John Ratzenberger

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John Ratzenberger
John Ratzenberger 2011 Shankbone.JPG
Ratzenberger at the 2011 Time 100 gala
BornJohn Deszo Ratzenberger[1]
(1947-04-06) April 6, 1947 (age 67)
Bridgeport, Connecticut, U.S.
EducationSt. Ann's School
Alma materSacred Heart University
OccupationActor, voice actor, entrepreneur
Years active1976–present
Known forPixar
John Ratzenberger's Made in America
Political party
Spouse(s)Georgia Stiny (1985–2004; divorced)
Julie Blichfeldt (2012-present)
ChildrenJames John (b. 1987),
Nina Kathrine (b. 1989)
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John Ratzenberger
John Ratzenberger 2011 Shankbone.JPG
Ratzenberger at the 2011 Time 100 gala
BornJohn Deszo Ratzenberger[1]
(1947-04-06) April 6, 1947 (age 67)
Bridgeport, Connecticut, U.S.
EducationSt. Ann's School
Alma materSacred Heart University
OccupationActor, voice actor, entrepreneur
Years active1976–present
Known forPixar
John Ratzenberger's Made in America
Political party
Spouse(s)Georgia Stiny (1985–2004; divorced)
Julie Blichfeldt (2012-present)
ChildrenJames John (b. 1987),
Nina Kathrine (b. 1989)

John Deszo Ratzenberger (born April 6, 1947)[1] is an American actor, voice actor, and entrepreneur. He is best known for his role as Cliff Clavin in Cheers and his recurring supporting/minor cast roles in Pixar films.

Early life[edit]

Ratzenberger was born in Bridgeport, Connecticut, the son of Bertha Veronica (née Grochowski), who worked for Remington Arms, and Deszo Alexander Ratzenberger, a Texaco truck driver.[2][3] His father was of Austrian and Hungarian descent, and his mother was of Polish ancestry.[4] He attended St. Ann's School in Bridgeport and Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Connecticut.[1] In 1969, Ratzenberger was a tractor operator at the Woodstock Festival.[5] He moved to London in 1971, living there for ten years.[1]


Ratzenberger was a house framer[6] living in London when he began his career in the performing arts.[1] His first role was a patron in The Ritz (1976). Throughout the late 1970s and early 1980s Ratzenberger appeared in various minor roles in major feature films, including Firefox; A Bridge Too Far; Superman as a missile controller; Superman II as the NASA control man; Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back as "Major Bren Derlin"; Motel Hell as a drummer; Outland as a doomed mine worker named Tarlow; and Gandhi, playing an American Lieutenant.


Ratzenberger at the 1992 Primetime Emmy Awards

Ratzenberger is well known for playing mail carrier Cliff Clavin on the sitcom Cheers. He had read for the part of Norm Peterson, but after the audition, he sensed that they weren't going to give him the part. Sensing an opportunity, he asked if they had written a bar know-it-all, which the producers decided was a great idea.[7] Ratzenberger also came up with the idea for Cliff's trademark white socks, which he wore as a tribute to French comedian Jacques Tati.[8] Cliff became known for his outlandish stories of plausible half-truths, uninteresting trivia, and misinformation, and in general for being a pretentious blowhard. Cliff and Norm, the primary customer characters, became iconic bar buddies. Ratzenberger provided the voice for an animated version of Cliff on The Simpsons 6th season episode "Fear of Flying".

When Paramount Television licensed the look of the Cheers bar to the Host International subsidiary of Host Marriott Services for use in airports in the U.S. and New Zealand, the group also created animatronic barflies. They were called "Hank" and "Bob"; Ratzenberger and George Wendt claimed Hank and Bob resembled them, and in January 1993 sued Host for using their likenesses without permission.[9] The case languished in court for eight years before all sides settled in 2001.[10]


Ratzenberger has had a voice part in all of Pixar's feature films made to date.[11] His roles include:

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). Mack notes that all the characters Ratzenberger has played were excellent until he realizes that they are performed by the same actor, at which point he remarks that "They're just using the same actor over and over." and asks "What kind of cut-rate production is this?!"

His favorite of his Pixar characters 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."[6] Although, technically not Pixar films, Ratzenberger also voiced Harland the jet tug in DisneyToon Studios' Planes (2013)[12][13] and a mustached plane named Brodi in its sequel, Planes: Fire & Rescue (2014).[14]

Reality show appearances[edit]

During season 6 of Last Comic Standing, Ratzenberger was a talent scout with his former Cheers co-star George Wendt.

On March 2, 2007, it was announced that he would replace Vincent Pastore on the fourth season of the American version of Dancing with the Stars.[15] He was partnered with professional ballroom dancer Edyta Sliwinska, who had been Pastore's partner; the two were the sixth couple to be eliminated from the show.

On December 3, 2009, Ratzenberger appeared on an episode of American Chopper to help promote awareness of the Iraq Star Foundation.

On June 26th 2011, Ratzenberger was asked by NASCAR to give the shouting command for the 2011 Toyota Save-Mart 350 at Sonoma. Ratzenberger accepted and gave the "Gentlemen start your engines" command.

Additional voice, TV and film work[edit]

Other work[edit]

Ratzenberger developed a packaging-alternatives product made from biodegradable and non-toxic recycled paper as a safe alternative to styrofoam "peanuts" and plastic bubble wrap. This product was manufactured by his company Eco-Pak Industries, which he later sold.[19]

Ratzenberger co-authored We've Got it Made in America: A Common Man's Salute to an Uncommon Country (ISBN 1-931722-84-6), published in 2006.

He also co-founded the Nuts, Bolts and Thingamajigs Foundation,[20] dedicated to raising awareness of skilled trades and engineering disciplines among young people.[21]

In 2010, Ratzenberger became affiliated with and now represents the Center for America (formerly the Foundation for Fair Civil Justice) to further develop his work and increase awareness about the skilled worker shortage facing the United States and the changes needed to positively impact and increase the number of skilled workers.[22] He joined as a Board Member in 2010.[22] CFA is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization ( Their mission is to "educate, motivate and empower the American people to understand they have the greatest stake in removing obstacles to a fair civil justice system, innovation, entrepreneurism, and job creation."[23] CFA creates multi-media educational programs, publications and website features that reach millions of Americans through radio, television and the internet."[23]

He is also on the University Board at Pepperdine University and the Board of Directors at Sacred Heart University.

Personal life[edit]

Ratzenberger has two children, James John born in 1987, and Nina Kathrine born in 1989, both from a 19-year marriage to Georgia Stiny that ended in divorce in 2004.

After dating for nearly four years, Ratzenberger married Julie Blichfeldt (then 46 years old) on November 6, 2012.[24] Both, Ratzenberger and Blichfeldt, were described as "avid outdoors enthusiasts, philanthropists and activists".[24]

Political activity[edit]

Ratzenberger, a Republican, said he considered running for the U.S. Senate in Connecticut in 2012.[25]

During the 2008 presidential race, Ratzenberger campaigned for John McCain, appearing with former Cheers co-star Kelsey Grammer at several Republican party events.[26][27] He also has been outspoken in opposition of the 2010 health care reform bill, referring to it as socialism.[28] He endorsed Mitt Romney in 2012.[29]

On January 17, 2010, he appeared and endorsed Scott Brown for the United States Senate at Mechanics Hall in Worcester, Massachusetts.

Ratzenberger campaigned for Republican Josh Mandel of Ohio for the State Treasurer position during the 2010 election and on January 10, 2011, served as master of ceremonies for Mandel's swearing into office.

In response to the 2012 Aurora shooting, he said "Hollywood has to, at some point, admit that what they produce does affect the minds of people.... If you just want to shock 'em... society will pay the price for that at some point."[8]


1976The RitzPatron
1977A Bridge Too FarLt James Megellas
Twilight's Last GleamingSgt. Kopecki
1978Superman: The MovieMissile controllerCameo
1979Hanover StreetSergeant John Lucas
1980Superman IINASA control man
Star Wars Episode V: The Empire Strikes BackMajor Bren Derlin
Motel HellDrummer
1982FirefoxChief Peck
Warlords of the 21st CenturyRusty
GandhiAmerican Lt. Driver for Bourke-White
Hill Street Blues (episode "Some Like it Hot-Wired")Conman - police impersonatorTV Series
1982–1993CheersCliff ClavinTV Series
1987House II: The Second StoryBill
1990Camp CucamongaMarvin Schector
1990The Earth Day SpecialCliff Calvin
1990–1992Captain Planet and the PlaneteersRiggerVoice
TV Series
1994The Simpsons (episode: "Fear of Flying")Cliff ClavinCameo
1995Toy StoryHamm the Piggy BankVoice
1997That Darn CatDusty
Sabrina, the Teenage Witch (episode "Sabrina Claus")Bob/Santa ClausTV Series
The Detectives (episode "Go West Old Man")Edsel
1998A Bug's LifeP.T. Flea, the Circus Ring LeaderVoice
1999Toy Story 2Hamm, the piggy bank
2001Monsters, Inc.The Abominable Snowman
That '70s ShowGlen[30]TV Series
The Drew Carey ShowHimself/Various
2002Spirited AwayAssistant ManagerVoice
FrasierCliff ClavinTV Series
2002–20058 Simple RulesPaul Hennessy's neighbor, Fred Doyle
2003Finding NemoSchool of FishVoice
2004The IncrediblesThe Underminer
2006CarsMack the truck/Hamm Car/Yeti Snowplow/P.T. Flea Car
2007RatatouilleMustafa the waiter
2008The Village BarbershopArt Leroldi
2009UpTom, the construction worker
2010Toy Story 3Hamm, the piggy bank
What If...Mike the Angel
2011Hawaiian VacationHamm, the piggy bankVoice
Cars 2Mack the truck
Melissa & JoeyArnieTV Series
Small FryHamm, the piggy bankVoice
2012Drop Dead DivaLarry KaswellTV Series
BraveGordon, the guardVoice
Partysaurus RexHamm, the piggy bank
The WoodcarverErnest
2013LegitWalter NugentTV Series
Franklin & BashJudge Elliot ReidTV Series
Monsters UniversityYeti, the Abominable SnowmanVoice
PlanesHarland, the pitty
Super BuddiesMarvin "Gramps" Livingstone
2014Planes: Fire & RescueBrodieVoice


  1. ^ a b c d e About John from Ratzenberger's official website
  2. ^ John Ratzenberger Biography (1947–) from
  3. ^ Last Night's Dancing with the Stars: What You Didn't See
  4. ^ [1]
  5. ^ The Mark Levin Show (wma) (Radio). May 8, 2008. Retrieved December 6, 2008. 
  6. ^ a b Spelling, Ian (May 21, 2009). "John Ratzenberger, Pixar's good luck charm, on Up, Bugs and Toys 3". Sci Fi Wire. Retrieved May 22, 2009. 
  7. ^ Toasting Cheers, Dennis A. Bjorklund, p.7
  8. ^ a b The Joe Cook Program (Radio). July 26, 2012. Retrieved July 29, 2012.
  9. ^ Norm and Cliff Fight Cheers Robots from ABC News
  10. ^ Bar Association Plus, Norm and Cliff settle Cheers robot lawsuit from the Entertainment Weekly website
  11. ^ "Pixar's secret weapon: John Ratzenberger, slideshow
  12. ^ "Disney's "Planes" Hi-res Stills, Fun Facts and Activity Sheets". Stitch Kingdom. May 9, 2013. Retrieved May 11, 2013. 
  13. ^ Hill, Jim (August 6, 2013). "World premiere of Disney "Planes" turns Hollywood Boulevard into a celebrity-filled landing strip". Jim Hill Media. Retrieved January 24, 2014. 
  14. ^ "Planes Fire & Rescue (2014)". British Film Institute. Retrieved August 24, 2014. 
  15. ^ "'Dancing' adds Cliff from 'Cheers'". CNN. Associated Press. February 20, 2007. Archived from the original on March 4, 2007. Retrieved March 2, 2007. 
  16. ^
  17. ^ What if
  18. ^ "Cheerful Goodbyes". Frasier. Season 9. Episode 21. April 30, 2002. OCLC 124055292. NBC.
  19. ^ About John: Innovator from Ratzenberger's official website
  20. ^ Official website of the Nuts, Bolts & Thingamajigs Foundation
  21. ^ "Early recruitment: Foundation draws youth to careers in manufacturing". Industrial Engineer. May 2009. p. 12.
  22. ^ a b Official Home of John Ratzenberger
  23. ^ a b [2]
  24. ^ a b "John Ratzenberger weds Julie Blichfeldt". UPI. November 30, 2012. Retrieved September 19, 2014. 
  25. ^ Rachel E. Stassen-Berger (November 5, 2009). "Pawlenty draws wallets fat ... and famous". Minneapolis Star Tribune. 
  26. ^ John Ratzenberger and Kelsey Grammer greeted McCain supporters, called voters on behalf of the Republican ticket, participated in voter-registration activities at the local campaign headquarters, and held a McCain victory rally in Henderson, Nevada. "Political emissaries descend on valley: Richardson, Grammer rally voters at events". Las Vegas Review-Journal. October 11, 2008. Retrieved October 16, 2008. 
  27. ^ "Stars stump in Las Vegas Valley". NBC-affiliated KVBC website. October 11, 2008. Retrieved October 16, 2008. 
  28. ^ "Tea Party activists hit the Hill, arrested outside Pelosi's office". CNN Political Ticker. November 5, 2009. Retrieved November 5, 2009. 
  29. ^ Obama, Romney turn to star power for help in NV - San Jose Mercury News
  30. ^ John Ratzenberger at the Internet Movie Database

External links[edit]