About Me

Early years (1982-1986)

I was born in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada in 1982. My parents are South African Jewish immigrants, who emigrated to Canada in 1971, only 2 days after they got married. My Dad is a Professor Emeritus of Chemical Engineering and my Mom is a nursery school teacher. My sister works in Health Policy, Statistics and Gerontology. If it wasn’t immediately obvious: Education has always been given a top priority in our household! We lived in Australia for a year in 1984, and in 1986 we moved to London, Ontario where I grew up. I’ll always think of London as my home town.

Growing up (1986-1996)

London, Ontario was an awesome place to grow up. The big, bright lights of Toronto are always beckoning, helping you dream of bigger things. For most of my childhood, London had a population somewhere around 180,000 (now approx. 350,000). This was a great setup - a small-town vibe with big-city dreams - and a perfect match for my personality. London was often chosen as a test-bed for new technology. As a University town, its populace has always been highly educated, offering a “perfect sample representation” of Canada, as I’ve heard mentioned. Many different faiths, ethnicities, multi-generational Canadians and immigrants were represented, making the demographics akin to a slice of Canada at-large. This is a natural environment to learn about other people’s traditions in first-person, and this has certainly helped fuel my desire for traveling and exploring cultures way different from my own. In 1992, we visited South Africa and I learned about my heritage as well as seeing Terminator 2, the epic visual effects film which solidified my career goals. During this time period we also lived in Oxford, England for a year which was an incredible experience.

High school (1996-2001)

Ontario high schools had 5 years of classes rather than 4 when I went through the system. I went to London Central Secondary School, an academically-oriented high school. I played Baritone Saxophone in the Jazz Band, acted in the school plays, and spent a large majority of my time on homework and Student Council. :) I really loved it there and I had the benefit of learning from some incredible teachers.

Australia (2001-2002)

The time arrived for another Sabbatical and it was perfect timing. My sister had just finished her undergrad degree and I’d just finished high school, so it was the ideal time for a year off. They call this a “gap year” in Europe. My family was based in Newcastle, and I spent about 6 months there and 6 months traveling. I traveled all around Australia and New Zealand, working in a few odd jobs (in both senses of the word) as well as a longer position as a Computer Salesman to help fuel my travel fund. After returning to Canada from this year off, my batteries were fully recharged and I was ready to work hard at Waterloo.

University (2002-2007)

I had decided very early on that I wanted to study Computer Science, and the University of Waterloo was where I wanted to do it. Waterloo’s connection to industry was particularly exciting, and their Honours Computer Science Co-Op program was my goal. I had worked really hard in high school, but I turned it up another several notches upon arriving at Waterloo. My fellow students were astonishingly brilliant and the workload was mighty - but I knew my dedication to this hard work would help me achieve my dreams. Through Waterloo’s Co-Op program, I worked at Alias|Wavefront, the Toronto-based company who created Maya (the Academy-Award Winning 3D Modeling / Animation / Dynamics / Rendering software.) I had wanted to work at Alias for years, and the experience I gathered there helped me achieve further Co-Op internships at Pixar Animation Studios in Emeryville, California. At Pixar I continued to build my skills in computer science and visual effects and had some unbelievable experiences. In April 2007 I graduated from Waterloo and headed to Europe for a 3-month backpacking trip, much in the same “battery recharge” spirit as my 2001 Australia trip.

San Francisco (2007-Current)

Following my trip to Europe, I moved to San Francisco to work as a Research & Development Engineer at Industrial Light & Magic, the visual effects division of Lucasfilm. It is, without a doubt, my childhood dream come true to work at ILM. It’s everything I could have ever hoped it would be, and more. San Francisco itself has a whole lot to offer as well, and I’m taking advantage of the amazing lectures and city events here along with the excellent mountain biking trails in Marin and the tasty wineries in Napa and Sonoma. There are so many people in this world who see their job as a necessity only for paying the bills; if I win the lottery tomorrow, you can still expect to see me at work on Monday. :) After a particularly busy work week, I like to stand back and take time to remind myself of an important detail: to have been able to bring one of my longest goals to fruition is something I am truly thankful for. Now that I’m here, I’ve been thinking about what’s next. You can see some of these thoughts on the Giving Back page of this website.

Thanks for reading and thanks for your interest in me.

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May 28, 1982 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada

Grew up in:
London, Ontario, Canada

Full name:
Michael Justin Lee Jutan

Hebrew name:
מָרְדֳּכַי אִיתָמָר לי

Hebrew name (transliterated):
Mordechai Itamar Lee

Lived in:
Canada, England, Australia, USA

First computer:
Gateway 8086 IBM-compatible, age 5

Career-choice inspirations:
Terminator 2
IMAX Special Effects: Anything Can Happen
The Simpsons: Homer^3 halloween special

Favourite Movies:
Monsters, Inc.
The Big Lebowski
Almost Famous
Stranger than Fiction
Garden State
I Am Sam

Favourite TV shows:
The Simpsons
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Conan O'Brien
The Office
Saturday Night Live

Favourite Jelly Belly flavours:
Watermellon, Root Beer, Pink Grapefruit

Favourite Dave Matthews Band songs:
Stay or Leave, Two Step, The Maker, Sister

Favourite Dave Matthews albums:
Lillywhite Sessions, Live at Radio City