Dan Lee, 35, Pixar artist who designed 'Nemo,' other characters


February 4, 2005

HOLLYWOOD - Dan Lee, a character designer at Pixar Animation Studios who made significant contributions to "Finding Nemo" and other hit animated films over the past decade, died Jan. 15. He was 35.

Lee died in Alta Bates Summit Medical Center in Berkeley, Calif., after a 17-month battle with lung cancer. An Oakland resident, He was a nonsmoker and his healthy and active lifestyle included bicycling to the Pixar studios in nearby Emeryville, his colleagues said.

Lee joined Pixar in 1996 as a sketch artist, character designer and animator for "A Bug's Life," and "Toy Story 2." Later he designed characters for "Monsters, Inc." and "Finding Nemo."

Among the characters Lee designed were Rosie, Princess Atta, Dot, Hopper and Tuck & Roll in "A Bug's Life"; Waternoose in "Monsters, Inc."; and Nemo, Marlin, Bloat, Nemo's friends and the barracuda in "Finding Nemo."

"One of the most important aspects of character design in animation is making appealing characters," Andrew Stanton, director of "Finding Nemo," said. "That doesn't always mean they're cute or pretty; it means that there's something pleasing to the eye for staring at them a long period of time on the screen, and Dan was very good at finding the appeal in the designs of his characters."

As for designing the young clownfish that winds up in a dentist's office aquarium in the Oscar-winning "Finding Nemo," Stanton said Lee "really nailed Nemo right off the bat." Lee also was known for his ability to design charming and appealing female and child characters.

The Montreal-born Lee, the youngest of four children born to Chinese immigrants, grew up primarily in the Toronto suburb of Scarborough, Ontario. He graduated from the classical animation program at Sheridan College in Oakville, Ontario.

Before joining Pixar, Lee worked on television cartoons and commercials for studios in Toronto and San Francisco.

He is survived by his mother and father, Kam Sau and Hung Yau Lee of Toronto; and his sisters, Sunny Lee-Fay of Vancouver, Mei-Ping Okumura of Tustin, Calif., and Brenda Lee Truong of Toronto.

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