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original 1967 Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland is the most influential Audio- Animatronics show of all time. I think it is successful not only because of the amazing mechanisms but because of the brilliant designs of Marc Davis

Ethan Reed, Walt Disney Imagineering

BELOW: Disney Imagineer Ethan Reed (left) and senior show

programmer Ken Swapp working on an Ursula figure for Little Mermaid – Ariel's Undersea Adventure at Disney California Adventure IMAGE ©DISNEY

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Animated conversation

Park World assembles a panel of animatronics experts and suppliers to discuss current trends and great projects past and present

Our panel comprises Doug Mobley (DM) of Gilderfluke, which specialises in animatronic control systems, Walt Disney Imagineer Ethan Reed (ER), Garner Holt (GH) of Garner Holt Productions, Sally Corp chairman John Wood (JW), Matt Kitchen- Dunn (MKD) of UK theming company Themesparx, and Michael Mack (MM), executive board member at Europa-Park, Germany

Pick one of your all-time favourite animatronic installations and tell us why it was so successful John Wood – I have to say that my original exposure to animatronics at GE’s Carrousel of Progress at the 1965 New York World’s Fair was, for many years, my all time-favourite animatronic installation. The show was so clever and so rewarding to both the sponsor and the patrons. The Carrousel of Progress went on to become the longest running show of any type of all times. That certainly spells success in my book! Ethan Reed – The original 1967 Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland is the most influential Audio- Animatronics show of all time. There have been many more technically advanced Audio-Animatronics figures made, but nothing has lived up to Pirates. I think it is successful not only because of the amazing mechanisms built in Walt's MAPO production organisation but because of the brilliant designs of legendary animator and Imagineer Marc Davis, who had a way of distilling the business of the scene into a single storytelling sketch. He also understood the limitations of Audio-

Disney’s Pirates of the Caribbean is cited as an Audio- Animatronic classic by many experts

Animatronics technology and when he sketched he kept those limitations in the back of his mind and created a design that only needed minimal functionality to sell the illusion that the character was alive. Garner Holt – The American Adventure at EPCOT is the greatest animatronics presentation in the world, bar none. It successfully combines very lifelike figures with rich and detailed media in a unique large-scale format to effectively tell the story of the birth of the United States of America. Instead of a typical show with fixed stages, the American Adventure is comprised of more than a dozen individual smaller, stylised sets that integrate seamlessly with media projected on the enormous screen behind.

What’s the worst? GH – I don’t want to name names, but I have witnessed many dark rides and other attractions around the world that give animatronics a bad name. Typically, these are no fault of the designer, but of the budget. Many attractions have figures with very limited or very unrealistic motion, The fewer functions and the more jerky, non-lifelike functions you have, the less value your character has, to the point where no figure at all is sometimes superior to a poorly conceived animatronic! JW – The worst animatronics I’ve seen in an


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