Over the course of its 100-year history, Disney has become synonymous with wishing on stars and making dreams come true. In Disney’s latest animated feature, “Wish,” that iconic star, once prayed to by the likes of Geppetto and Tiana, comes to life.

For character designer Bill Schwab, translating an essential piece of Disney lore into a living character was no small task. When storyboard artist Dan Abraham pitched the idea of personified stardust, though, his team latched on right away.

“The design that that I really got behind was this round ball of energy,” Schwab tells Variety. “I had pitched this sort of rambunctious child — like you see in the film! That real ball of energy really landed with the directors. Ultimately, this sort of deceptively simple design really connected with everybody. And I think it really worked so, so well in the film.”

That ball shape is also a love letter to animation, Schwab says. “Studying animation in school, the bouncing ball is really the beginning of animation principles for everybody. Star being that round ball shape was another nod to the beginning of the animation, and where all of us kind of got our start.”

Audiences first meet Star after Ariana DeBose’s Asha, discouraged by learning the sinister truth about her kingdom’s ruler, King Magnifico (voiced by Chris Pine) pleads to the sky: “So I make this wish, to have something more for us than this.” A bright light flashes, and she’s soon joined by a tiny, energetic Star.

“I love the way we meet Star,” Schwab says. “I always imagined this crash landing where Star comes out of the sky, you don’t know what it is, and there’s an element of mystery. But what I never imagined was when Star floats around Asha, connecting with her. I found that to be pretty amazing.”

Star doesn’t talk, but it does get tangled up with some red yarn, which becomes an extension of its personality throughout the film as Star crafts costumes to emphasize its thoughts. “I think as a pantomime character, looking for those vehicles that can help Star communicate was so brilliant. It really gave Star the ability to enhance the storytelling of the character,” Schwab adds.


While there were some early conversations floating the idea of a talking Star, Schwab’s team ultimately embraced the exciting but challenging creation of a silent character. They looked to some real-life animals for inspiration – namely, panda bears and puppies.

“Star really needed to have this curious, childlike quality. I was thinking of sort of like a rambunctious puppy. They’re inherently curious and about the world and full of love,” Schwab says.

He also took cues from Disney’s heart and soul, Mickey Mouse. “Something that evolved was the heart-shaped face mask. That really represented not only love and the warmth of the character, but also ultimately was a nod to Mickey. I was looking at films from the 30s: short films, Disney films of Mickey. I put together a model sheet at one point where I did screen captures from some of those films, and then tried to match the expression with Star. And that became, at one point, kind of a touchstone for the beginning of posing Star for animation.”

When Star flits about the screen, it’s followed by a trail of celestial dust, which Schwab says was a key way to honor the studio’s legacy. “The star dust is really a nod to pixie dust. To the magic of Disney.”

Learn to draw Star: