The Story of Creating the Perfect Disney-themed Dorm Room

I used to live in a small, old college-town apartment for the entire Sophomore year. When I learned that I got the job as a Resident Advisor and would be moving back to a spacious college dorm room for Junior year, I knew I had to take the opportunity to decorate the room and make it the perfect dorm room that I’d love. Fast forward a few months, it’s now the second semester of my Junior year, and I’d say I am quite happy with the result!

The room is a work of heart — it is full of things I love and care about. I wanted to make it personal, make it a space where I’d feel safe and at home being in. I also wanted it to be minimal yet aesthetic, having as little things as I’d need. Some features of my room include…

12 historical Disney Park posters collected, digitally restored, and printed by myself, as well as a 3D printed Haunted Mansion plaque — can you find where it is in the pictures?

“Alexa, I’m home” turns on lights and TV, starts playing songs I like, and turns off fire alarm and window break detection. I can also ask her the weather, ask her to send books to my Kindle, or ask her to sing a duet with Ed Sheeran.

This is my room on a warm and sunny day.

Background

I have long been a huge fan of Disney Parks around the world. My first Disney Park experience was when I went to Hong Kong Disneyland back in elementary school, then Tokyo Disneyland later. But I didn’t fall in love with Disney until the third visit in 2014 — During my high school exchange year, my host family took me to the original Disneyland in Anaheim and the Disney California Adventure Park. I was completely immersed in the stories Imagineers crafted throughout the park. The light, the music, the experience — everything was just so magical.

I started getting crazy about Disney Parks. I spent countless hours browsing through Wikipedia, Disney-Fan Forums, and YouTube to learn about the history of Walt Disney and his parks; I digitally collected hundreds of gigabytes of Disney Parks’ music and sound effects and borrowed official books written by Imagineers to hopefully see some behind-the-scenes of how they made the magical experiences.

Left: Tokyo DisneySea. Middle and right: Disneyland Paris.

During the summer of freshman year, I visited Tokyo Disneyland and DisneySea with my family, and a year later, we visited Disneyland Paris and Walt Disney Studios Park for the first time. My experiences were supercalifragilisticexpialidocious, I was in love. Then a thought came to my mind… I was just about to move to a new dorm room, what if I can bring this Disney magic with me…

Disney attraction posters have been displayed in the parks to build Guests’ excitements since just a year after Disneyland opened in 1955. These colorful posters can usually be seen just after Guests walk through the park entrance gates — as the sound of joyful music pipes across the promenade and the smells of popcorn waft through the air, the posters greet the Guests with a warm welcome, and provide them with the information about the newest rides in the park.

Poster Art of the Disney Parks Book

I first encountered these posters when I accidentally found the book Poster Art of the Disney Parks at a library. It talks about their historical significance and the stories behind many of the most iconic posters. As Disney Parks develop and expend around the world, the artistic styles of posters have also changed. Yet, every single attraction poster was carefully crafted by Imagineers, as they begin telling the story of each attraction even before Guests have entered the queue area.

The attraction posters truly have a special place in my heart. They greet me welcome, and they wave me goodbye. Therefore, when I was brainstorming how I should design my new room, I decided that Disney attraction posters should be the main theme.

However, it is not easy to acquire these gorgeous pieces of art. They are mostly only displayed in the parks and on books, with a small number of designs sold officially as art prints by Disney. Yet, these prints have to be purchased physically in the park, and they are limited only to certain attractions, sizes, materials. Realizing that my options are extremely limited, I decided to print the posters myself, so I can choose to display only the ones that are the most significant to me.

Posters of some of my favorite rides in Tokyo Disney Resort.

Digitally Restoring Historical Posters

It took me weeks to get the assets needed for poster printing. Most of the Disney attraction posters are over 30 years old, and they are usually not available anywhere, even as digital files. To find these digital poster assets, I spent days digging blogs and websites created by fellow Disney enthusiasts, I even rented and scanned books that contain printed images of the posters.

After a long process, I was able to get the digital image files for about 70 posters. However, many of them are very small in size, and what’s even worse, most of them have terrible color accuracy. They looked nothing like the posters I saw in the parks. I knew more work has to be done to get them close to printing quality, so I took on a challenge — to digitally restore and enhance these image files of historical posters to their original states. There were a few steps to this process…

The poster of Mark Twain Riverboat is much cleaner after restoration.

Small images will look blurry when printed on a large poster, so enhancements have to be done. I used Let’s Enhance to scale up the image with artificial intelligence. Comparing to sharpening the image in Photoshop with Bicubic Interpolation, it enhances the image with the knowledge it’s learned from analyzing a huge dataset of other images. Although it’s primarily built for photos and not really for poster arts, I found that it worked quite well nonetheless. That being said, I did do some more tweaking in Photoshop.

Matching colors of two posters that have the same theme.

This is the primary and most annoying part of the process. Correcting the colors of an old file is very challenging, and it’s even harder without the right color references (a right color reference can be the official Poster Art of the Disney Parks book, a photo I took at the park of a poster, and etc.). Many of these files from online are compressed, so they only carry just enough color info, which means tweaking the colors too much may cause the image to lose details, so I had to be careful.

Each poster took me at least an afternoon of time — I played with the tone, contrast, levels, curves, exposure, vibrance, hue, saturation… you name it. For posters that I have a good color reference for, I usually start with the color matching function in Photoshop. But even with that, the colors are still far from accurate. This is a process of trials and errors, and I can’t really provide instruction on how to best do it since every file is different. Do prepare to sit down for a long time though…

The colors on the poster of Space Mountain is more vibrant after restoration.

Most of the files I found online are the scanned images of past magazines or books that are no longer on the market. Since they are scanned, the sides and angles are often aligned incorrectly. I manually adjusted them with the crop and skew tools in Photoshop and used content-aware to expend the border a little, so that there is enough bleed around the edges for printing.

Eventually, I just had to do a final, detailed check of the images to make sure they’re up to poster-printing standards. I used the spot healing tool to clean up the images and made sure every poster has the same amount of bleed (border) so that when they are printed and aligned side by side, they have the same height. I also replaced some Disney Parks logos with the vector versions, since they contain small texts and they’ll most likely be noticeable when printed on large posters.

And the process of digitally restoring digital files is done! It is time-consuming, but when I look at the folder with all the super-high-resolution images with beautiful colors and fine details, all the efforts were worth it for sure. I sent a total of 12 Disney attraction posters to print on flag fabric, 10 of them have a size of 60 x 95 cm (which I knew would fit a ceiling tile perfectly), and the other two are 90 x 150 cm. I had to communicate to the print shop that’s based in China to carefully make sure the size, style, and border finish are correct. Thankfully, they turned out perfectly.

The poster of Disneyland Railroad before and after restoration.
The poster of Jungle Cruise: Wildlife Expeditions before and after restoration.
The poster of Swiss Family Treehouse before and after restoration.

Putting the printed nylon Disney attraction posters up is challenging. I had to push the ceiling tiles up, stick the posters in, secure them with tapes, then carefully put the ceiling tiles back in place, all while making sure all posters have the same height and space between them. When that’s done, I had to iron them to minimize wrinkles and make them stick to the wall. It took me a few days, but all those efforts were definitely worth it, as the end result did turn out very well.

“To all that come to this happy place, welcome.”

— Walt Disney, 1955

A warm splash of sunlight shining through into the room that’s full of things I love.

A Little Extra Touch

Almost everything in my room is internet-connected and Alexa powered — the lights, the TV, and the speaker. By simply saying “Alexa, good morning,” she’d turn on lights, start playing music, and make me breakfast (feature still in works).

I also care a lot about lighting, as the right lighting can truly influence my mood and productivity. When I study, I will have my lights in daylight color, and when I do anything casual, like when I play Mario Bros on my Switch, I’d have them in purple and magenta — my favorite colors. Connecting all these devices to the public campus network took quite a while, but when they’re finally set up, everything just works like a charm.

When the night falls… my room looks a little extra spectacular.

The End Result

I love my room, I love everything in it that is personal to me — the Disney Parks attraction posters, the little figures I’ve collected from around the world, the pictures of my family and I when we visited Disney Parks… they each tell a story worthy of a book. This space is truly personal, and while I am away from home in college, I feel at home being in here.

I craft stunning digital experiences.

Get the Medium app

A button that says 'Download on the App Store', and if clicked it will lead you to the iOS App store
A button that says 'Get it on, Google Play', and if clicked it will lead you to the Google Play store