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Feature FilmStop Motion

The Ranft Bros. in Coraline

I mentioned in an earlier post that there is a nod to the late great Disney/Pixar storyman Joe Ranft (Lion King, Toy Story, Roger Rabbit, Cars, etc.) in Coraline. Thanks to the fine folks at Laika Entertainment, we can show you that acknowledgement.

The moving men who help the Jones family move into their new home are The Ranft Brothers, and the puppets are caricatures of real-life brothers and animation artists Joe and Jerome Ranft (Jerome, a sculptor at Pixar, provides the duo’s vocals). Joe Ranft worked with Henry Selick on both The Nightmare Before Christmas and James and The Giant Peach and was a valued member of the Pixar family. Selick’s tribute is a beautiful, fitting salute to a colleague and a friend.

Click on thumbnails below for large images.

Sculptor Damon Bard also posted photos of the Ranft model on his website:

Joe Ranft

UPDATE: Shane Prigmore writes in:

“It’s really cool you posted about the Joe and Jerome movers. Tonight I will post my original designs of the Ranft Brothers on my blog. You can use them in this post if you would like, so you can have the complete progression. I would be honored.

It was an honor to have Henry ask me to design Joe and Jerome. Joe’s family and freinds sent us tons of photos and told lots of stories to get me inspired. I would be lying if I said I didn’t get a little teary eyed surrounded by photos of and watching video of Joe and really trying to capture what made him Joe. I was so nervouse that his family and friends would not like what I had done (including Henry). But they were all so gracious and happy about what I had done. It was a wonderful memory that I am very glad you posted about. It brought it all back. Thanks for your continued support for Coraline, Jerry. We all apreciate it.”

(Design above by Shane Prigmore. Ranft Bros. photos from Coraline, at the top of this post, courtesy of Fumi Kitahara, Jade Alex and Laika)

  • Sam

    That’s really a sweet cameo. Joe Ranft was a a huge inspiration to so many of us. : ) Now I want to see this in theaters.

  • That’s funny, I had the distinct feeling that these were “real-life” caricatures when I saw the film, they definitely have the feel of it. Thanks for filling us in on who it was…

  • PJ

    What a great tribute. Like I said in the Coraline post, I never knew Ranft, but I’ll bet he loves this.

  • Douglass Abramson

    Thanks. I missed it when I was in the theater, but I knew that “Joe” looked familiar. It was a very nice tribute in a great film.

  • I noticed the name of the truck the moment it went over the hill in that opening landscape shot.

    And when they stepped out I was like “awwwww” :)

    I had to explain the reference to my friends who came to see it with me.

  • I was so excited and surprised to see their cameos when I saw the film. What a sweet tribute.

  • if joe ranft helped me move, I would give him a better tip than $1. Coraline’s mom is a regular scrooge mcduck.

  • AdrianC

    I was probably the only person in theater who picked up on this subtle tribute when I saw the movie. I will admit, though, that I didn’t know Jerome Ranft was the other mover.

    Anyway, what a touching gesture!

  • I remember recognizing the Joe Ranft puppet. Unmistakably him. A terrible loss to animation. Its tributes like this that immortalize him.

  • Paul N

    I got choked up with the dedication at the end of “Cars,” and I’m sure I’ll get choked up again when I see this tribute in “Coraline.” We miss ya, Joe!

  • That is a beautiful tribute. I can’t believe I still haven’t had the chance to see Coraline yet. Its all that I’ve been excited about lately. I am looking forward to seeing the Ranft brothers cameo.

  • Andrew

    Yes yes thank you Fumi and Jade for sharing these pics online! He will be missed.

  • There was a similar puppet tribute to the late, great stop motion animator Paul Berry in Corpse Bride. (Nightmare, Peach, Monkeybone) With the blessing of his family, Paul, complete with his famous shock of red hair, makes a brief cameo appearance in a wide shot, down in the Land of the Dead. Paul became a mentor and friend to me, so it was the ultimate privilege to be able to animate him in that shot.

    I think it was a great mark of respect from Henry to honor his friend Joe in this way too.

  • It went by too quickly to be 100% sure, but I strongly believe I saw graffiti saying “STORY RULZ” on the back of their truck. It would be behind Jerome in the still to the right. A whorl from it peaks out beneath his armpit.

  • Saturnome

    How great to read this, I’m just back from Coraline, and did was a bit curious about those two guys.

  • I noticed this in the theater and pointed it out to my friends. Thanks for posting it! I wonder if there are any other hidden secrets in the film.

  • Fred Cline

    Joe would have been tickled to see that. The maquette photos remind me of a sculpture Joe did of himself and gave to Eric Larsen as a memento/thank-you for the training he received under Eric. It sat on Eric’s desk until he retired from the artist training program.

  • Sierra Martin

    I didn’t know about the Ranft connection when I went to see it yesterday, but I jumped in my seat when I saw the “Ranft bros.” truck and then saw a Joe Ranft look-a-like. It made me tear-up. Very sweet indeed.

  • I was hoping you guys would post something about this – my wife and I noticed this in the theater and she almost cried. It was a great tribute, and it was surprising to see it come from a non-Pixar film.

  • Joe would be delighted. He’s finally a cartoon character.

    I remember visiting Joe when he was working with Henry on “James and the Giant Peach” in San Francisco. Later, we worked together at Pixar. I still miss him.

  • I thought the tribute to Joe Ranft at the beginning of the story was poignant. From what I saw of Joe, the character in CORALINE has immortalized him. He would’ve be proud, no doubt.

  • Pamela Pollock McLeod

    I grew up in Whittier and went to school with Jerome and his sister Ruth. Joe was older then us. Jerome is a fantastic guy and was a great friend…always made me laugh during classes and during the BORING hours we were spent on standby while working and performing in our high school musicals. He was and still is so very talented and I was saddened to hear of the unmtimely death of his brother in 2005. I am so honored to be able to tell my children about the boy I knew in school who has grown to become this man…and who has delighted all of us with his amazing work in Pixar’s collection of films. The tribute in Coraline was especially touching.
    Thank Jermone & Joe…for the joy you have given me and my children!