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Joe Ranft

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Joseph Henry "Joe" Ranft was an American magician, animator storyboard artist, and voice actor who worked for Pixar and Disney. His brother Jerome Ranft is a sculptor who also worked on several Pixar movies, and is a voice actor.

Early life

Born in Pasadena, California and raised in Whittier, California, Joe Ranft spent much of his youth practicing magic tricks and playing the accordion. At 15, he became a member of the Magic Castle Junior Group. Finishing high school in fall 1978, Joe Ranft began studying in the character animation program at the California Institute of the Arts. After two years, Joe Ranft's student film Good Humor caught the attention of Disney animation executives who offered him a job.


His first five years at Disney, Joe Ranft worked on a number of television projects that never got made. Furthering into his Disney career, he was bumped up into the Feature Animation department, where he received training from Eric Larson. Joe Ranft remembers his training under the Disney Legend as, "[Eric] 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?'" [1] Around this time, he studied under and began performing with the improvisational group, The Groundlings. He stayed with Disney throughout the 1980s, doing story work on animated features including The Lion King and Beauty and the Beast.

Joe Ranft reunited with John Lasseter, whom he had previously met at California Institute of the Arts during the late 70's, when he joined Pixar in 1992. He worked on story development for all of Pixar's feature film releases, most recently as Head of Story on Cars.

In the movie Monsters, Inc., Ranft had a monster named after him (J.J. Ranft) as most of the Scarers in the film were named for Pixar staff.

In the DVD of Cars, Ranft can be seen in an interview about the movie. His favorite writers were Kurt Vonnegut, Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe.


Joe Ranft died on August 16, 2005, when the 2004 Honda Element he was riding in plunged into the ocean after running off the road in Mendocino County, California and Eric Frierson who was with him and survived the crash when he escaped through the sunroof. He was 45 years old at that time. He was survived by his wife, Sue Barry-Ranft and his 2 children, Sophia and Jordan "Jordy" Ranft.


Year Film Position Subsidiary
1987 The Brave Little Toaster Director/Story/Screenplay/Animator Walt Disney Pictures
1988 Who Framed Roger Rabbit Story Artist Touchstone Pictures
1988 Oliver & Company Story Walt Disney Animation Studios
1989 The Little Mermaid Story Artist/Animation Walt Disney Animation Studios
1990 The Rescuers Down Under Story Supervisor/Animation/Screenplay Walt Disney Animation Studios
1991 Beauty and the Beast Story/Additional Voices Walt Disney Animation Studios
1992 Aladdin Story/Additional Voices Walt Disney Animation Studios
1993 The Nightmare Before Christmas Storyboard Supervisor/Voice Actor Walt Disney Animation Studios
1994 The Lion King Story Walt Disney Animation Studios
1995 Toy Story Story/Story Supervisor/Voice Actor Pixar Animation Studios
1996 James and the Giant Peach Storyboard Supervisor Walt Disney Pictures
1998 A Bug's Life Story Supervisor/Story Pixar Animation Studios
1999 Toy Story 2 Story/Voice Actor Walt Disney Animation Studios
1999 Fantasia 2000 Story/Story Artist Walt Disney Animation Studios
2000 Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins Voice Actor Pixar Animation Studios
2001 Monsters, Inc. Story Artist/Voice Actor Pixar Animation Studios
2003 Finding Nemo Voice Actor Pixar Animation Studios
2004 The Incredibles Additional Voices Pixar Animation Studios
2006 Cars Co-Director/Screenplay/Voice Actor  Pixar Animation Studios
2006 Cars Toons: Mater and the Ghostlight Story Pixar Animation Studios



  • Joe Ranft's role as Elmo St. Peters is his only role that is not of a Pixar character nor of a computer generated character.
  • Joe's son, Jordan voices one of the ant boys in A Bug's Life and Tad the butterfly fish in Finding Nemo.
  • Joe's daughter, Sophia voices the character of Baby Smitty in Monsters, Inc.


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