The Prescott Daily Courier
Daniel (Danny) West Lee, 95, died Friday, Nov. 28, 2014. Born in Wisconsin on July 9, 1919, Danny was the son of Carl West Lee and Myrtle Smith Lee. In the 1920s, the Lees moved to California, where Carl found work doing special effects for the budding movie industry.
Danny followed in his father's footsteps, working for many different studios as a freelancer for special effects and traveling all over the world on location for almost 100 movies, including "Mary Poppins," "On the Beach," "The Great Race," "Bonnie and Clyde," "The Secret of Santa Vittoria," "The Ten Commandments," "It's a Mad, Mad, Mad Mad World" and many more.
In 1969, Danny joined Disney Studios as head of the special effects department. There he worked on another 50 some movies, including the "Herbie" series, "Swiss Family Robinson," "Bedknobs and Broomsticks," for which he won an Oscar, and "The Black Hole," for which he received an Oscar nomination. He worked with many famous movie stars, and he was highly regarded in the motion picture industry for his skillful and creative work.
None of his special effects were computer-generated; he built automobiles, made explosions and blew up houses and cars, made rain, fires and wind, drove cars over cliffs, flew people and beds in the air, shot bad guys, built an army of coats-of-armor figures riding horseback, and many other special effects. Stuntmen liked to work for him because they never got hurt in the stunts he devised.
After he retired in 1981, Danny was asked to establish a special effects school to train young people in the profession. He and his wife, Jane, opened Danny Lee Studios in Chatsworth, California, and he taught clsses for several years. Danny and Jane moved to Prescott, Arizona, from Glendale,
California, 13 years ago. They built a home in The Ranch and settled down to enjoy retirement. They soon made warm friends here and enjoyed socializing. He loved fishing, feeding the birds and watching the wildlife in his backyard. He bought a computer, wrote an autobiography and learned to send emails. He died peacefully at Highgate Senior Living.
Danny is survived by his wife, Catharyn Jane Lee; a granddaughter, Stephanie Stamatelos; grandson James Stamatelos; great-granddaughter Alexis Stamatelos; and cousins Marjorie Conder, Lory and Michael Conder, Karen Conder Durazo, and Rachel and Rebecca Durazo. A number of other cousins in California and Wisconsin also survive him.
A memorial service for his friends and family is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 7, 2014, at Ruffner Wakelin Funeral Home, 303 S. Cortez St. in Prescott.
Memorial gifts may be sent to Hospice Compassus of Prescott or Liberty Ellis Island Foundation, one of the Lees' favorite charities.
Please log on to www.ruffnerwakelin.com to sign Danny's guestbook and share a memory with the family.
LEE, Danny (Daniel West Lee)
Born: 7/9/1919, Wisconsin, U.S.A.
Died: 11/28/2014, Prescott, Arizona, U.S.A.
Danny Lee’s westerns – SFX:
The Apple Dumpling Gang – 1975
Treasure of Montecumbe - 1976
Hot Lead and Cold Feet - 1978
The Apple Dumpling Gang Rides Again - 1979