UKIAH, Calif. – Joe Ranft (search), who was nominated for an Oscar for co-writing "Toy Story" (search) for Pixar Animation Studios, died when the car he was riding in veered off a Mendocino County highway and into the water, the Hollywood Reporter reported Wednesday. He was 45.
An unidentified spokeswoman for the Mendocino County Sheriff-Coroner's Office confirmed to the trade publication that Ranft was one of two people who died Tuesday in the crash on Highway 1.
"Joe was an important and beloved member of the Pixar family, and his loss is of great sorrow to all of us and to the animation industry as a whole," the company said in a statement to the Hollywood Reporter.
Hundreds of Pixar employees gathered Wednesday in the animation company's atrium to share their grief, according to blogs written by several Pixar animators.
An accident report from the California Highway Patrol confirmed the crash but said only the coroner's office could release the names of the two fatalities. No one was available at the coroner's office late Wednesday night.
Ranft, the head of story for more than a decade at Pixar, also co-wrote "A Bug's Life" and was the voice for such characters as Heimlich in "A Bug's Life" and Wheezy the Penguin in "Toy Story 2."
Before joining Pixar, Ranft worked at Walt Disney Feature Animation, where he was a writer on "Beauty and the Beast" and "The Lion King."
The CHP said the car was traveling north on Highway 1 on Tuesday afternoon when the driver overcorrected and veered over the cliff at about 30 mph, overturning twice and landing near where the Navarro River meets the Pacific Ocean.
The driver and the front passenger were killed. The rear passenger, identified as Eric T. Frierson, 39 of Los Angeles, escaped with moderate injuries.