Academy Award-winning director, animator, and art director Ralph Eggleston (Film/Video 86), celebrated as a “cornerstone of Pixar’s visual style” by Cartoon Brew, passed away on Monday, Aug. 29. He was 56.
Born in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, Eggleston began his animation career at Bill Kroyer’s pioneering studio Kroyer Films, where he served as artistic director on the musical fantasy feature FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992). He went on to join Pixar Animation Studios in 1992, where he racked up credits in classic Pixar features like Toy Story (1995), Aladdin (1992), The Lion King (1994), Pocahontas (1995), A Bug’s Life (1998), Monsters, Inc. (2001), Inside Out (2015), and Finding Nemo (2003).
Though Eggleston spent the majority of his three decade-long career with Pixar Animation Studios, a name synonymous with computer animation, he was trained in the classic school of pen and paper.
“We mostly came from traditional animation,” Eggleston shared in a 2019 interview with The Hollywood Reporter about the early Pixar team. “I knew nothing about computers. They were actually writing the software and building the hardware to make Toy Story as we were building the story.”
In 2002, Eggleston won the Academy Award for Best Short Film, Animated for “For the Birds.” The humorous three-minute computer animated short about birds on a power line screened alongside the theatrical release of Monsters, Inc. (2001), on which he was also credited as a storywriter and visual developer.
Eggleston was also a three-time Annie Award winner for his work on Toy Story (1995), Finding Nemo (2003), and Inside Out (2015). In 2019, Eggleston was honored with the prestigious Winsor McCay Award at the 46th Annual Annie Awards for his numerous contributions to the field.
The news of his passing prompted an outpouring of tributes from throughout the animation industry, many of whom remembered “Eggman”—as he was affectionately called by his Pixar colleagues—not only for his legendary talent, but for his friendship, mentorship, and fierce passion for the arts.
“He was an absolutely incredible talent, and will be greatly missed—a visionary artist who defined the look of Pixar films from the very beginning, and led with great energy and compassion,” shared School of Film/Video Assistant Dean Maija Burnett. “A wonderful person.”
School of Film/Video faculty and editorial cartoonist Ann Telnaes (Film/Video BFA 85), who knew Eggleston during her studies at CalArts, shared the following remembrance as a thread on Twitter:
The Book of Life director Jorge R. Gutierrez (Film/Video MFA 00) reflected on his memories with the “maestro”:
Pixar also shared a Twitter tribute to their “dear friend”:
Read more tributes to Eggleston in Animation World Network, Cartoon Brew, and TheWrap.
Ralph was my best friend. Everyone can say that because he was everyone’s best friend.
We met September 5, 1983 at CalArts on our first day in the Character Animation Department. He was something special, fer sure. He requested no memorial, but I gotta tell you – ALL his best friends need to meet, have a drink, a toast, and a million laughs as we tell a million funny stories about this giant of a human. RIP old buddy.