A Dreamer Walking

WALL-E – Old Vs. New

Posted in Animation, Film and Filmaker Studies, Personal Philosophy by Jacob on September 16, 2014

Wall-E #2

With Pixar’s WALL-E director Andrew Stanton wanted to create a sort of look that made one think the movie was filmed in the 1970’s.  This honestly was a tough goal to set since animated movies are not “filmed” they are shot in a computer, and to be honest there weren’t very many computers in the 70’s. Film is so loved by so many because of it’s inherent flaws. Things like lens flairs, grain in the image, and scratches on the celluloid are all technically flaws in film yet are now considered some of what makes it so special. It’s loved so much in-fact the leading edge in digital technology tries to reproduce the same kinds of “flaws” in their newest cameras. Stanton had a whole team try to reproduce the filmic look for his movie WALL-E. He even went as far as recreating actual live action footage of certain scenes they were doing in the computer so the technicians could see the difference between the imagery captured in camera with celluloid and that shot in the computer.

The story of WALL-E lends itself to this idea of bringing a classic look to a new medium. In the movie we follow an eight hundred year old robot, Wall-E, around his world where his main function is to pick up trash. Everything about Wall-E’s design and texture represents an old fashion look which is directly contrasted with his love interest, Eve. As you can see in the image above Eve has a oval design with very few mechanisms. The true magic of this relationship is how well Stanton and his team were able to make the two opposites seem so perfect for each other. You need to go no further then the scene where Wall-E introduces Eve to his home to see just how well these opposites work cinematically.

Some have called WALL-E an anti technology movie with a preachy message about saving the environment.  However, I believe Andrew Stanton when he says he only went the environmental route because that’s where the story took him. His goal was not to make people hate the new and love the old. His objective was to create a story where two very different perspectives met and found balance. In fact it took something new coming into Wall-E’s life for him to find meaning. But more on that in another post.

Stanton went farther back then just the 1970’s for inspiration for his movie. He and the Pixar artists would watch old silent classics from the early 1930’s and before. They studied silent comedians such as Buster Keaton, Harold Lloyd, and of course Charlie Chaplin. After studying these great filmmakers Stanton said he realized Pixar didn’t know anything. The idea that some of the best stories in our history were told without sophisticated special effects, flashy cameras, or sound blew the Pixar artists away. They made it their goal to recreate the magic they saw in the best silent films. In the first act of WALL-E there is hardly a line of dialogue heard. Rather, we discover Wall-E’s soul through a magnificent set of sound effects produced by Ben Burtt, who is best known for his work on the original Star Wars trilogy, and by the masterful work of all the Pixar animators who took the silent movies Stanton showed to heart.

In the end we have a movie in WALL-E that not only makes us laugh but also makes us care. We don’t care about seeing the environment around Wall-E change because of some liberal agenda, we want it to change because we get a glimpse of what “unplugging” and cherishing our world could do for the health of our personal souls. Those who think WALL-E is anti technology seem to forget the movie stars two robots. The best of Pixar is about balancing the new with the old. Pixar is known for being the leading edge in digital technology. They are famous for creating the first computer animated film in history, Toy Story (1995). However, the majority of their films are special because the technology is only there to enhance their stories. And, their stories revolve around themes that are as old as time itself.

A big debate is going on in the film industry today about the transition from film to digital technology. Celluloid is going extinct. There are fewer and fewer companies around who are able to process the film so it could be projected on the big screen. Some filmmakers, such as the famous Quentin Tarantino, have threatened to quite the film profession altogether if true “film” is taken away. The bottom line however is filmmaking is bigger than the stuff you use to shoot the picture. And as I said at the beginning of this post, the companies making cameras today have not overlooked the public’s love for the look that comes from the old classics of the 1970’s and before. Just like Wall-E and Eve, eventually the film industry will find a balance.

John Carter- Review

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on March 11, 2012

Few have taught me more about story then writer/director Andrew Stanton. I have basically watched every commentary, DVD extra feature, and online interview on the guy. I have never hesitated to say that he is one of the best writers in the film business. So why did I not like one of his movies? I guess you can have someone you admire and not like all of their films. For me this is certainly the case with Martin Scorsese and David Fincher. However, with these guys I can always admire the technical execution of their films, and all of them make me think. Stanton’s John Carter was no technical wonder however, and the story brought nothing to the table we have not seen before. It incorporated CGI well, but the camera movement and editing was constantly overdone and the movie’s acting never seemed to be more than mediocre.

Andrew Stanton has preached about the importance of not using flashbacks. However, in John Carter he expects one of our greatest emotional beets to come from a flashback. John Carter is a washed up soldier who is trying to make a living right after the civil war. He is a man with a deep and troubled past. However, Taylor Kitsch does nothing in his portrayal of John Carter to makes us relate to or even feel his emotional demons. We only know about the troubled past through a few very short flashbacks of him coming home to find his wife killed. Stanton wants to use those flashbacks to create a reason for an epic fight where Carter takes on a whole army to help save Dejah Thoris, the princess of Mars, and in a sense take out revenge for the loss of his wife.

Stanton fails to hook us. The first act is the key act. As Stanton himself says, if the third act is not working it is because something is wrong in the first act. I truly feel like creators’ love for the book series got in the way of them making a great story. Because Stanton,  Mark Andrews‘ and Michael Chabon were already emotionally connected to the characters and the world they were creating on screen, they did not feel the need to take too much time setting either element up before getting into the plot. Instead of the opening scene being intimate, with John Carter interacting with his wife he is soon to lose, we open with a big ship scene on Mars with characters we really end up caring little for.

For a man who looks up to David Lean and the great Lawrence of Arabia, Stanton does little of the very thing that made David Lean’s epic so great. David Lean knew how to celebrate the quite moments in Lawrence of Arabia. In the movie Lean held shots for long periods of times and in the middle of his “epic” he took the time to explore the little things that made his characters so great. There are a few instances where Stanton takes the time to draw out some humor. We have a nice scene where Carter is trying to get used to the lower gravity on Mar. Carter’s interaction with the martian dog, Woola, is also a highlight in the film. But, far more of what we see in John Carter is cliche and tiresome. It acts like an epic without earning it first. We don’t get any little moments with the key characters in the story that make us relate to them in a deep way.

Every once in a while we see some of the humor seep through, the kind that made both Wall-E and Finding Nemo so entertaining. The most pleasing character to watch was Tars Tarkas, played by Willem Dafoe. The animation of his character was wonderful, and whenever he is allowed to interact with Carter he brings some energy into the film. Yet for the lead character of John Carter what we needed was an actor with the charisma of someone like Harrison Ford or Russel Crow. The reason why movies like Gladiator or Indiana Jones were so emotionally fulfilling was because the main actors seemed to completely believe in the fantastical elements of their stories. The story of John Carter has to do with a confederate veteran of the civil war getting out of one war only to get trapped in another. The other war just happens to be on mars where he can jump hundred of feet high, encounters huge monsters called white apes, and fights with four armed creatures called Tharks. However, the fantastical must always be accompanied with an emotional draw.

Stanton was too worried about using all of his 175 million dollar budget. He forgot about the little things that make great epics great. What we get is what we see in the adds, little character, quick flashes, and David and Goliath images. Mostly John Carter feels like a movie shooting for the stars and barley getting out of the stratosphere. For those science fiction geeks it is a good popcorn movie. My frustration is not with John Carter being a bad movie it is with knowing Andrew Stanton can do better.

(P.S. I was extremely frustrated with Disney’ conversion of John Carter to 3D.This kind of conversion is what gives 3D a bad name. None of the theaters by me were showing the movie the way Andrew Stanton actually shot the film, in traditional 2D. Disney should be ashamed of itself, they are only doing it to get the extra $3 needed to go to the 3D showing)

Andrew Stanton – An Observation – Writing Screenplays

Posted in Film and Filmaker Studies, Observation Series by Jacob on January 17, 2012

I have started several screenplay’s in my life and have pretty much been scared off of all of them. Of course I tell myself I am going to come back, but usually I never do. I think a lot of it has to do with my insecurity as a writer. I don’t think I am good enough. I don’t think I can ever be smart enough to write for several different characters all of whom have different perspectives and intellects. I can never do enough research. I can never express myself in the poetic way I see so many other fine writers express themselves.

One of the writers I look up to is Andrew Stanton. He helped write the majority of the Pixar films. His stories are superbly structured. Everything is preparing the audience for the punch line. He knows how to put us in suspense through doing the unpredictable. He knows how to create characters with depth.  And his stories are always imaginative and unique while also being reflective of undeniable truths we see in everyday life. He has created two masterpieces himself in Finding Nemo and Wall-E while also helping directors like Pete Docter, Lee Ulkrich, and John Lasseter set their stories in the right direction. I don’t think anyone at Pixar would deny that Stanton is a great writer, except perhaps Stanton himself.

Knowing that Stanton is one of the lead writers for one of the most creative studios in Hollywood, you would most likely be surprised to hear that Andrew Stanton has said himself that he doesn’t really like to write and doesn’t consider himself to be very good. He dreads the time his screenplays are read out loud and he never feels like they are finished. He did not go to school for writing. His only experience has been on the job. The only way he feels it is good enough is through rewriting; not just once but rather dozens of times.

Stanton has never treated screenwriting like it was a piece of art. To him it is just a step to something great. When we treat writing as though it is just another step we are freed up to really try our best and fail miserably. Stanton has described screenplays as the screen authority that commands to be followed. It is a cinematic direction manual. It is not for the audience to see, it is for the people who are making the movie to see. His philosophy is to get something onto paper so he can begin to rewrite and refine his work. Once Stanton gets his work out there others are able to help. Pixar happens to have some of the best story helpers in the business. The Brain Trust is not afraid to be blunt with their writers and directors. They help Stanton’s writing go from good to great.

When starting a screenplay the only person you should try to satisfy is yourself. Create the story you want to create. You can read all the books there are on screenwriting, you can do months of research, and you can spend all your money on the most state of the art writing equipment. All of this however is not going to guarantee confidence. The value of writing is that it allows us to put what is in our head onto paper. Don’t treat screenwriting as anything more then a way to get your ideas out there, in a structured way, so you can improve them. After you have something you are able see and show others, you can start to refine. You will never know how good you are until you start doing it.

Spline Cast Interviews!

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on August 28, 2011

Well I am in the middle of writing a few papers actually. But none of them are where I want them to be. However, through reviewing some notes I found two podcasts I listened to years ago that produced some excelent advice and insight. I thought I might as well share. Both are from the site Spline Doctors. I would recommend anyone interested in animation to check the Spline Doctors site out. Spline Doctors consists of a group of Pixar artists (mostly Andrew Gordon)  who take interviews of colleagues, give updates on animation events going on around them, and post advice on animation techniques. They don’t update the site as much as I would like, but you will find several hours of good material in their archives. I think it would be wise to take advantage of this free recourse. Now to the interviews.

Andrew Stanton Spline Cast (2006):
This podcast has been extremely helpful to me in the last week or so. It has inspired about a half a dozen blog ideas. Andrew talks about how he got facinated with animation and how he found out about Cal Arts. He explains the reason to why he gives John Lasseter and the Pixar 200% every time he comes to the studio. He also talks about what drives him to make good films. Andrew Stanton is a master storyteller and he will give you some great insight on the foundations of what makes a good film in this three part interview. (Here is the link to Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3).

Brad Bird Spline Cast (2007): Brad Bird talks briefly about how he got hooked onto animation.  He gives us insight into several of the Nine Old Men and what it was like being mentored by Milt Kahl. He also talks a little about the difference between 2D animation and 3D and the strengths and weaknesses of both. The most interesting part of the interview for me was when Bird talked about the weakness of our generation as filmmakers and how the business side of Hollywood tries to cripple creativity. He goes into some of the reasons he got interested in Pixar and how the movie Toy Story broke one mold only to create another one for the animation industry. His advice at the end is also some of the greatest advice you will ever get.

Also,

Pete Docter Spline Cast (2007): This I did not consider to be as good as the other two interviews but it is well worth listening to. Pete Docter is not as blunt about his philosophy as Andrew Stanton and Brad Bird are. However, in this interview you hear a lot of what filmmaking deep down is about for Docter. He explains his constant effort to find the emotion of a story. He explains what he likes about the medium of animation. For Docter the story is all about the relationship and he explains why very clearly in this interview.

Andrew Stanton – An Observation – Worth Fighting For

Posted in Film and Filmaker Studies, Observation Series by Jacob on August 24, 2011

2008 National Board Of Review Awards Gala

You know Andrew Stanton has helped write more then a dozen of the Pixar movies. The two films he has directed, Finding Nemo and Wall-E, have both won Oscars for Best Animated film. After realizing this, would it surprise you to know he doesn’t really like writing or directing? Stanton has talked more then once about the frustrations and exhaustion that comes with writing and directing. He has talked about the insecurity he has with being a writer and how he is scared to death when he turns his script in for other filmmakers to read. Stanton refrains from writing until the very last minute, he has described himself as a master procrastinator. He has also talked about how all the little details that come with directing wear him down. Four to five years on each project is a long time. What makes him stay in there? Why do so much work if it is so hard to do? I do not think Andrew finds satisfaction in the middle of production like someone such as John Lasseter does. It might be because Stanton is always thinking of other things and keeping his mind on the project at hand is extremely hard to do. It might be because he second guesses the value of what he is doing.   At times I am sure he feels his time would be spent better doing something else. After all writing and directing a film does not leave much room for family activities and social events. It might be because of an insecurity, the whole project lays on his shoulders what if he makes the wrong decision? I believe Stanton’s struggles with filmmaking has to do with all these insecurities.  However, a filmmaker has two choices when faced with insecurities such as these ones. They can run and hide or face them head on. Based on Stanton’s track record I believe he has chosen the latter.

Andrew Stanton counters the wear and tear that comes with needing to deal with a bunch of little details by being very picky about each little detail. He does not burden most of his colleagues with an idea until he is sure the idea is worth fighting for. He needs to figure out whether or not it is worth spending four to five years to make. John Lasseter even talked about bugging Andrew Stanton about the movie Finding Nemo.  Stanton would not even tell him what it was about until he thought he had a story worth committing too. For the movie Wall-E Stanton started development for the project when he was supposed to be on vacation. He thought that if the story turned out to be nothing special he wouldn’t have wasted anyone’s time.

A good question is, what makes a project worth committing to for Andrew Stanton? A key things to realize is Stanton does not think short term he thinks about the big picture. He does not go through the pains of writing and directing lightly. He wants to find a story that can entertain audiences for years to come. He finds universal themes to put into his stories. He concentrates on the insecurities of parenthood in Finding Nemo, what it means to be a friend in Toy Story, and the essence of what it means to love in Wall-E. We can relate to the characters Stanton creates because even though they might be robots, toys, and fish, they are full of human flaws and needs. Woody in Toy Story is insecure in his relationship with Andy. Marlin in Finding Nemo is scared his son might not be able to handle the real world. Wall-E is lonely.  These themes and character qualities represent the heart of Stanton’s films.

At the beginning the only thing Andrew Stanton has is an idea. Production represents the war Stanton faces in order to bring the idea to life on screen. When you go into battle you need to have passion. Stanton wants to make sure he can give the story everything he has. He knows there will be those days where nothing is working. He talked in an interview about needing to have enough passion to push through those times. Stanton talked about how he wants the audience to be thinking the characters he creates have feelings and lives that go on after the movie ends. This is what makes a movie worth fighting for to him. Stanton knows if he fights through and wins the war he will give us characters that truly become real in our hearts. Characters like Woody and Wall-E have a life of their own in the minds of many kids and adults. Film is the ultimate illusion of life. It takes a lot of work to pull off. But the results can be well worth it because they have the potential to be endless.

Andrew Stanton is one of those directors who will not commit to any old project. I think he is one of those artists who needs to both write and direct the film. He writes the films himself not because he thinks he is a brilliant writer but rather because he wants to find a story that is personal to him. Andrew Stanton is not a good director because he can’t make mistakes. No, he will be the first to tell you he makes mistakes all the time in in the development of his films. The thing about Stanton is he does not give up. He works through the mistakes. Andrew Stanton is a great director because when he finds something worth fighting for, he will not stop or compromise with the vision. He will fight until he gets the idea on screen.

Andrew Stanton – An Observation – Opening Doors

Posted in Film and Filmaker Studies, Observation Series by Jacob on August 10, 2011

Andrew StantonWriter/Director Andrew Stanton is a firm believer in not creating but finding the story he is trying to put on screen. He has talked about filmmaking being more like a archeological dig then performing magic tricks. He believes the pieces of the story are already out there, they are just waiting to be found. The great task for Stanton is figuring out ways to open doors so he can get to the foundations of the story.

Stanton once talked about filmmaking being all about finding ways to open those closed doors in your brain. He listens to music, studies art, debates with peers, and tries to use events from his own life to unlock those doors that are stopping him from finding the heart of his stories. Andrew Stanton does not dictate and make the story be something it shouldn’t be, rather he serves the story and tries to find ways to flesh out what is already there.

I am a big advocate of serving the story. I think filmmaking is like putting a huge puzzle together. Once you find enough pieces you begin to figure out the function of your film and the story starts to take on a life of it’s own. However, if you try to force in a piece that does not fit you can ruin the whole picture. Andrew Stanton ran into a problem like this in his movie Wall-E. He wanted the robot Wall-E to be the hero at the end of the film. In the draft he originally had Wall-E’s love interest Eva get severely injured at the end of the film and Wall-E save her. However, during one of the test screenings Stanton realized it actually needed to be the other way around. Stanton had spent the whole movie showing how Wall-E impacted all the characters around him. At the end it was time to show how much the characters had changed. He could not express the characters’ growth if Wall-E stayed the hero.

Stanton once talked about the difference between a good film studio and a great film studio being what happens during the 11th hour. He said at the 11th hour in Wall-E they found a bone that completely changed the dinosaur. The studio had the option of ignoring the bone or embracing it and working their butts off to fix the mistake. They decided to work their butts off. They came together in the service of the story and created a much more satisfying ending where Wall-E gets injured and the characters around him work together to save him. In the end Stanton found the right key and was able to unlock the door to a film which entertained and moved millions of people and will keep on doing so for years to come.

I think it is much more wondrous to look at filmmaking as something more then creating the illusion of life. I think filmmaking is about finding real life. I would never contribute the stories I create to just me. They are all built out of real things I find through living life, research, and having a relationship with God. I hope Andrew Stanton keeps on building his stories out of the real things he finds in his life. We do not invest in toys like Woody, fish like Nemo, or robots like Wall-E if they don’t touch us on a very personal and real level. Stanton’s constant devotion to story has opened many doors for us through out the years. I look forward to seeing what door he opens next.

Andrew Stanton- Screenwriting Expo

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on March 27, 2011

You really do not get better then this. This is a recording of Andrew Stanton talking many years ago at the Screenwriting Expo. Basically Andrew breaks down story development through talking about mistakes he and Pixar made from Toy Story all the way to Finding Nemo. It is a brilliant lecture. Often you learn better through mistakes then through success. All the Pixar movies that have come out so far ran across problems somewhere in their development process that needed fixing. This is a lecture all about the problems Pixar had with their movies and how they were able to work through those problems to create some of the best animated films ever made. Andrew Stanton has come out of nowhere to astablish himself as one of the greatest screenwriters in the film business. I would strongly suggest any filmmaker out there to take notes. Enjoy!

 

Insight into Pixar

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on February 16, 2011

I have run across three interviews that give us a very insightful look into the Pixar Studio. They are three 30 minute interviews of three directors at the Pixar studio, Andrew Stanton, Pete Docter, and Lee Unkrich. Listening to these guys is very encouraging because you are able to feel the actual enthusiasm all these directors have for the projects they worked on and the studio they work for. The interviews were conducted about a year apart. Andrew Stanton talks about his journey in creating Wall-E. He goes into detail about what first intrigued him about the story and how it developed into a full length movie. Pete talks about his movie UP and Lee talks about his movie Toy Story 3. More importantly they all talk about the freedom they had to persue their visions for the films and how they worked collaboratively to make the movies the best they could possibly be. These guys are really good filmmakers to study if you want to know how to go about constructing a story. They give you a personal look at what made their stories resonate with them and how they were able to fight the battles in order to bring the films to fruition.

All of the Directors were interviewed by the same person, David Poland. The video’s are on the website Movie City News. If you click on the DP/30 link, you will see dozens of 30 minute interviews on some of the biggest names in film. It is well worth taking a look.

Here are the links to the Pixar interviews:

Lee Unkrich (Director of Toy Story 3) Interview:

Pete Docter (Director of Up) Interview:

Andrew Stanton (Director of Wall-E) Interview:

Enjoy!

Wall-E: Andrew Stanton Interview

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on January 18, 2011

I stumbled upon this very informative interview with director Andrew Stanton talking about some of his thought process behind the movie Wall-E.

Wall-E is not my favorite Pixar movie but I think the movie’s storytelling is superb. We are introduced to the robot Wall-E and find out exactly what kind of character he is and what he is longing for in life within the first seven minutes of the film. The first twenty to thirty minutes of Wall-E consist of some of the greatest animation I have ever seen. The Pixar guys had guts. They trusted that the audience would not loose interest, even though there was little action and hardly any duologue at the beginning of the film.

Wall-E also represents a break away from the typical Pixar visual style. Andrew used lenses and brought in a color schemes that were different from movies like Cars, Finding Nemo, and Monsters Inc. He shot for a more realistic look. The movement of Wall-E was very limited compared to most of the Pixar characters. This allowed for the animators to stretch their skills and learn how to communicate a lot with a little.

Anyway, here are the video’s. Enjoy!

(Go to the site beta adikted or their youtube page for more interviews of popular filmmakers)

Joe Ranft: Part 3: A Friend and Mentor

Posted in Animation, Film and Filmaker Studies by Jacob on November 10, 2010

This third and final part of my Joe Ranft series is to explain why Joe is one of the greatest influences in the history of animation. As I have explained in my last two blogs about Joe (here is Part 1 and Part 2), he went through many struggles and was able to push through them to become a very good artist. His special touch is seen through all the films he has worked on. However, what inspires me the most about Joe is not all the struggles he was able to overcome. Nor was it the magnificent art he was able to produce. Joe’s true gift was in his ability to affect those around him. His influence on film was limited to his own skill with a pencil or even the time he had on this earth. Joe had a quality that lasts even through death. Joe Ranft was a friend and a mentor to all those he worked with and because of this he will never be forgotten and he will never stop influencing the world through the people who were influenced by him.

Joe was moved by the teachers he had in CalArts. He was not only influenced to create great art from them, but also to spread the ability to do art to others. The goel was always to find the best idea possible and to do that Joe would involve everyone around him. He was far from being a solo man like his idol Bill Pete. He liked working as a team and was always open to new ideas no matter who the idea came from. Joe thought if diverse artists could work together without killing each other they could accomplish great things.

In 1987 Joe returned to CalArts to teach storyboarding. Two students Joe influenced the most was Brenda Chapman and Pete Docter. Pete Docter is now a director at Pixar and was the visionary behind both Pixar’s Monsters Inc. and Up. Brenda is now known as one of the great storyboard artists of her generation and she helped co-direct Dreamworks The Prince of Egypt. In John Canemaker’s book Two Guys Named Joe, Brenda said, “I would not be who I am, what I am, if it were not for Joe,” (page. 50).

Joe seemed to be a natural teacher. He made his students study Chaplin and Keaton films, and really concentrated on how to communicate ideas and story points through body language and the physical expression of emotions. The “meaning of the pose” was always important to Joe so he taught his students how to stage their drawings and think deeply about the pose being created so they could communicate as much as they could with their drawings. Here are a few of Joe’s rules on storyboarding from the book Two Guys Named Joe (Page 50):

  • Show rather then tell.
  • Communicate one idea at a time.
  • Stage it so the audience can see it clearly.
  • Clarity In the shot composition.
  • Clarity in staging the acting or pantomime
  • The Story drawing’s idea is to communicate: an idea feeling/emotion, mood, an action
  • Imply animation in your drawings (through caricature, use of animation principles, I.e., stretch and squash exaggeration, etc.)
  • Imagine ourselves in our character’s shoes/place.
  • Leave an impression, an impact (Visual and emotional) That effects the viewer.

These were all rules Joe pounded into his students. He wanted each one of his students to be the best storyboard artist they could be. The students always had someone to talk to in Joe. He was always there to talk about an idea or way to go about telling their story. He was known for being able to deal with anyone. Unlike so many teachers today, Joe did not force his way of thinking onto his students. Rather, he helped them develop their own way of telling a story.

When Joe went to Pixar and became head of story for Toy Story and A Bugs Life he became a leader everyone looked up to, including the directors of the films he was working on. He was the first man to show up and the last person to leave. After A Bugs Life Joe took a step down from the leadership position to become more of a mentor to the Pixar studio. In their most desperate hours Joe was able to help guide first time directors like Pete Docter on Monster’s Inc and Andrew Stanton for Finding Nemo. Joe was able to crack the sequence at the end of Monsters Inc. where the main protagonist Sully is leaving his dear friend Boo for what he thinks will be the last time. Andrew Stanton, the director and screenwriter for both Finding Nemo and Wall-E said, “Everything I learned about storyboarding a film and rewriting scripts was with Joe Ranft on Toy Story” (Two Guys Named Joe, page 73).

The artist’s Joe took under his wing and helped mentor are now some of the most sought after people in the animation industry. Joe had a gift, a powerful gift. He was able to make others believe in themselves. Joe had a joy for life and his art form that could not help but rub off on others. However, this heart for helping others did not just stop in the field of animation.

Being successful while others suffered in the world was not comforting to Joe. He joined community outreach programs helping at prisons and in tough neighborhoods. He even helped convince Steve Jobs to donate computers to the Watts organization. Staying involved in the community was important to Joe and he stayed involved up to the day he died. He was killed in a traffic accident on his way to a retreat in Mendocino, California.

Andrew Stanton said this about Joe;

He was just a great listener. Probably the best. And he had a real sixth sense for when people needed it, even if you weren’t looking for it. And that I’ll miss more then anything else, is the random knock at the doorway and just going, ‘Ah. It’s Joe.’

Joe Ranft was a friend and mentor. He was there for others when they most needed him. Through the talent and the fame, it was Joe’s friendship everyone valued. And this is why Joe Ranft will never be forgotten. Friendship is his contribution that will never die.

 

(Here is a tribute to Joe Ranft, made by one of Joe’s good friends John Musker)