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John Dezso Ratzenberger (born April 6, 1947; age 77) is an American actor, voice actor, comedian, and filmmaker who is best known for his portrayal as Cliff Clavin on the NBC comedy series Cheers, and providing voice-over work in Pixar films from Toy Story to Onward, and again from Inside Out 2.

Biography[]

Early life[]

John Dezso Ratzenberger was born on Easter Sunday, April 6, 1947, in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the son of Bertha Veronica (née Grochowski), and Dezső Alexander Ratzenberger, a WWII veteran who had been a combat engineer in the Philippines. John's father, Dezso, was of Austrian and Hungarian descent, and John's mother was of Polish ancestry. Ratzenberger attended St. Ann's School in Bridgeport and then Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut. In 1969, Ratzenberger worked at the Woodstock Festival, as a heavy equipment operator and as part of the crew building the stage. John moved to London in 1971 where he began his acting, writing, and directing career.

Live-action roles[]

Ratzenberger began his career in the performing arts while living in London, England. Through the 1970s, he performed with Ray Hassett as the comedic theatrical duo Sal's Meat Market, which toured throughout Europe for eight years. Sal's Meat Market heavily influenced Peter Richardson and Nigel Planer as a duo in The Outer Limits and in The Comic Strip. His first role in a major feature film was as a patron in The Ritz (1976). Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s, Ratzenberger appeared in various roles in feature films throughout Europe including: A Bridge Too Far, filmed in Holland, as Lieutenant James Megellas; Superman, as a missile controller; Superman II, as the NASA control man; Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back as Major Derlin; Outland as a doomed mine worker named Tarlow; and Gandhi, filmed in India, playing an American lieutenant.

Ratzenberger played mail carrier Cliff Clavin on the sitcom Cheers. As an improv artist, he asked the producers if they had written a bar know-it-all character; the producers decided it was a great idea, and the character of Cliff Clavin was born. Ratzenberger also came up with the idea for Cliff's trademark white socks, which he wore as a tribute to French comedian Jacques Tati. Cliff became known for his outlandish stories, trivia, and his trademarked (and oft repeated), "It's a little known fact..." Cliff and Norm, the primary customer characters of the iconic bar, Cheers, played buddies who met at Cheers to talk about the day or nothing in particular. Ratzenberger was nominated for an Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in 1985 and again in 1986. Ratzenberger provided the voice for an animated version of Cliff on The Simpsons sixth-season episode "Fear of Flying". He also played the role in the short-lived spin-off The Tortellis and in an episode of Wings, which was made by the same creators.

Pixar[]

John Ratzenberger has had a voice role in each of Pixar's first 22 films. His roles include:

John Ratzenberger's tenure at Pixar was parodied during the end credits of Cars, where his character, Mack, watches car-themed versions of Pixar films (Toy Car Story, Monster Trucks, Inc., and A Bug's Life, the latter of which references the Volkswagen Beetle). Mack notes that all the characters that John Ratzenberger has played had excellent voice actors until he realizes that they are performed by the same actor, at which point he remarks, "They're just using the same actor over and over," and asks, "What kind of cut-rate production is this?!"

Ratzenberger said that his favorite Pixar character was P.T. Flea, because "...in real life, I always get a kick out of those kinds of characters, people who just go into a rage for [no] explicable reason. He was always on edge. His blood pressure was always way over the top, and everything that he did was done in a panicked state. So it was a lot of fun to play him." John Ratzenberger voiced characters for other studios as well; he played Harland the Jet Tug in DisneyToon Studios' Planes (2013) and a mustached plane named Brodi in its sequel, Planes: Fire & Rescue (2014), Additionally, Ratzenberger reprised his role as the Abominable Snowman in the Disney+-exclusive series Monsters at Work, which is set after the events of Monsters, Inc. Ratzenberger has also voiced a character named Rootie in Skydance Animation's first film, Luck, which continues his collaboration in animation with former Pixar filmmaker John Lasseter.

Soul, Pixar's 23rd feature film, is the first Pixar film not to include Ratzenberger's voice or personal involvement. The film's director, Pete Docter, hinted to audiences that Ratzenberger makes a "cameo" in the film, but the cameo was subsequently confirmed by co-director Kemp Powers to be an animated appearance instead of a voice role, meaning Ratzenberger himself technically did not participate in the film. Docter subsequently explained on the audio commentary track for Soul's home media releases that he wanted to come up with something more subdued for Ratzenberger's cameo in the film rather than go the traditional route of having a voice cameo.

Filmography[]

Film[]

Year Title Role Notes
1995 Toy Story Hamm
1998 A Bug's Life P.T. Flea Favorite Disney/Pixar role
1999 Toy Story 2 Hamm
2001 Monsters, Inc. Yeti
2003 Finding Nemo Moonfish
2004 The Incredibles The Underminer
2006 Cars Mack
Hamm Truck
Abominable Snowplow
P.T. Flea Car
2007 Ratatouille Mustafa
2008 WALL-E John
2009 Up Construction Foreman Tom
2010 Toy Story 3 Hamm
2011 Cars 2 Mack
2012 Brave Gordon
2013 Monsters University Yeti
2015 Inside Out Fritz
The Good Dinosaur Earl
2016 Finding Dory Bill
2017 Cars 3 Mack
Coco Juan Ortodoncia
2018 Incredibles 2 The Underminer
2019 Toy Story 4 Hamm
2020 Onward Fennwick
2024 Inside Out 2 Fritz

Television[]

External links[]

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