A Pixar Animation Legend Has Died

One of the great animators of Pixar Animation Studios and a pioneer in the modern age of computer-generated films has died.

By Nathan Kamal | Published

Ralph eggleston

Ralph Eggleston, a longtime animator, art director, and production designer for Pixar Animation Studios, has died. Eggleston is best known for writing and directing the 2000 animated short For the Birds, for which he won the Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film and the Annie Award—Outstanding Achievement in an Animated Short Subject. Over the course of his career, Ralph Eggleston contributed to many classic animated films and was a key and respected member of the animation community. According to Variety, Ralph Eggleston died after an extended battle with pancreatic cancer at age 56. 

Pixar Tweeted a tribute to Ralph Eggleston, showing him at work and praising him for his many years of work and multi-faceted contribution to animation. See it here:

Ralph Eggleston was born in Baton Rouge, La. in 1965. He was particularly noted for his work on the original Toy Story film, one of the most influential animated films of all time and a pioneer in computer-generated movies. He also worked on critically acclaimed and blockbuster animated films like Monsters, Inc., Finding Nemo, Wall-E, Cars, The Incredibles, Inside Out, and Soul. He worked with acclaimed filmmakers like Brad Bird and many others. In addition to his work with Pixar, Robert Eggleston also contributed to notable, more traditionally animated films like FernGully: The Last Rainforest, Aladdin, The Lion King, and Pocahontas. In many ways, Robert Eggleston’s career bridged the transition in animation from traditional hand-drawn productions to CGI dominance. 

While Robert Eggleston was widely respected in his field for his work on Pixar’s CGI animation, he notably was a proponent of paper-and-pen work until the end of his life. In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, he was quoted as saying “Our trade is pen and paper” and giving the opinion that the rough draft stage of production was far more important than the actual finished, completed images. Some of the earlier films that Robert Eggleston worked on, like FernGully: The Last Rainforest and Aladdin (from 20th Century Fox and Disney, respectively) were pioneers in the field of merging hand-drawn animation with computer-generated images, which means that he was there from pretty much the beginning of the process.

Ralph Eggleston’s most acclaimed work was the 2000 short film For the Birds, for which he won numerous awards. It was initially shown alongside the popular theatrical film Monsters Inc. (in Pixar’s tradition of showing short films as a prelude to the feature), and was eventually converted into 3D animation. It was acclaimed for its detailed visuals of different varieties of birds and for its humor. Eventually, elements of For the Birds were worked into various other Pixar productions as Easter Eggs, including Cars and Inside Out.

Ralph Eggleston’s work as an animator, director, writer, storyboard artist, and much more stretched from the early 1990s to the present. In many ways, his career represents an enormous sea change in American animation and how an entire medium of art and entertainment adapted to technology. Rest in Peace and thank you for the many years of entertainment, Ralph Eggleston.