Thursday, November 27



        Animatronics is a cross between animation and electronics. Basically, an animatronic is a mechanized puppet. It may be preprogrammed or remotely controlled. An abbreviated term originally coined by Walt Disney as "Audio-Animatronics" (used to describe his mechanized characters), can actually be seen in various forms as far back as Leonardo-Da-Vinci's Automata Lion, (theoretically built to present lillies to the King of France during one of his Visits), and has now developed as a career which may require combined talent in Mechanical Engineering, Sculpting / Casting, Control Technologies, Electrical / Electronic, Airbrushing, Radio-Control. Long before digital effects appeared, animatronics were making cinematic history. The scare generated by the Great White coming out of the water in "Jaws" and  the tender otherworldliness of "E.T." were its outcomes. The Jurassic Park series combined digital effects with animatronics. It is possible for us to build our own animatronics by making use of ready-made animatronic kits provided by companies such as Mister Computers.

What Is Animatronics

        Animatronics is a combination of animation and electronics. What exactly is an animatronic? Basically, an animatronic is a mechanized puppet. It may be preprogrammed or remotely controlled. The animatronic may only perform a limited range of movements or it may be incredibly versatile. The scare created by  the Great White coming out of the water in "Jaws" and the tender otherworldliness of "E.T." are cinematic effects that will not be easily forgotten. Later animatronics was used together with digital effects. Through the precision, ingenuity and dedication of their creators, animatronics creatures often seem as real to us as their flesh-and-blood counterparts.


        The first use of Audio-Animatronics was for Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland, which opened in June, 1963. The Tiki birds were operated using digital controls; that is, something that is either on or off. Tones were recorded onto tape, which on playback would cause a metal reed to vibrate. The vibrating reed would close a circuit and thus operate a relay. The relay sent a pulse of energy (electricity) to the figure's mechanism which would cause a pneumatic valve to operate, which resulted in the action, like the opening of a bird's beak. Each action (e.g., opening of the mouth) had a neutral position, otherwise known as the "natural resting position" (e.g., in the case of the Tiki bird it would be for the mouth to be closed). When there was no pulse of energy forthcoming, the action would be in, or return to, the natural resting position.

Jurassic Park

        Long before digital effects appeared, animatronics were making cinematic history. But it was in Jurassic park that the best possible combination of animatronics and digital effects were used together. Spinosaurus was  a new dinosaur animatronic created for "Jurassic Park III" by Stan Winston Studio (SWS). SWS worked with Universal Studios and the film's production team to develop the Spinosaurus design. Below lies the discussion of the amazing process that creates and controls a huge animatronic like this dinosaur!

1.   Jurassic Machines
2.   Dinosaur Evolution
3.   In the Beginning
4.   Creature Creation
5.   Putting it together
6.   Making it Move
                              7. Monster Mash


         Another group develops the electronic control systems needed to operate the animatronic. Typically starting from scratch and creating their own custom circuit boards, these engineers are essentially building giant remote-controlled toys. Almost all of the movement of the Spinosaurus will be manipulated by specialized remote-control systems known as telemetry devices.


         All of the electronic and mechanical components need something to attach to and control, and the skin must have a frame to maintain its shape. This is done by building a plastic and steel frame. To increase the realism, and because it is the natural way to design it, the frame of the Spinosaurus, as well as most other creatures made by SWS, resembles the actual skeleton of the beast. This skeletal frame is largely comprised of graphite, a synthetic material known for its strength and lightness.


        The "skin" of the Spinosaurus is made from foam rubber, which is a very light, spongy rubber that is made by mixing air with liquid latex rubber and then curing (hardening) it. While there are other compounds, such as silicone and urethane, that are stronger and last longer, foam rubber is used because it is much easier to work with. The solution is poured into each mold and allowed to cure. As mentioned earlier, parts of the frame are embedded with the foam rubber at certain points. To further strengthen the skin, a piece of fabric is cut to size and embedded in the foam rubber after it is poured into the mold. Once cured, each piece of skin is pulled from its mold.

What Is An Animatronics Kit?

        Everything you need (except batteries and imagination) is included in our easy-to-use kit. Connect the cable to your PC's serial port, install the software and you're ready to start. No soldering or programming skills required. If you can use Windows you can use this Animatronics Kit . The software allows you to record the movements of hobby servos (up to two billion moves) and play them back exactly as recorded. Make your creation come to life!


        Creating a good animatronics figure that is able to perform constantly without fail requires many special skills and lots of technical know how.  Before assuming the task of creating an animatronic figure, you  should have a strong hold on how these things are constructed and be willing to spend a pretty penny on equipment and materials.


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