You cannot have a Disney theme park without animatronics, right? They are used in so many different many different experiences such as Pirates of the Caribbean or Frozen Ever After. And who doesn’t love the C-3PO animatronic that is located in the queuing area for Star Tours: The Adventure Continues? Animatronics bring each of these experiences to life!
There are actually multiple models of Animatronics that can be found throughout the parks. The one thing that they all have in common though is that they were all developed at Disney’s Grand Central Creative Campus in Glendale. This is the home of Walt Disney Imagineering’s full-service animated figure workshop. Because closely guarded secrets live here, access is restricted to the facility.
A1 – The First Animatronics
The first Animatronic was the A1 which, due to design, tend to be heavy, bulky, and hard to adjust. These were typically a fully functional generic humanoid but the number of functions depended on the version type of head that was installed. Examples of the A1 can still be spotted around the theme parks to this day! A number of the pirates in the background of Pirates of the Caribbean in Disneyland are A1s. In Magic Kingdom, they can be spotted in the Hall of Presidents – namely Rutherford B. Hayes or William Henry Harrison. Generally, any of the presidents that stand there and not are A1 models.
The A100s debuted in 1989. The Wicked Witch of the West in the now-closed The Great Movie Ride at Disney’s Hollywood Studios is one such example. These models had a more life-like appearance due to the combination of software, customized hydraulic values, and hydraulic actuators that were used to construct them. Other examples of the A100s that can be found in the parks today include many of the Jack Sparrows in the Pirates of the Caribbean rides as well as both George Washington and Abe Lincoln in Magic Kingdom’s Hall of Presidents!
Here’s a fun fact! Both the shaman in Na’Vi River Journey at Disney’s Animal Kingdom theme park, as well as Elsa in Frozen Ever After at EPCOT, are also both A100 models! The hydraulics of the former versions were replaced with electricity.
The A1000 program began as a program geared to the creation of a family of standardized electronic figures that provided more control and design repeatability for both build and maintenance purposes. In order to do this, Disney created proprietary software programs. These programs provide predictive renderings and pre-visualizations that assist Imagineers. Everything from seeing how a figure moves in a costume to predicting when components need replacing can be seen and determined through these programs. The goal of this program is to get as close to a lifelike performance as possible! These models were developed by both Imagineers in California as well as engineers and designers in Florida.
Hondo Ohnaka will be installed as part of the Millennium Falcon: Smuggler’s Run. He will be one of the most advanced audio-animatronics that can be found at any Disney Park. Hondo Ohnaka has a total of 51 functions, including 10 just in his head!
There is so much innovation that is being used for this character. A speaker located in his chest provides direction sound. A bend in his knee creates the illusion that he can walk. Hondo’s skin is even made of a silicone mix which, combined with his voice and movements, gives him a lifelike appearance.
Hondo Ohnaka will not be the only A1000 in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge, however, Disney is keeping the details about other characters that will be brought to life hush-hush. This quote sums up the A1000 program best. Per Kathryn Yancy, Walt Disney Imagineering show mechanical engineer, “If [the audio-animatronics] are physically in front of you, you’re in their story and they are in yours.”
Are you anxiously awaiting the ability to see the new A1000 Animatronics in Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge? Let me know in the comments!
Source: Popular Mechanics
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