Animatronics is a process of building mechanized puppets or full-size costumes that resemble animals, dinosaurs, or other imaginary creatures, and made to look quite lifelike. The idea behind animatronics was first created by Disney Studios back in the 1950s for use in some of their early films. Plus, it is possible to combine the mechanized movements with other special effects in an attempt to create the more convincing look and a greater level of realism.
In addition to using this technology in the film studios it is a common sight in many of the popular theme or amusement parks, which many feature birds or other creatures in special shows to entertain guests.
What features are involved?
Animatronics can vary significantly with basic to very complex designs. The most basic animatronics are built with basic sound recording features and have the ability to make one or two simple movements. For the more advanced designs it is possible to include software that can complete specific moves, and can even be remotely controlled. On the most complex designs the engineers will create the costumes using the latest special effects technology that includes realistic skin, highly flexible joints, and lifelike actions or sounds.
The creation process starts with a designer sketching out the ideas on paper. Once the initial concept is created, the engineering team will provide detailed plans to start on the construction of a scale model which is known as a maquette. If this first concept is approved, it is possible to move on to the full-scale model which includes the built-in electronic controls and moving parts. The design team finishes the model using special paints, materials and textures in order to create the realistic looking skin.
Many of the animatronics rely on LEDs, servos, and connecting wires to help create the realistic sound effects. Creating the costumes with the servo connectors is great for plenty of reasons, including the wide availability of these components and the relatively low-cost to use. Plus, it is possible to use connect sensors in certain projects to help benefit from the convenience of wireless control.
Future of animatronics
The future of animatronics is still very strong, but because of the time and cost involved in creating the full-size models, many film studios rely on computer animation to help with special effects. There are still many companies that have the sole purpose of creating animatronics for entertainment purposes, such as use in theme parks or amusement parks.