Animatronics is the use of electronic and robotics in mechanized puppets to simulate life.
Animatronics are mainly used in movie making, but also in theme parks and other forms of entertainment. Its main advantages to CGI and stop motion is that it is not a simulation of reality, but rather physical objects moving in real time in front of the camera. The technology behind animatronics has become more advanced and sophisticated over the years, making the puppets even more realistic and lifelike.
Animatronics for film and television productions are used to perform action on camera in situations where the action involves creatures that do 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. The application of animatronics today includes computer controlled as well as radio and manually controlled devices. The actuation of specific movements can be obtained with electric motors, pneumatic cylinders, hydraulic cylinders and cable driven mechanisms. The type of mechanism employed is dictated by the character parameters, specific movement requirements and the project constraints.
Origin of animatronics
The word animatronic is taken from the word 'audio-animatronics' which was used in the early 1960's to describe the moving models and figures at Disney Land created by the Walt Disney Imagineering Company. Animatronics is the technology connected with the use of electronics to animate puppets or other figures, as for motion pictures.
Audio-Animatronics were originally a creation of Walt Disney employee Lee Adams, who worked as an electrician at the Burbank studio and was one of Disney's original Imagineers.
One of the first Disney Audio-Animatronics was based in a toy bird Walt got in New Orleans, Louisiana. It was a simple mechanical bird, and Walt decided to improve the device that moved the bird. another was a "dancing man," which Walt himself created by hand.
The term "Audio-Animatronics" was first used commercially by Disney in 1961, was filed as a trademark in 1964, and was registered in 1967.
The Robin in Mary Poppins(1964) was the first animatronic to be seen in a movie
example of Disney Parks animatronics
Guillermo Del Toro combines both animatronic and CG elements to make his creatures come to life, these way they look realistic because actors interact with the creatures in a way impossible for CG only
Mak Wilson (b. 1957) is an English puppeteer who has worked on numerous Creature Shop and Muppet projects, beginning with The Dark Crystal. He had previously toured on stage, often performing as a puppeteer, mask and mime artist. Since the demise of the Creature Shop in London he is now freelance, but still works with two Muppet producers, Martin Baker and Pete Coogan, and their new company Baker Coogan Productions. He just completed the first season of a new Playhouse Disney series called Bunnytown, produced and directed by another Muppeteer, David Rudman.
- The Dark Crystal: Mystics (part-time)
- Labyrinth: Hoggle face/Riding goblin/Shaft of hands/Various (puppetry only)
- The StoryTeller: Birds ("Sapsorrow"), Wolf, Bird & Salmon ("The Heartless Giant"), White Lion ("The True Bride")
- The Ghost of Faffner Hall: Farkas Faffner
- Mother Goose Stories: Gosling #3/40 Characters/Puppet coordinator
- Jim Henson's The Animal Show with Stinky and Jake: Yves St. La Roach (season 1 only), Swifty the Cheetah, Fluke the Dolphin, Flora the Koala, Dooley the Armadillo, Chaz the Chameleon, Ringo the Elephant, Victor the Rattlesnake, Chauncey the Turtle, Achilles the Shark, Harry the Rhinoceros, Plunk the Sea Otter, Clive the Kiwi, Nippy the Tiger Beetle, Morton the Beaver, Bosko the Baboon, Leapovitch the Frog, Cool the Kangaroo Rat, Robert the Red Deer, Sean the Rabbit, Billy Bob the Lemur
- Dinosaurs: Andre (face), Earl Sinclair (face), Mr. Barry Wolfe (face)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Michaelangelo (face)
- Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze: Michelangelo (face)
- The Bear: Lead puppeteer/Performance coordinator
- Loch Ness: Lead puppeteer/Realtime CGI puppeteer
- Babe: Babe (puppeteer)/Performance coordinator
- Muppet Treasure Island: Realtime CGI puppeteer of the CGI mosquito (also singer on soundtrack)
- The Adventures of Pinocchio: Lead puppeteer/performance coodinator
- Lost in Space: Animation supervisor/CGI Puppeteer
- Farscape: Animatronic puppeteer trainer and consultant
- Mopatop's Shop: Mopatop (Seasons 1 and 2)
- Construction Site: Scooch, Lug /director/co-producer
- Jack and the Beanstalk - The True Story: The Golden Goose (head puppeteer), Animation Director of the Golden Harp
- The Hoobs: Creative Consultant/OB Director
- Frances the Badger: Post Animation Supervisor
- Mee Shee - The Water Giant: Animatin Director/CGI Puppeteer
- The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy: Vogon Interogator (voice), puppeteer/Jeltz puppeteer/Various/Assistant movement choreographer
Long before digital effects appeared, animatronics was making cinematic history. Who can forget the scare of the Great White coming out of the water in "Jaws"? Or the tender otherworldliness of "E.T."? Through the precision, ingenuity and dedication of their creators, animatronic creatures often seem as real to us as their flesh-and-blood counterparts.
What exactly is an animatronic device? Basically, an animatronic device is a mechanized puppet. It may be preprogrammed or remotely controlled. The device may only perform a limited range of movements or it may be incredibly versatile.
Websites to Visit
Jim Henson's Workshop
Theme park work
Build your own animatronics,