The Disney Universe

Kingston graphic design graduate Marianne Hanoun has spent the last three years collecting every star from every Disney and Pixar animated feature-length film, to create The Disney Universe, a beautiful 4m long print,also available to view in all its painstaking detail online

Kingston graphic design graduate Marianne Hanoun has spent the last three years collecting every star from every Disney and Pixar animated feature-length film, to create The Disney Universe, a beautiful 4m long print, also available online to view in all its painstaking detail here (full screen viewing and zooming advised).

We asked Hanoun to tell us more about how this ambitious project was created…

Where did the idea for the project come from?

I actually had the idea in my first year after watching the ‘When You Wish Upon A Star’ clip from Pinocchio (1940) on YouTube. It struck me just how much emphasis Disney place on stars and wishing on them. I posted it on my then-blog as a ‘side-project’. It’s funny how such a small thought ended up being something so big. (Literally).

The idea continued to grow and develop throughout my second year. But when it came to my final year at Kingston, I knew it was now or never. On the verge of graduating, I wondered whether I could try and make my childhood dream to work at Disney come true. Ultimately, however, it’s really more of a love-letter to a company who has continued to inspire me, and a celebration of their history and legacy.

When did your obsession with Disney begin?

Probably the same time as it did for a lot of people – Disney is one of those things that has been a part of most people’s childhoods, whether it’s a favourite song, or a character we empathise with.

My Dad would always return home every week or so with a new Disney VHS, magazine, or a read-a-long book that came with a cassette tape. I’d spend hours trying to draw Disney characters from the magazine and the VHS covers and wouldn’t settle for anything but perfection. It sparked a continued interest in animation history and Americana generally that I’ve maintained to this day.

Can you tell me more about the creative process?

The process was always a work in development in itself. I spent much of my summer in my second year in darkness, testing to find a technique that could give me the result I wanted.

It can be split up into three main ‘phases’: collecting, cutting and blending. I first had to watch all of the films, and collect the stars. Every time a star came into frame I would pause, and save the film still. This ultimately amounted to over 3000 individual images.

I then had to cut the stars out from each still, erasing characters, buildings and so forth. Finally, it came down to merging and blending the images together, done mainly by colour. Some films clicked beautifully into place with others, some were more challenging and needed more editing.

The project had a life of its own from day one. There was no way of knowing what the finished thing would look like – it changed from month to month as more stars were added. The question I got asked the most (apart from ‘how are you doing this?’) was ‘is it finished yet?’ and in a way, finishing it was like seeing it for the first time.

How did the work for this project fit around your degree?

Before going into third year I knew it would be a challenge to balance such a huge project whilst putting together a portfolio and writing a dissertation alongside. This was the biggest project I had ever undertaken, and I spent countless weekends inside in pitch-black darkness, and many days in the studio hunched underneath my coat to avoid screen glare. I set myself tasks and challenges on my blog, telling myself I would have X number of films done by the end of each week.

Half-way through the process my laptop couldn’t cope with how big the file size was getting, so I had to use my friend Luke’s mega-fast laptop to complete the project, which also meant having to work around whenever he was free as well!

What would your dream design or animation commission involve?

Of course I would love to work with Disney on something, I’m not sure what that would be but it would be a wonderful opportunity to work with a brand I know and love so much. I think the piece could work really well as an addition to their Disney Animated app, so it would be great to work with them on developing something. But as long as great ideas are the backbone of whatever I do, I’ll be happy.

(Above: work in progress images)

Are you working on anything at the moment?

I have a few things in the pipeline. I’ve just started working on a project based on American bleachers (the tiered rows of benches on sports fields). Their architectural structure and cultural connotations really intrigue me. I’m also starting to put together a book about McDonald’s ‘Happy Meal’ toys, based on research conducted during my dissertation.

(Above: full print, actual length is 4m)

(Above: installation image)

How has graduate life been so far, and what’s next?

Graduate life has been pretty exciting so far! Disney actually got in contact recently and asked if they could hang a copy of the print up in their Studios in Burbank, California, so I’ll be heading Stateside soon for that. Receiving that email was probably one of the best moments of my life.

Other than that, I’ve been freelancing and interning at studios. In September I’ll be off to the Royal College of Art, to start the Critical Writing in Art and Design MA. I hope to maintain my design practice alongside my new studies – I have a feeling the two worlds will be colliding more often than not.

View the print online at (full screen viewing and zooming advised)

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