Joseph Henry "Joe" Ranft (March 13, 1960 – August 16, 2005) was a 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.
Born in Pasadena, California and raised in Whittier, California, 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, Ranft began studying in the character animation program at the California Institute of the Arts. After? 2 years, Ranft's student film Good Humor caught the attention of Disney animation executives who offered him a job.
His first 5 years at Disney, 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. 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?’”  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.
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.
He voiced the following Pixar characters:
- Toy Story - Lenny the Binoculars
- A Bug's Life - Heimlich the Caterpillar
- Toy Story 2 - Wheezy the Penguin
- Monsters, Inc. - additional voices
- Finding Nemo - Jacques the Shrimp
- The Incredibles - additional voices
- Cars - Red and a Peterbilt that Lightning encounters en route to Radiator Springs
His favorite writers were Kurt Vonnegut, Hunter S. Thompson and Tom Wolfe.
Joe Ranft died 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. He was 45.
- Cars (2006)
- the Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
- Tim Burton's Corpse Bride (2005)
- The Incredibles (2004)
- Finding Nemo (2003)
- Monkeybone (2001)
- Monsters, Inc. (2001)
- Toy Story 2 (1999)
- A Bug's Life (1998)
- Toy Story (1995)
- The Lion King (1994)
- Aladdin (1992)
- Beauty and the Beast (1991)
- The Rescuers Down Under (1990)
- Oliver and Company (1988)
- The Brave Little Toaster (1987)
- Joe Ranft at the Internet Movie Database
- Pixar Artist's Corner with Joe
- Michael Sragow (Nov. 23, 1999) "Toy" Story Man. Salon.
- Peter Hartlaub (Sep. 17, 2003) The secret of Pixar's magic can be found at CalArts.... San Francisco Chronicle.
- Hollywood Reporter Obituary
- Remembrance by Ronnie del Carmen
- Obituary by the former President of the Northern California Disneyana Enthusiasts club, citing comments made at Joe Ranft's memorial
- Disney Legends profile
- Remembrance by James S. Baker
- VIdeo of Joe doing magic