Animatronics refers to the use of robotic devices to emulate a human
or an animal, or bring lifelike characteristics to an otherwise
inanimate object. A robot designed to be a convincing imitation
of a human is more specifically labeled as an android. Modern
animatronics have found widespread applications in movie special
effects and theme parks and have, since their inception, been
primarily used as a spectacle of amusement.
Animatronics is a multi-disciplinary field which integrates anatomy,
robots, mechatronics, and puppetry resulting in lifelike
animation. Animatronic figures are often powered by pneumatics,
hydraulics, and/or by electrical means, and can be implemented using
both computer control and human control, including teleoperation.
Motion actuators are often used to imitate muscle movements and create
realistic motions in limbs. Figures are covered with body shells and
flexible skins made of hard and soft plastic materials and finished
with details like colors, hair and feathers and other components to
make the figure more life like.
3.2 Early implementations
4.1 Modern attractions
4.1.1 Film and television
4.1.3 Video Games
5.1.1 Frame or skeleton
5.1.2 Exterior or skin
5.3 Emotion modeling
6 Training and education
Animatronics and Artificial Intelligence
9 External links
Animatronics is portmanteau of animate and electronics 
Audio-Animatronics was coined by
Walt Disney in 1961 when he
started developing animatronics for entertainment and film.
Audio-Animatronics does not differentiate between animatronics and
Autonomatronics was also defined by
Walt Disney Imagineers, to
describe a more advanced audio-animatronic technology featuring
cameras and complex sensors to process information around the
character's environment and respond to that stimulus.
1220 (1220) – 1240 (1240): The Portfolio of Villard
de Honnecourt depicts an early escapement mechanism in a drawing
titled How to make an angel keep pointing his finger toward the Sun
and an automaton of a bird, with jointed wings.
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci designed and built the Automata
All three of Vaucanson's Automata: The Flute Player, The Tambourine
Player, and Digesting Duck
The Enchanted Tiki Room
Tyrannosaurus animatronic, the largest animatronic, used for Jurassic
1738 (1738): The construction of automata begins in Grenoble,
France by Jacques de Vaucanson. First, a flute player that could play
twelve songs - The Flute Player, followed by a character playing a
flute and drum or tambourine - The Tambourine Player, and concluding
with a moving / quacking / flapping / eating duck - The Digesting
Pierre Jaquet-Droz and his son Henri-Louis
Jaquet-Droz, both Swiss watchmakers, start making automata for
European royalty. Once completed, they had created three dolls. One
doll was able to write, the other play music and the third doll could
1801 (1801): Joseph Jacquard builds a loom that is controlled
autonomously with punched cards.
1939 (1939): Sparko, The Robot Dog, pet of Elektro, performs in
front of the public but Sparko, unlike many depictions of robots in
that time, represented a living animal, thus becoming the very first
modern day animatronic character, along with an unnamed horse
which was reported to gallop realistically. The animatronic galloping
horse was also on display at the 1939 World's Fair, in a different
exhibit than Sparko's., 1939 New York World's Fair
1961 (1961): Heinrich Ernst develops the MH-1, a
computer-operated mechanical hand.
Walt Disney coins the term audio-animatronics and
begins developing modern animatronic technology.
1963 (1963): The first animatronics, called Audio-Animatronics,
created by Disney were the Enchanted Tiki Birds., Disneyland
1964 (1964): In the film Mary Poppins, animatronic birds are the
first animatronics to be featured in a motion picture.
1965 (1965): The first animatronics figure of a person is created
by Disney and is Abraham Lincoln.
1968 (1968): The first animatronic character at a restaurant is
created. Goes by the name Golden Mario and was built by Team Built in
Chuck E. Cheese's
Chuck E. Cheese's (then known as Pizza Time Theatre)
opens its doors, as the first restaurant with animatronics as an
ShowBiz Pizza Place
ShowBiz Pizza Place opens with the Rock-afire
1982 (1982): Ben Franklin is the first animatronic figure to walk
up a set of stairs.
1989 (1989): The first A-100 animatronic is developed for The
Great Movie Ride attraction at the Disney-MGM Studios' to represent
The Wicked Witch of the West.
1993 (1993): The largest animatronic figure ever built is the T.
rex for the movie, Jurassic Park.
1998 (1998): Tiger Electronics begins selling Furby, an
animatronic pet with over 800 English phrases or Furbish and the
ability to react to its environment., Vernon Hills, Illinois
May 11, 1999 (1999-05-11): Sony releases the AIBO
animatronics pet., Tokyo, Japan
2008 (2008): Mr. Potato Head at the Toy Story exhibit features
lips with superior range of movement to any other animatronic figure
previously., Disney's Hollywood Studios
October 31, 2008 (2008-10-31) –
July 1, 2009 (2009-07-01): The Abraham Lincoln
animatronic character is upgraded to incorporate autonomatronic
technology., The Hall of Presidents
September 28, 2009 (2009-09-28): Disney develops Otto,
the first interactive figure that can hear, see and sense actions in
the room., D23 Expo
Al-Jazari's toy boat, musical automata
The 3rd-century BC text of the
Liezi describes an encounter between
King Mu of Zhou
King Mu of Zhou and an 'artificer' known as Yan Shi, who presented the
king with a life-size automaton. The 'figure' was described as able to
walk, pose and sing, and when dismantled was observed to consist of
anatomically accurate organs.
The 5th-century BC Mohist philosopher
Mozi and his contemporary Lu Ban
are attributed with the invention of artificial wooden birds (ma yuan)
that could successfully fly in the Han Fei Zi and in 1066, the
Chinese inventor Su Song built a water clock in the form of a tower
which featured mechanical figurines which chimed the hours.
Leonardo da Vinci
Leonardo da Vinci designed and built the Automata Lion, one
of the earliest described animatrons. The mechanical lion was
presented by Giuliano de’ Medici of Florence to Francois I, King of
France as a symbol of an alliance between France and Florence. The
Automata Lion was rebuilt in 2009 according to contemporary
descriptions and da Vinci's own drawings of the mechanism. Prior
to this, da Vinci had designed and exhibited a mechanical knight at a
celebration hosted by
Ludovico Sforza at the court of Milan in
1495. The 'robot' was capable of standing, sitting, opening its
visor and moving its arms. The drawings were rediscovered in the 1950s
and a functional replica was later built.
While functional, early clocks were also designed as novelties and
spectacles which integrated features of early animatronics.
Villard de Honnecourt
Villard de Honnecourt wrote The Portfolio
Villard de Honnecourt
Villard de Honnecourt which depicts an early escapement mechanism
in a drawing titled How to make an angel keep pointing his finger
toward the Sun and an automaton of a bird, with jointed wings which
led to their design implementation in clocks. Because of their size
and complexity, the majority of these clocks were built as public
spectacles in the town centre. One of the earliest of these large
clocks was the Strasbourg Clock, built in the fourteenth century which
takes up the entire side of a cathedral wall. It contained an
astronomical calendar, automata depicting animals, saints and the life
of Christ. The clock still functions to this day but has undergone
several restorations since its initial construction. The Prague
astronomical clock was built in 1410, animated figures were added from
the 17th century onwards.
Face of the Astronomical Clock, in Old Town Square, Prague
The first description of a modern cuckoo clock was by the Augsburg
Philipp Hainhofer in 1629. The clock belonged to Prince
Elector August von Sachsen. By 1650, the workings of mechanical
cuckoos were understood and were widely disseminated in Athanasius
Kircher's handbook on music, Musurgia Universalis. In what is the
first documented description of how a mechanical cuckoo works, a
mechanical organ with several automated figures is described.
In 18th-century Germany, clockmakers began making cuckoo clocks for
sale. Clock shops selling cuckoo clocks became commonplace in the
Black Forest region by the middle of the 18th century.
A banquet in Camilla of Aragon's honor in Italy, 1475, featured a
lifelike automated camel. The spectacle was a part of a larger
parade which continued over days.
In 1454, Duke Philip created an entertainment show named The
extravagant Feast of the Pheasant, which was intended to influence the
Duke's peers to participate in a crusade against the Ottomans but
ended up being a grand display of automata, giants, and dwarves.
Giovanni Fontana, a Paduan engineer in 1420, developed Bellicorum
instrumentorum liber[a] which includes a puppet of a camelid driven by
a clothed primate twice the height of a human being and an automaton
of Mary Magdalene.
See also: List of Disney attractions using
The earliest modern animatronics can actually be found in old robots.
While some of these robots were, in fact, animatronics, at the time
they were thought of simply as robots because the term animatronics
had yet to become popularized.
Sparko the Robot Dog from 1940s
The first animatronics characters to be displayed to the public were a
dog and a horse. Each were the attraction at two separate spectacles
during the 1939 New York World's Fair. Sparko, The Robot Dog, pet of
Elektro the Robot, performs in front of the public at the 1939 New
York World's Fair but Sparko is not like normal robots. Sparko
represents a living animal, thus becoming the very first modern day
animatronic character, along with an unnamed horse which was
reported to gallop realistically. The animatronic galloping horse was
also on display at the 1939 World's Fair, in a different exhibit than
Walt Disney is often credited for popularizing animatronics for
entertainment after he bought an animatronic bird while he was
vacationing, although it is disputed whether it was in New Orleans
or Europe. Disney's vision for audio-animatronics was primarily
focused on patriotic displays rather than amusements.
In 1951, two years after
Walt Disney discovered animatronics, he
commissioned machinist Roger Broggie and sculptor Wathel Rogers to
lead a team tasked with creating a 9" tall figure that could move and
talk simulating dance routines performed by actor Buddy Ebsen. The
project was titled 'Project Little Man' but was never finished. A year
Walt Disney Imagineering was created.
After "Project Little Man", the Imagineering team at Disney's first
project was a "Chinese Head" which was on display in the lobby of
their office. Customers could ask the head questions and it would
reply with words of wisdom. The eyes blinked and its mouth opened and
Walt Disney Production company started using animatronics in 1955
for Disneyland's ride, the Jungle Cruise, and later for its
Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room
Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room which featured
animatronic Enchanted Tiki Birds.
The first fully completed human audio-animatronic figure was Abraham
Lincoln, created by
Walt Disney in 1964 for the 1964 World's Fair in
the New York. In 1965, Disney upgraded the figure and coined it as the
Lincoln Mark II, which appeared at the Opera House at Disneyland
Resort in California. For three months, the original Lincoln
performed in New York, while the Lincoln Mark II played 5 performances
per hour at Disneyland. Body language and facial motions were matched
to perfection with the recorded speech. Actor
Royal Dano voiced the
animatronics version of Abraham Lincoln.
Lucky the Dinosaur
Lucky the Dinosaur is an approximately 8-foot-tall (2.4 m) green
Segnosaurus which pulls a flower-covered cart and is led by "Chandler
the Dinosaur Handler". Lucky is notable in that he was the first
free-roving audio-animatronic figure ever created by Disney's
Imagineers. The flower cart he pulls conceals the computer and
Muppet Mobile Lab
Muppet Mobile Lab is a free-roving, audio-animatronic
entertainment attraction designed by
Walt Disney Imagineering. Two
Dr. Bunsen Honeydew
Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant, Beaker,
pilot the vehicle through the park, interacting with guests and
deploying special effects such as foggers, ﬂashing lights, moving
signs, confetti cannons and spray jets. It is currently deployed at
Disneyland in Hong Kong.
Laffing Sal is one of the several automated characters that were
used to attract carnival and amusement park patrons to funhouses and
dark rides throughout the United States. Its movements were
accompanied by a raucous laugh that sometimes frightened small
children and annoyed adults.
The Rock-afire Explosion
The Rock-afire Explosion in an
animatronic band that played in
Showbiz Pizza Place
Showbiz Pizza Place from 1980 to 1992.
Film and television
The film industry has been a driving force revolutionizing the
technology used to develop animatronics.
Animatronics are used in situations where a creature does not exist,
the action is too risky or costly to use real actors or animals, or
the action could never be obtained with a living person or animal. Its
main advantage over CGI and stop motion is that the simulated creature
has a physical presence moving in front of the camera in real time.
The technology behind animatronics has become more advanced and
sophisticated over the years, making the puppets even more lifelike.
Animatronics were first introduced by Disney in the 1964 film Mary
Poppins which featured an animatronic bird. Since then, animatronics
have been used extensively in such movies as Jaws, and E.T. the
Extra-Terrestrial, which relied heavily on animatronics.
Directors such as
Steven Spielberg and
Jim Henson have been pioneers
in using animatronics in the film industry.
The 1993 film Jurassic Park used a combination of computer-generated
imagery in conjunction with life-sized animatronic dinosaurs built by
Stan Winston and his team. Winston's animatronic "T. rex" stood almost
20 feet (6.1 m), 40 feet (12 m) in length and even
the largest animatronics weighing 9,000 pounds (4,100 kg) were
able to perfectly recreate the appearance and natural movement on
screen of a full-sized tyrannosaurus rex.
Jack Horner called it "the closest I've ever been to a live
dinosaur". Critics referred to Spielberg's dinosaurs as
breathtakingly — and terrifyingly — realistic.
The 1999 BBC miniseries Walking with
Dinosaurs was produced using a
combination of about 80% CGI and 20% animatronic models. The
quality of computer imagery of the day was good, but animatronics were
still better at distance shots, as well as closeups of the
Animatronics for the series were designed by British
animatronics firm Crawley Creatures. The show was followed up in
2007 with a live adaptation of the series, Walking with Dinosaurs: The
Geoff Peterson is an animatronic human skeleton that serves as the
sidekick on the late-night talk show The Late Late Show with Craig
Ferguson. Often referred to as a "robot skeleton", Peterson is a
radio-controlled animatronic robot puppet designed and built by Grant
Imahara of MythBusters.
The British advertisement campaign for
Cadbury Schweppes titled
Gorilla featured an actor inside a gorilla suit with an
animatronically animated face.
The Slowskys was an advertising campaign for
Comcast Cable's Xfinity
broadband Internet service. The ad features two animatronic turtles,
and it won the gold
Effie Award in 2007.
Some examples of animatronic toys include Teddy Ruxpin, Big Mouth
Billy Bass, Kota the triceratops, Pleo, WowWee Alive Chimpanzee,
Microsoft Actimates, and Furby.
Animatronics are the main antagonists in the popular horror video game
Five Nights at Freddy's.
An animatronics character is built around an internal supporting
frame, usually made of steel. Attached to these "bones" are the
"muscles" which can be manufactured using elastic netting composed of
styrene beads. The frame provides the support for the electronics
and mechanical components, as well as providing the shape for the
The "skin" of the figure is most often made of foam rubber, silicone
or urethane poured into moulds and allowed to cure. To provide further
strength a piece of fabric is cut to size and embedded in the foam
rubber after it is poured into the mould. Once the mould has fully
cured, each piece is separated and attached to the exterior of the
figure providing the appearance and texture similar to that of
An animatronics character is typically designed to be as realistic as
possible and thus, is built similarly to how it would be in real life.
The framework of the figure is like the "skeleton". Joints, motors,
and actuators act as the "muscles". Connecting all the electrical
components together are wires, such as the "nervous system" of a real
animal or person.
Frame or skeleton
Steel, aluminum, plastic, and wood are all commonly used in building
animatronics but each has its best purpose. The relative strength, as
well as the weight of the material itself, should be considered when
determining the most appropriate material to use. The cost of the
material may also be a concern.
Exterior or skin
Several materials are commonly used in the fabrication of an
animatronics figure's exterior. Dependent on the particular
circumstances, the best material will be used to produce the most
For example, "eyes" and "teeth" are commonly made completely out of
White latex is commonly used as a general material because it has a
high level of elasticity. It is also pre-vulcanized, making it easy
and fast to apply.
Latex is produced in several grades. Grade 74
is a popular form of latex that dries rapidly and can be applied very
thick, making it ideal for developing molds.
Foam latex is a lightweight, soft form of latex which is used in masks
and facial prosthetics to change a person's outward appearance, and in
animatronics to create a realistic "skin". The Wizard of Oz was
one of the first films to make extensive use of foam latex prosthetics
in the 1930s.
Disney has a research team devoted to improving and developing better
methods of creating more lifelike animatronics exteriors with
RTV silicone (room temperature vulcanization silicone) is used
primarily as a molding material as it is very easy to use but is
relatively expensive. Few other materials stick to it, making molds
easy to separate.
Bubbles are removed from silicone by pouring the liquid material in a
thin stream or processing in a vacuum chamber prior to use. Fumed
silica is used as a bulking agent for thicker coatings of the
Polyurethane rubber is a more cost effective material to use in place
of silicone. Polyurethane comes in various levels of hardness which
are measured on the Shore scale. Rigid polyurethane foam is used in
prototyping because it can be milled and shaped in high density.
Flexible polyurethane foam is often used in the actual building of the
final animatronic figure because it is flexible and bonds well with
As a commonplace construction and home decorating material, plaster is
widely available. Its rigidity limits its use in moulds, and plaster
moulds are unsuitable when undercuts are present. This may make
plaster far more difficult to use than softer materials like latex or
A postulated interior of the Duck of Vaucanson (1738-1739)
Pneumatic actuators can be used for small animatronics but are not
powerful enough for large designs and must be supplemented with
hydraulics. To create more realistic movement in large figures, an
analog system is generally used to give the figures a full range of
fluid motion rather than simple two position movements.
Mimicking the often subtle displays of humans and other living
creatures, and the associated movement is a challenging task when
developing animatronics. One of the most common emotional models is
Facial Action Coding System
Facial Action Coding System (FACS) developed by Ekman and
Friesen. FACS defines that through facial expression, humans can
recognize 6 basic emotions: anger, disgust, fear, joy, sadness, and
surprise. Another theory is that of Ortony, Clore, and Collins, or the
OCC model which defines 22 different emotional categories.
Training and education
Animatronics has been developed as a career which combines the
disciplines of mechanical engineering, casting/sculpting, control
technologies, electrical/electronic systems, radio control and
Some colleges and universities do offer degree programs in
animatronics. Individuals interested in animatronics typically earn a
degree in robotics which closely relate to the specializations needed
in animatronics engineering.
Students achieving a bachelor's degree in robotics commonly complete
Modeling of robotics systems
Foundational theory of robotics
Introduction to robotics
Animatronics and Artificial Intelligence
The fusion of animatronics with artificial intelligence results in
androids, as is usually known, robots that imitate human behavior. We
have a technique capable of providing the appearance and behavior of
living beings to machines. We are 'humanizing' robots. But it's not
only the movements that look very real, but also, it seems real thanks
to the synthetic skin they have used and makeup. 
The Disney company is about to use animatronics and artificial
intelligence to simulate one of their characters in real life: Pascal,
one of the characters in the movie Tangled. 
On the other hand,
Dubai is already using police robots created by PAL
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