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Alice in

Wonderland at California’s Disneyland recently reopened after installation of numerous digital projected elements but, in the same project, a number of new

animatronic characters were added – there is a balance in storytelling techniques

Garner Holt

motion film, and using Audio-Animatronics was the best way to achieve that aesthetic. After we storyboarded the ride’s climax, we knew we were going to need to have Albert the Monkey fly around the room in a tornado of music dust. The best way to pull off that illusion was to accomplish it with media, so we ended up with a mix. Garner Holt – Media and projection content has been a major part of themed attractions since the late 19th Century, in moving cycloramas, magic lantern shows, even elaborate simulated spaceflights. Projections, which are finding their way into several dark rides, can do lots of things – they can create entire scenes in one sweep, and be filled with characters and special effects, but there is a disconnect between screens and audiences. With multi-dimensional animatronic figures, worlds are born. What would Pirates of the Caribbean be with projected figures instead? Alice in Wonderland at California’s Disneyland recently reopened after installation of numerous digital projected elements, not screens or media for their own sake, but mapped projections in locations featuring media that simply would not be possible to achieve dimensionally.


in the same project, a number of new animatronic characters were added – there is a balance in storytelling techniques. Matt Kitchen-Dunn – The two are not mutually exclusive. The use of CGI media is very relevant. It can be integrated into animatronics and I think the mix of the two will play a major role in the future design of new rides and attractions.

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Dark rides are an obvious application, but how else can animatronics be used in theme/amusement parks? John Wood – Pre-show applications for animatronics are commonplace in the industry. Musical show productions are another excellent application. Ultimately, however, animatronics are the stars of a good dark ride and make storytelling much more possible and fun.

These figures were produced by Heimotion for a themed drop tower at Bayeern Park in Germany

Michael Mack – We have many dark rides at Europa-Park where animatronics play an important part, for example Pirates in Batavia. We often use outstanding animatronics as well in the waiting lines to help entertain the guests while queuing. Our Leonardo da Vinci in the station building of the suspended monorail Volo da Vinci is one of the best examples of this. MKD – Last season at Themesparx we designed an animatronic 8-metre-long scorpion for the relaunch of Chessington World of Adventure’s Scorpion coaster in England. It weighs over one ton and has an interactive sting in its tail that shoots water as the guests speed by on the coaster. There are also other special effects of smoke, dynamite like explosion, sound and light. GH – Animatronics have been used in many non- dark ride applications since their major emergence in 1963 at Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room attraction. Theatre style shows have remained popular in Disney and other parks for half a century. At the same time, animatronics have been designed into restaurants, as additional theme layering in retail spaces and even in transportation rides like railroads or along pedestrian pathways. At Garner Holt Productions we’ve created animatronic figures to welcome visitors to NASA’s Marshall Space Flight Centre, give backstory for guests at Howe Caverns near Albany, New York, and even act as an interactive signpost in the form of a cuddly teddy bear in a shopping mall in Singapore!

Do you expect to see more attractions such as rollercoasters integrating

An animatronic scorpion built for the coaster of the same name at Chessington World of Adventures by Themesparx

animatronics/themed sequences, as per Disney’s Seven Dwarfs Mine Train? JW – Absolutely! I am still singing “hi ho hi ho it’s off to work we go” since riding the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train during IAAPA’s visit to The Magic Kingdom in November! Without it, it would be another rollercoaster and would miss the star value of the Seven Dwarfs and their environment.


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