according to officer Robert Simas of the CHP office in Ukiah.
Ranft was a co-writer on 1995's "Toy Story," for which he earned an Oscar nomination, and 1998's "A Bug's Life." Before Pixar, he was a leading member of the story department at Walt Disney Feature Animation, where he was a writer on 1991's "Beauty and the Beast" and 1994's "The Lion King."
"Joe was an important and beloved member of the Pixar family, and his loss is of great sorrow to all of us and to the animation industry as a whole," the Emeryville, Calif.-based company said Wednesday. In addition to his work as a writer, Ranft performed the voices for numerous characters in Pixar features.
Director Henry Selick, Ranft's friend and longtime collaborator, called him "the story giant of our generation."
Before joining Pixar, Ranft worked with Selick as a storyboard supervisor on 1993's "Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas." Selick met Ranft at Disney in the early 1980s, and his first impression of Ranft was that he was "a huge guy" who was well over 6 feet tall.
"His drawing at the time was really crude, but he was the sweetest, funniest guy," Selick said. "I've never seen anyone try to improve himself as much as Joe did over the years."
He also was highly versatile, Selick recalled.
"He could do these beautiful sweet gags for a family film and then do these weird, depraved cartoons of anyone who needed to be skewered," Selick said. "We'd do hundreds of drawings, and Joe was always the guy who was able to go back in and say, 'This is about the process; let's try it again.' "
Ranft's voice-over work for Pixar included such characters as Heimlich in "A Bug's Life" and Wheezy the Penguin in "Toy Story 2."
Born in Pasadena in 1960, Ranft was raised in Whittier, Calif., where as a child he developed a fondness for performing magic tricks. He was a classmate of Pixar's John Lasseter at the California Institute of the Arts in the 1970s.
After two years at CalArts, Ranft joined Disney in 1980. In 1992, he reunited with Lasseter at Pixar, where his early work included pitching and storyboarding the first sequence for "Toy Story," the Green Army Men sketch.
"Every film Joe's name was on was successful artistically and financially," Selick said. "Sometimes he contributed small details, sometimes the whole thing. He was a story giant of our generation."
Cynthia Littleton contributed to this report.