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Services Set for Story Genius Joe Ranft

A memorial service has been set for Joe Ranft, one of the animation industrys most respected and talented story specialists, who died in a car accident near Mendocino, California, on Aug. 16, 2005 (see AWN report). The Pixar fixture had just completed story work on the studios latest feature, CARS.

The Friends and Colleagues Memorial Service will be held Saturday, Sept. 17, 2005. Details regarding the time and location are available by calling (510) 752-4455.

In lieu of flowers, the Ranft family respectfully requests that donations be made to the Joseph Henry Ranft Memorial Fund, and sent care of Pixar Animation Studios, 1200 Park Avenue, Emeryville, California, 94608.

Animation sites have been filled with blogs and remembrances of this gifted animator, known for giving loads of advice and encouragement to his animation brethren as well as to the needy. The following excerpted obit from Pixar, reveals more about the circumstances of his death and how he was regarded:

Ranft, who was 45, was an Academy Award nominee for his contribution to the screenplay for the landmark 1995 Pixar feature, TOY STORY, a member of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, and the animated voice behind such beloved characters as Heimlich the ravenous caterpillar from A BUGS LIFE. Ranft was traveling in a car with two friends, Eric Frierson and Elegba Earl, when the accident occurred. Earl also was killed in the incident.

Ranft was on his way to his annual retreat with the Mosaic Foundation with two friends from the Watts, CA, area, Frierson and Earl, whom he had sponsored for the spiritual retreat in Mendocino. More than anything in his life, his quiet and committed work with those less fortunate was his true passion. As one who shied away from acclaim and publicity, Ranfts greatest pride was being able to lift others up and give them hope.

For the past 14 years, Ranft worked on animated feature films at Pixar Animation Studios, where he played a major role in writing and shaping many of that innovative Studios blockbuster hits. He helped to conceive the original story, along with Pixars John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton, and Pete Docter, for TOY STORY and served as story supervisor on the film. He also served as story supervisor on TOY STORY 2, and A BUGS LIFE, and was a story artist on MONSTERS, INC. Most recently, he had completed his assignment as head of story for Pixars latest feature, CARS, directed by John Lasseter, and due for release in summer 2006.

Commenting on Ranfts passing, Lasseter said, This is not only a huge personal loss for all of us at Pixar, but a tremendous loss to moviegoers the world over. Joe had a great passion for telling stories, and he told them better than anyone. He was funny, poignant, original, and he had an infallible sense for how to structure a story. Joe helped to make Pixar what it is today, and he helped us to elevate the craft of storytelling. He was a big part of our lives and we loved him and loved working with him. Its hard to imagine a world without Joe Ranft and the joy and fun he brought to all of us on a daily basis.

Born in Pasadena, California, and raised in Whittier, Ranft studied animation at CalArts for two years before joining the Disney animation team in 1980. He trained under legendary animator Eric Larson and cut his teeth as a story man on THE BRAVE LITTLE TOASTER, as well as an EPCOT Center TV special and early versions of WHO FRAMER ROGER RABBIT? and THE GREAT MOUSE DETECTIVE. He went on to provide storyboard work for OLIVER & COMPANY and THE LITTLE MERMAID before moving up to head of story on THE RESCUERS DOWN UNDER.

In 1990, Ranft moved to Seattle for a year to write a childrens book, and relocated to the San Francisco area the following year to work with Pixar on TOY STORY and with director Henry Selick on THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS.

In addition to his story credits on TOY STORY, TOY STORY 2, A BUGS LIFE and MONSTERS, INC., Ranft has provided voices for a variety of Pixar characters, including Lenny the Binoculars in TOY STORY, the insatiably ravenous Heimlich the caterpillar in A BUGS LIFE, Wheezy the asthmatic squeeze-toy penguin in TOY STORY 2, Pete Claws Ward in MONSTERS, INC. and Jacques, the over eager cleaner shrimp in FINDING NEMO.

Ranft is survived by his wife of 20 years, Su, their son, Jordan, 13, their daughter, Sophia, 9, his brothers, Jerome and James, and his sister, Ruth.

He was loved and respected by all who knew him. He will be deeply missed.