Joe Ranft, story supervisor at Pixar Animation Studios for more than a decade and an Oscar-nommed co-writer of “Toy Story” as well as “A Bug’s Life,” died Aug. 16 in a car accident in Mendocino County, Calif. He was 45. He was one of two people killed when their vehicle veered off Hwy. 1, plunged 130 feet and crashed into the Pacific near the mouth of the Navarro River.
The driver, ID’d as friend Elegba Earl, 32, of L.A., also was killed in the crash. A third person survived. Pixar said they had been on their way to Ranft’s annual retreat of the Mosaic Foundation retreat, which in part helps disadvantaged youths.
Ranft, who earned an original screenplay Oscar nom for 1995’s “Toy Story,” also was a voice actor on Pixar features, including Heimlich the Bavarian caterpillar in “Bug’s Life” and penguin Wheezy in “Toy Story 2.”
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 the studio’s hits. He helped to conceive the original story for “Toy Story” and served as story supervisor on the film. He also served as story supervisor on “Toy Story 2” and “A Bug’s Life,” and was a story artist on “Monsters, Inc.” Most recently, he completed his assignment as head of story for Pixar’s latest feature, “Cars,” directed by CalArts classmate John Lasseter, due for release in 2006.
Prior to Pixar, he worked at Walt Disney’s toon story department. There he was a writer on “Beauty and the Beast” and “The Lion King,” after training on early versions of “Who Framed Roger Rabbit.” He was head of story on “Rescuers Down Under” and worked on “The Little Mermaid.” He took off in 1990 to work on a children’s book and then worked as a storyboard supervisor on “Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.”
Pasadena, Calif., and Marin County resident is survived by his wife of 20 years Sue; a son, age 13; a daughter, age 9; two brothers; and a sister.
A private memorial service for family and close friends will be held 2 p.m. Sunday Aug. 21 at the Mill Valley Community Center. A public memorial for friends and colleagues will be held Saturday, Sept. 17; for times and location, call (510) 752-4455.
Donations be made to the Joseph Henry Ranft Memorial Fund, Pixar Animation Studios, 1200 Park Ave., Emeryville CA 94608.