Universe (1960 film)

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Directed by Roman Kroitor
Colin Low
Produced by Tom Daly
Written by Roman Kroitor
Starring Donald MacRae
Music by Eldon Rathburn
Cinematography Wolf Koenig
Edited by Tom Daly
Distributed by NFB
Release dates May 1960
Running time 29 min.
Country Canada
Language English

Universe is a black-and-white short documentary made in 1960 by the National Film Board of Canada. It dramatizes the nightly work of an astronomer at the David Dunlap Observatory in Richmond Hill, Ontario, a facility formerly owned and operated by the University of Toronto, Canada, now operated by the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada. The film was a nominee at the 33rd Academy Awards in the category of Best Documentary Short Subject in 1961.[1]

In the film, the astronomer prepares his equipment and then photographs by long exposure one star, using the technology of his era (to check that it works, he sets off a flare!). The short film then presents special effects which show an exploding nebula.

Douglas Rain did the narration for the English version; the French version was titled Notre univers with narration by Gilles Pelletier. Eldon Rathburn composed the musical score.[2]

Influence on 2001[edit]

After this work, co-director Colin Low worked with Stanley Kubrick on 2001: A Space Odyssey. His work on this short may have influenced Kubrick to begin his project. Kubrick chose Universe narrator Douglas Rain as the voice of the HAL 9000 computer and also hired Wally Gentleman, who did optical effects for the NFB documentary, to work on 2001.[3][4]


NASA alone ordered over 300 prints of the film. By 1976, the NFB had sold over 3100 copies of the film, and it was one of the most widely distributed educational films ever made.[4]


Over a dozen awards, including Best Animated Film at BAFTA.


  1. ^ "IMDb.com: Universe". IMDb.com. Retrieved 2008-11-27. 
  2. ^ "Universe". Collection. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 20 December 2010. 
  3. ^ Ohayon, Albert. "The 1960s: An Explosion of Creativity". NFB.ca. National Film Board of Canada. Retrieved 2 June 2010. 
  4. ^ a b Colombo, John Robert (June 2001). 1000 Questions About Canada. Dundurn Group. p. 326. ISBN 0-88882-232-4. 

External links[edit]