Joe Ranft far outpaced many in his storytelling ability, but his vocal abilities also held a special quality. His characters could steal a scene after only a few seconds. Two of the most notable voices he provided were for Wheezy in Toy Story 2 and Heimlich in A Bug’s Life. The characters made audiences laugh but they also made people feel. Ranft injected the voices with life and filmgoers had nothing left to do but fall in love with the animated characters. After a short period of time, the animated characters did not feel so animated anymore – actually, they jumped off the screen with a lifelike quality and Ranft’s vocal talent played a huge role in that.
We have all had toys that have stopped working over time. Poor Wheezy had a damaged squeaker, so he was placed on a high shelf away from all of his friends. His coughs and difficulty in speaking gave the penguin a vulnerability that many on-screen characters can only dream of. Wheezy was painful to listen to and really had the audience feeling great pity for him. That care from audience members was realized through the vocal talent of Joe Ranft, who took a new character who had just been introduced and in a matter of minutes endowed him with great characterization.
Once in a while a character comes along that is so hilarious that viewers look forward to each time the character opens his or her mouth. In A Bug’s Life, Heimlich steals the show as the lovable caterpillar, with his every line being as ridiculous as it was incredibly humorous. A few examples:
Slow down you flowers! Oh, CANDY CORN! Here, let me help you to finish it!
(dressed as a baby) Bottle all gone. Baby wants pie!
What ho, Robin! Justice is my sword and truth shall be my quiver.
The quotes themselves do not do enough justice to the level of humor present, as the hilarity is pushed to a higher level with Ranft’s delivery. The sign of an amazing actor is one who can take lines from a script and make it his or her own. Ranft provided the scratch voice for Heimlich, holding the character’s voice down during the film’s production. However, his Heimlich was so good, such a creation of his own personality, that he was kept on to voice the character in the final cut of the film.
Joe Ranft also voiced Lenny the Binoculars in Toy Story, Jacques in Finding Nemo, and Red in Cars. While the characters were all unique and had different personalities, one thing remained consistent: they were believable characters who connected with the audience.
In the many now-classic Pixar films, Joe Ranft continues to make people laugh and feel today and will for generations to come.