Alumnus snags Hollywood’s top honor
Mo Hassan, ’11 | Lighting Assistant, Walt Disney Animation Studios
By Angie Lewis, ’03
After twice applying for Disney’s talent development program, Mo Hassan, ’11, finally received the news he’d been hoping for. He packed up his car and drove more than 2,500 miles across the country from his home in Bradenton, Fla., to the Walt Disney Animation Studios in Burbank, Calif.
“They offered me the job by email, and all of the paperwork was by email too,” he explains. “I only got one phone call, so as I was driving out to California, all I could think of was, what if they made a mistake and called me instead of the name above mine or something? I still thought there was a small chance they wouldn’t let me through the gates!”
But, they did let him through the gates, and he went to work as a lighting apprentice on “Frozen,” the highest-grossing animated feature film of all time.
Mo lit shots for the songs “Let It Go” and “Do You Want to Build a Snowman,” as well as the scene right after “Fixer Upper.”
As a fan of Disney, he wasn’t surprised when the film won the 2014 Oscar for “Animated Feature Film.”
“It’s a beautiful movie, and I still get choked up during some scenes,” Mo says.
Although he didn’t get to attend the star-studded ceremony, he says the directors, producer and all of the studio heads gave speeches and toasted the rest of the creative team the next day, even giving them a photo op with one of the golden statues.
Mo originally applied for the character animation program at UCF, but when he didn’t get in, he decided to pursue the experimental animation program. But, Mo didn’t always want to work in the field. Instead, he dreamed of being an architect, like his grandfather. He says what he does now is a bit like it, but without all of the math, and everything he makes exists only in a computer.
His advice to current experimental animation students? “Your education is a state of mind, not just credit hours and a diploma. As long as you’re trying to learn and working hard, you will succeed. All of the answers are out there — you just have to be persistent enough to find them.”
Breaking the Ice Q&A
Q. Did you have a favorite professor?
A. Matt Dombrowski and Scott Hall were great. Scott has a really keen eye and a lot of experience in a lot of different areas. Matt, at the time, was a fairly recent UCF graduate from the same program, and he really cared about his students a lot. He’d go out of his way to help everyone.
Q. Favorite Disney movie?
A. “Aladdin” is my favorite Disney movie. I loved Genie and the music. I remember my older brother telling me that artists hand drew every frame and that there were tens of thousands of drawings in each movie, and I distinctly remember thinking, ‘That’s crazy! I don’t ever want to do that!’
Q. What or who inspires you?
A. Working at Disney every day is really inspiring because you’re surrounded by amazing artists, many of whom have contributed to some of your childhood memories.
Q. What was your reaction when you won the Oscar?
A. We had an Oscar viewing party at the studio and everyone just flipped out. It got really loud and there were a bunch of big bear hugs all around. It was great!
Q. What are you currently working on?
A. I’ll be working on “Big Hero 6” soon.