UON Mechanical Engineering graduate Yasser Hamed is a Crowds Supervisor for Walt Disney Animation Studios in Los Angeles.

He is part of an Academy award-winning team that has entertained millions around the globe with feature films including Beowulf, Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Alice in Wonderland, Tangled and Big Hero Six.

We had the chance to pick his brain on Disney’s next feature animation Moana, due for release in the US this Thanksgiving (Nov 24), and find out about his role as an engineer in production.

“Driven by the directors’ vision, my team was responsible for the artistic creation and the background crowd elements in the film. In Moana, these include the crowds of villagers, the flocks of fish and birds, fleets of voyaging boats, and the Kakamora (hundreds of characters that look like cute anthropomorphized coconuts).

“As supervisor, I managed the team, directed the research and development, determined which shots in the film required crowd elements, allocated shots to the artists, worked with directors to creatively approve shots, and insured on time delivery.”

Yasser (front centre) and his team on a boat prop. On the far left are directors Ron Clements and John Musker (Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Moana).

Yasser (front centre) and his team on a boat prop. On the far left are directors Ron Clements and John Musker (Aladdin, Little Mermaid, Moana).

Yasser had the opportunity to travel to Hawaii, where the film is set, for research and development. He experienced first-hand the sun, surf and sand featured in the film, then had to use his engineering skills to replicate these natural flows on screen.

“One of the interesting elements of research was using a physics based system to artificially simulate secondary motion of characters on boats based off of the underlying boat animation. This allowed us to create a realistic feel of characters swaying with the motion of the boat without having to hand animate each character individually. Fleets of boats and characters were thus animated more efficiently.

“Another was to develop a flocking system to realistically simulate the motion of fish and birds when they behave as a group. This was inspired by actual research in flocking behaviours of fish and birds.”

A technical degree like engineering can really take you anywhere, even to the silver screen.

Find out more about our engineering degrees.

Moana is out in Australian cinemas on Boxing Day – make sure you go to check out Yasser’s handy work and keep an eye out for his name on the pre-roll credits!

Yasser (right), with his mother, Faiza Darwesh (left), and Auli'i Cravalho (centre, voice of Moana) attending the Moana Wrap party.

Yasser (right), with his mother, Faiza Darwesh (left), and Auli’i Cravalho (centre, voice of Moana) attending the Moana Wrap party.

Yasser (centre), with his mother, Faiza Darwesh (centre-right) and directors Ron Clements and John Musker at the Moana Wrap Party.

Yasser (centre), with his mother, Faiza Darwesh (centre-right) and directors Ron Clements and John Musker at the Moana Wrap Party.