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.
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?'"  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.
He voiced the following Pixar characters:
- Toy Story - Lenny the Binoculars
- A Bug's Life - Heimlich the Caterpillar (Joe's son Jordan also voices one of the ant boys in the movie)
- Toy Story 2 - Wheezy the Penguin
- Monsters, Inc. - Claws Ward (Joe's daughter Sophia also voices the character of Baby Smitty in the movie)
- Finding Nemo - Jacques the Shrimp (Joe's son Jordan also voices Tad the butterfly fish in the movie)
- The Incredibles - additional voices
- Cars - Red, a shy, emotional and sensitive closed cab pumper fire truck that cries, gasps, whimpers and blubbers while upset at Lightning McQueen for destroying the town and a Peterbilt, a mean truck that Lightning McQueen encounters en route to Radiator Springs by mistaking him for Mack
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 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.
- Cars (2006)
- 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)
- the Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
- 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