Ralph Eggleston, the veteran Pixar animator, art director and production designer who won an Oscar for his much-loved short film For the Birds, has died. He was 56.
The Pixar Post reported that Eggleston died Sunday after a battle with pancreatic cancer.
“Pixar and the world will be forever grateful,” tweeted the official Pixar account honoring Eggleston on Tuesday.
“Truly one of a kind. His massive talent was matched only by his kindness,” tweeted Lightyear director Angus MacLane.
Eggleston was born in Lake Charles, Louisiana, in 1965. He attended Sam Houston High School in Lake Charles. He began his animation career at Bill Kroyer’s Kroyer Films working on projects such as the TV pilot Computer Warriors (1990) and the feature FernGully: The Last Rainforest (1992).
Eggleston was hired by Pixar in 1992 during the development of the first computer-animated feature that was to become Toy Story, beginning what was to become a long and hugely successful career at the animation studio. He worked as an art director on Toy Story, which was released to universal acclaim and great box office success in 1995. Eggleston went on to win his first Annie Award, for best art direction for his work on the film.
Pixar enjoyed a historical run of success in the 1990s and early 2000s and Eggleston, known affectionately as Eggman at the company, was a key player in the films the studio produced for nearly three decades. He worked as an art director on A Bug’s Life (1998), Toy Story 2 (1999), The Incredibles (2004), Cars (2006) and Up (2009). He was a storywriter and visual developer on Monsters, Inc. (2001), a production designer on Finding Nemo (2003) and WALL-E (2008) and a character designer on Ratatouille (2007).
Despite working at a digital animation pioneer like Pixar, Eggleston was very much from the tradition of paper and ink. “Our trade is pen and paper,” he told The Hollywood Reporter in 2016. “A rough sketch means a lot around here. I would rather have a rough sketch with 50 images than five finished images with a lot of detail.”
In 2000, Pixar released the short For the Birds, written and directed by Eggleston. The three-minute film, a humorous story of birds on a power line, was later shown alongside the theatrical release of Monsters, Inc. and would go on to win an Academy Award for best animated short in 2002 on top of the Annie for best short it won in 2000.
Eggleston would win two more Annies for his work on Finding Nemo and Inside Out. Eggleston told THR in 2019 that Sadness from Inside Out was the Pixar character he identified with most. “The idea of being happy and crying versus being sad and crying versus being lonely and crying — the film explored that notion extremely delicately and in a really entertaining way.”
His final credited Pixar work was on 2020’s Soul, where he served as a development artist.
Outside of Pixar, Eggleston worked on several Disney animation classics including Aladdin (1992), The Lion King (1994) and Pocahontas (1995).
In 2019, Eggleston was given the ASIFA-Hollywood’s Winsor McCay Award for career achievement at the 46th annual Annie Awards.