A tragic loss: Head of Pixar story department dies in crash.

The single most distinguishing strength of Pixar is its unparalleled storytelling.

For all of its breakthroughs in digital animation, each and every one of Pixar’s films is exemplary in character development, plotting, comedy, drama, and note-perfect climaxes. The stories are rich with moral lessons without being preachy. These strengths shine all the more by the inability of competing studios to match their achievements.

I am sorry to say that the movie world has suffered a grievous loss. Yesterday, the head of Pixar’s story department, Joe Ranft, died in a car crash.

My condolensces to the Ranft family and all who knew and loved him. I feel as if I have lost one of my heroes, and I wish I had formally expressed my thanks to Pixar’s story department in some way before this tragedy, to show him my gratitude for the example he has set for the rest of the industry.

In addition to running the story department, Ranft supplied the voice of Wheezy the Penguin in Toy Story, Heimlich in A Bug’s Life, and Jacques the shrimp in Finding Nemo.


He was 45.

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About Jeffrey Overstreet

Jeffrey Overstreet has two passions: writing fiction, and celebrating art — music, cinema, photography, literature — through writing and teaching. He is the author of a “memoir of dangerous moviegoing” — Through a Screen Darkly. And his four-novel fantasy series, The Auralia Thread, which begins with Auralia's Colors, was published by Random House. He speaks at universities and conferences around the world about understanding art through eyes of faith. He is earning his MFA in Creative Writing at Seattle Pacific University, where he has worked for 11 years as an editor, writer, and communications project manager. His work has been recognized in The New Yorker, TIME, The Seattle Times, IMAGE, Ravi Zacharias International — and Christianity Today, where he served as a film journalist for more than a decade. He recently began a weekly column called "Listening Closer" for Christ and Pop Culture.

  • Levi Nunnink

    Thanks, I just joined the dark side too. They kind of go hand-in-hand.

  • Jeffrey Overstreet

    Levi, you have ULTIMATE POWAH!!!

    Okay, that’s it. From now on, they’re going to be tougher.

  • Silus Grok

    * curses *

    I should have skipped the spell-check.

  • Silus Grok

    Isn’t that from Labyrinth?

  • Levi Nunnink

    That’s Jennifer Connelly from Labyrinth, in the dream sequence with David Bowie.

    Eternal Powah! Woo Hoo!

  • Anonymous

    He lived across the street from my brother and I always wished for the chance to meet him. He provided many a laugh in his professional as well as his non professional life. Heaven is a better place now. Joe to you it seems as though “you have finally gotten your beautiful little wings”.

  • jasdye

    PapaCool just got on my nerves.

    oh, no! pixar’s got such amazing people. and though i don’t recall ever hearing of Mr. Ranft, i’m sure he was irreplaceable.

  • PapaCool

    Truly sad news as parent and kids alike have set together to enjoy the Pixar animations – PapaCool is depressed!

  • herself

    Oh man!! I went to high school with Joe & his brother. Didn’t know them well, but Joe was always doodling stuff like exploding heads on his worksheets. I always enjoyed seeing how well he’d done (thereby proving there’s a place for everyone in this world). Shee-yooot.

  • The Cubicle Reverend

    That is such an unfortunate thing. Hopefully Pixar will be able to move on and continue to do great work.