It’s a sad day for Disney/Pixar, as well as fans of their work, as one of their own has passed away. The Los Angeles Times reported today that Daniel Gerson, co-writer of Disney’s animation hit Big Hero 6 died Saturday after a long battle with brain cancer. He died peacefully in his home in Los Angeles alongside his family. He was 49-years-old.
Gerson leaves behind his wife, Beau Stacom, to whom he had been married to for 20 years, his children Claire and Asher, his mom and dad Mary-Joan and Charles, his sister Jessica and her two children, Daisy and Henry. Gerson’s memorial service will be held in Los Angeles.
Gerson’s career ended on an important note as he and co-writer Robert L. Baird were honored during the 2015 Oscars as Big Hero 6 won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature. The pair also worked together on Monsters University, as well.
One could say that Gerson was as animated as the characters he helped create. Born and raised in New York, Gerson not only attended Cornell University but he also received an MFA from New York University film school. Gerson’s first screen credit as a screenwriter came about for his work writing the “My Feral Lady” episode of Duckman: Private Dick/Family Man TV series in 1997. Next came an episode of NBC’s short-lived comedy series, Something So Right in 1998, followed by stints for The New Addams Family (1998), Big Wolf on Campus (1999) and Misguided Angels (1999).
It wasn’t until 2001 that Gerson’s name would become synonymous the Disney/Pixar. He had finally found his people. One of his first duties was to co-write Monster’s, Inc. with Andrew Stanton. The two worked so well together, they paired up again for Big Hero 6 (2014). In between the two, Gerson contributed to Disney’s Chicken Little (2005) followed by the Christmas TV special, Prep & Landing: Naughty vs. Nice (2011), Tangled’s follow up short, Tangled Evert After (2012) and Monsters University (2013).
Though originally based on a Marvel comic book series, the end product of Big Hero 6 was decidedly different. Still an action flick, this new incarnation of the series was filled with heart with a group of unlikely heroes. The story was set in a fictional city that was a mashup of Tokyo and San Francisco known as San Fransokyo. Hiro and his older brother, Tadashi, lived with their aunt after their parents died.
Tadashi attended a prestigious university program where he created Baymax, the first blow-up help aide for families. After a tragic event in which Tadashi lost his life, his sibling and robot turned to each other for comfort and became a force to be reckoned with. Together with Tadashi’s college friends, they formed the Big Hero 6, fighting crime together and building strong friendships.
Big Hero 6 may have been the first Disney film to really deal with the grief that comes after the death of a loved one and how to move on with help from friends. Of course, the real reason many came out to see the flick in the first place was the character of Baymax. He was soft, cuddly and viewers wished that they could have their own “personal healthcare companion.” In 2014, Entertainment Weekly interviewed the makers of the movie to discuss the film.
“There’s this fantastic relationship in the movie between Hiro and Tadashi, and we were always looking for ways to make it seem authentic,” said Baird.
Then, Baird relays the comments of Disney Animation chief creative officer John Lasseter, also a father to five boys, who said, “Brothers are physical, and they push each other a lot, and they say a lot with just a slap or a fist bump. And we thought, of course—when they [Hiro and Baymax] accomplish something, let’s have them do one of those.”
Baird continued, “My writing partner, Dan Gerson and I, wrote these pages where we said, ‘Hiro teaches the first bump to Baymax, then does this exploding fist sound.’ Then we wrote, ‘Baymax does his robot equivalent of whatever that exploding fist sound would be.’ We had the brilliant Scott Adsit get into the booth and record that scene. When he got to the exploding fist bump sound, he gave us this whole variety of different sounds—exploding sounds and digital robot sounds. And then he did this weird “balalalala” sound. I remember everybody in the booth laughing, and thinking, ‘Well, we’ll never use that. That’s too weird.'”
Of course, it’s the one line from the movie that everyone knows and quotes.
[Photo by Tristan Fewings/Getty Images]