Sunday, August 28, 2005

So long Joe...It's been great to know you

I was driving the car home (on the 18th of August 2005) when the newscaster came on and said that there had been an accident in Mendocino and a member of the team that made Toy Story had been killed. I started to slow down and when they said Joe Ranft's name, I practically had a wreck myself.

Instantly I was transported back in time to that day in 1991 when I went to work for PIXAR and began supporting the products that we made at the time, and also when I helped the animation team install software that would allow them to do screen pencil tests for what would eventually become Toy Story.

Joe Ranft was a great guy. He had an awesome sense of humor, and of who he was in the world, at least from my point of view. I rarely during the 6 years that I was at PIXAR saw him in any kind of a down mood, and he was always very pleasant to sit with at lunch. Many times I dropped in and helped him with computer issues as I did with everyone at PIXAR who used a Macintosh. That was my job there. Macintosh Systems Engineer as it says in the credits in Toy Story. It was a great job, and a great time, making the first of what would become many PIXAR movies. PIXAR has become great in the industry.

Things really come home when I went to the memorial for Joe. As I stood there in my Toy Story Jacket (a tribute to you my friend), people who had not seen me since my exodus that August day in 1997 when the Mercury News had put my face on the front of their website proclaiming me as a candidate for CEO of Apple Computer, these people hugged me, we cried together, and it seemed like I had never left. Steve Jobs stood and spoke, Ed Catmull, Andrew Stanton, John Lasseter, Su Joe's wife, many others, as everyone watched images of Joe on the screen. We could feel his spirit there, laughing at all of us from beyond, and crying with us as well.

Joe, we miss you. You're not gone, we just can't quite see you the way we used to. I wish I had seen you in these years since I left PIXAR. I always felt we were friends, just out of touch. You did many wonderful things in your time here, you shall be missed.

I just wanted to put into words my feelings and say "Thanks" for everything. For the jokes, for listening, for sharing, and for being a friend. I hope they got you a comfy seat on the other side, and if you happen to run into a friendly poodle with halitosis, his name is Rusty. Pet him and tell him Maria's Mom Nora sends her love.

God bless ya.

Michael Murdock - your friend.

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