Daniel Gerson, the screenwriter behind several Walt Disney Studios and Pixar animated movies, including Monsters, Inc. and Big Hero 6, has passed away at his home in Los Angeles at the age of 49, following a battle with brain cancer.
Born in New York City in 1966, Gerson attended Cornell University, where he majored in English. He went on to continue his studies and later obtained a master’s from the graduate film school at NYU. Choosing writing as his vocation, he moved to Los Angeles in a bid to showcase his talent. His career had humble beginnings, but he secured an early gig as a staff writer on the sitcom Something So Right when he was 32. Gerson would later write for comedy horror television shows, like The New Addams Family and Big Wolf On Campus.
Gerson received his first big break when he made the transition to writing feature films, landing the plum gig of co-writing Disney Pixar’s Monsters, Inc. with Andrew Stanton in 2001. In addition to bringing the popular characters — James P. “Sulley” Sullivan (voiced by John Goodman) and Mike Wazowski (voiced by Billy Crystal) — to life on the page, Gerson also provided the high-pitched voices of the company janitors Needleman and Smitty.
His meeting with fellow writer Robert L. Baird in 1998 quickly became a partnership as the pair frequently collaborated on a series of Walt Disney animations over the coming years, including Pixar’s prequel Monsters University, Cars, Up, Inside Out, Chicken Little, and Meet the Robinsons.
Gerson reteamed with Baird, along with Jordan Roberts, on the action-packed superhero tale Big Hero 6 (the police officer in the film even bears the name Gerson on his name tag) . The movie — inspired by the Marvel Comics title of the same name — was well received by critics and audiences alike, grossing $658 million worldwide and winning an Oscar for best-animated feature in 2015. Most recently, the writer was scheduled to work on the screenplay for Cars 3, which is due for release on June 16, 2017.
Gerson was well known for helping create many of the beloved characters appearing in some of Disney and Pixar’s best scripts, but the writer’s New York Times obituary describes a different character entirely — his own:
“Daniel expressed a unique zest for life, its big and little moments, and brought that spirit to all of his loved ones. His sense of humor was exceptional. Beyond his creative talents, what distinguished Daniel was a profound commitment to honesty, fairness and concern for the less fortunate. He was a fiercely loyal, loving and caring human being. The humanity, humor, and compassion that he brought to his writing, he brought to his family and friends in equal measure.”
Gerson is survived by his wife of 20 years, Beau Stacom; his children Claire and Asher; his parents Mary-Joan and Charles; and his sister Jessica and her children.
Donations can be made in Daniel’s memory to Dr Linda Liau’s Brain Tumor Program at UCLA.