Audio-Animatronic of Father John, the main character of the Walt Disney's Carousel of Progress attraction at Magic Kingdom

Audio-Animatronics (also known as simply Animatronics, and sometimes shortened to AAs) is the registered trademark for a form of robotics animation created by Walt Disney Imagineering for shows and attractions at Disney theme parks, and subsequently expanded on and used by other companies. The robots move and often synchronise with audio by the assistance of an external sound system on the stage (generally a recorded speech or song).

The machines are usually fixed to whatever supports them.[1] They can sit and stand but cannot produce any form of locomotion. An Audio-Animatronic significantly deviates from an android-type robot in that it uses prerecorded movements and sounds, rather than responding to external stimuli. In 2009, Disney debuted an interactive version of the technology called Autonomatronics, and in 2018, announced aerial stunt figures called Stuntronics.


Pierre, a talking parrot in Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland, the first attraction with Audio-Animatronics
Lucky the Dinosaur, the first walking Audio-Animatronic at Disney's Animal Kingdom

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. Walt Disney got a mechanical toy bird in New Orleans, and he decided to improve the device that moved it. An early robotic figure was the Dancing Man, created by Roger Broggie and Wathel Rogers, and modeled after a tap dancing routine by actor Buddy Ebsen.[2] The system of the animatronics relies on a combination of electric motors, solenoids, hydraulic systems, pneumatic systems, and cables to produce repeatable puppet movements that syncs to sound.[3]

The term "Audio-Animatronics" was first used commercially by Disney in 1961, was filed as a trademark in 1964, and was registered in 1967.

Development of the first audio animatronic technology began in 1949 with the work of the giant squid for 20,000 leagues under the sea (1954). [3]

The Audio-Animatronic show The Enchanted Tiki Room opened in 1963 at Disneyland. It is a room full of tropical creatures with eye and facial actions synchronized to a musical score entirely by electromechanical means. The Audio-Animatronic cast of the musical revue uses tones recorded on tape to vibrate a metal reed that closes a circuit to trigger a relay, which sends a pulse of electricity to a mechanism that causes a pneumatic valve to move part of the figure.

The movements of the attraction's birds, flowers, and tiki idols are triggered by sound. Figures' movements have a neutral "natural resting position" that the limb or part returns to when there is no electric pulse present. Other than this, the animation is a digital system, with only on/off moves, such as an open or closed eye. The same kind of technology was used for the head of Mary Poppins robin cane in the 1964 movie. [3]

Can-can dancer doll, an audio-animatronic doll, represent France in the indoor boat ride It's a Small World at Disneyland.

Other early Audio-Animatronics were at the 1964 New York World's Fair. They were used in the Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln exhibit at the State of Illinois Pavilion, Pepsi/UNICEF's "it's a small world" exhibit, General Electric's Carousel of Progress, and Ford Motor Company's "Magic Skyway."

An Audio-Animatronic robin sang a duet with Julie Andrews in the 1964 film Mary Poppins.


The former bride auction scene in Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland

Pneumatic actuators are powerful enough to move heavier objects like simulated limbs, while hydraulics are used more for large figures. On/off type movement would cause an arm to be lifted (for example) either up over an animatronic’s head or down next to its body, but with no halting or change of speed in between. To create more realistic movement in large figures, an analog system was used. This gave the figures' body parts a fully fluid range of motion, rather than only two positions.

To permit a high degree of freedom, the control cylinders resemble typical miniature pneumatic or hydraulic cylinders, but mount the back of the cylinder on a ball joint and threaded rod. This ball joint permits the cylinders to float freely inside the frame, such as when the wrist joint rotates and flexes.

The oil-filled cylinders occasionally drip or leak, so it is sometimes necessary to do makeup touch-up work, or to strip the clothing off a figure due to leaking fluids inside. The Enchanted Tiki Room remains a pneumatic theatrical set, primarily due to the leakage concerns, as the Audio-Animatronic figures are above the audience's heads.

Because each individual cylinder requires its own control channel, the original Audio-Animatronic figures were relatively simple in design, to reduce the number of channels required. For example, the first human designs (referred to internally by Disney as series A-1) included all four fingers of the hand as one actuator. It could wave its hand but it could not grasp or point at something. With modern digital computers controlling the device, the number of channels is virtually unlimited, allowing more complex, realistic motion. The current versions (series A-100) now have individual actuators for each finger. Disney also introduced a brand new figure that is used in Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge and is referred to as the A1000.


Compliance is a new technology that allows faster, more realistic movements without sacrificing control. In the older figures, a fast limb movement would cause the entire figure to shake in an unnatural way. The Imagineers thus had to program slower movements, sacrificing speed in order to gain control. This was frustrating for the animators, who, in many cases, wanted faster movements. Compliance improves this situation by allowing limbs to continue past the points where they are programmed to stop; they then return quickly to the "intended" position, much as real organic body parts do. The various elements also slow to a stop at their various positions, instead of using the immediate stops that caused the unwanted shaking. This absorbs shock, much like the shock absorbers on a car or the natural shock absorption in a living body.


The skin of an Audio-Animatronic is made from silicone rubber. Because the neck is so much narrower than the rest of the skull, the skull skin cover has a zipper up the back to permit easy removal. The facial appearance is painted onto the rubber, and standard cosmetic makeup is also used. Over time, the flexing causes the paint to loosen and fall off, so occasional makeup work and repainting are required.

Generally as the rubber skin flexes, the stress causes it to dry and begin to crack. Figures that do not have a high degree of motion flexibility, such as the older A-1 series for President Lincoln, may only need to have their skin replaced every ten years. The most recent A-100 series human AAs, like the figure for President Barack Obama, also include flexion actuators that move the cheeks and eyebrows to permit more realistic expressions; however, the skin wears out more quickly and needs replacement at least every five years.

The wig on each human is made from natural human hair for the highest degree of realism, although using real hair creates its own problems, since the changing humidity and constant rapid motions of the moving AA carriage hardware throughout the day cause the hair to slowly lose its styling, requiring touch-ups before each day's showing.


Autonomatronics is a registered trademark for a more advanced Audio-Animatronic technology, also created by Walt Disney Imagineers.

The original Audio-Animatrons used hydraulics to operate robotic figures to present a pre-programmed show. This more sophisticated technology can include cameras and other sensors feeding signals to a high-speed computer which processes the information and makes choices about what to say and do. In September 2009, Disney debuted "Otto", the first interactive figure that can hear, see and sense actions in the room.[4] Otto can hold conversations and react to the audience.[5]

In December 2009, Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln returned to Disneyland using the new Autonomatronics technology.[6]


Spider-Man stunt show at Avengers Campus at Disney California Adventure, featuring a Stuntronic

In June 2018, it was revealed that Disney Imagineering had created autonomous, self-correcting aerial stunt robots called stuntronics.[7] This new extension of animatronics utilizes onboard sensors for precision control of advanced robotics to create animatronic human stunt doubles that can perform advanced aerial movements, such as flips and twists.[8]


Jack Sparrow AA in Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland

The technology of the AA figures at Disney's theme parks around the world vary in their sophistication. They range from the blinking and mouth movements from the figures at Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room to full body movement, from the mouth to the tip of the fingers from the figures at the former Stitch's Great Escape! attraction at the Magic Kingdom.

Current technologies have paved the way for more elaborate AA figures, such as "Ursula head" inside the Mermaid Lagoon Theater at Tokyo DisneySea, the Indiana Jones figures inside the Indiana Jones attractions at both Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea, the "swordfighting" pirates inside Pirates of the Caribbean at Disneyland Park (Paris), the "lava/rock monster" inside Journey to the Center of the Earth at Tokyo DisneySea, the "Na'vi Shaman of Songs" inside the Na'vi River Journey, the dinosaurs inside DINOSAUR, the "Yeti" inside Expedition Everest at Disney's Animal Kingdom (though the latter has been non-functional since 2008, using a strobe light to simulate movement of the still figure[9][10]), or the Roz figure inside Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! at Disney California Adventure.

The Roz figure is able to "interact" with guests with help from an unseen ride operator who chooses pre-recorded messages for Roz to "speak", thereby seeming to "react" to individual guests' unique appearances and clothing. Mr. Potato Head outside of the Toy Story Mania! attractions at the Disney California Adventure and Disney's Hollywood Studios parks does the same.

One of the newest figures comes with changes to the classic Pirates of the Caribbean attraction at Disneyland and the Magic Kingdom, both now featuring characters from the Pirates of the Caribbean film series. The Jack Sparrow figure is based on the actor that portrays him, Johnny Depp, and features his voice and facial mold. So far, the newest and most advanced Audio-Animatronic figure is Abraham Lincoln at Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at Disneyland. Lincoln can move his lips to form words, can make dramatic movements, and can portray emotions to match the words he is saying.

The Audio-Animatronic anglerfish inside The Seas with Nemo & Friends in Epcot uses a robotic arm that is connected to a puppet to control realistic swimming movements of the animatronic to make the effect that the anglerfish is actually swimming. Robotic arms have also appeared in other attractions such as The Sum of All Thrills in the Innoventions area of Epcot.

The Audio-Animatronic Indiana Jones figures inside Indiana Jones Adventure: Temple of the Crystal Skull at Tokyo DisneySea resemble actor Harrison Ford, unlike the original figures found at the Disneyland version, Temple of the Forbidden Eye. In 2010, some of the Audio-Animatronic figures at the Disneyland version were replaced with more technically advanced figures that also look more like Ford.

The Audio-Animatronics formerly featured in the Great Movie Ride used the likeness of the actors that portrayed the characters. Audio-Animatronics found in Seven Dwarfs Mine Train at Magic Kingdom use projections for their faces to make the dwarfs' mouths move and their eyes blink. The projected face technology is also used in Frozen Ever After at Epcot. These Audio-Animatronics were succeeded by the figures in use in the Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge lands at Disneyland and Disney's Hollywood Studios in 2019, such as Hondo Ohnaka in the Millennium Falcon – Smugglers Run attraction. These new figures, known as A-1000 Animatronics, have a fully functional face, featuring a full range of motion in the eyes and mouth.[11]


Society has a large effect on how animatronics evolve over time in theme parks. At parks like Disney animatronics are constantly being pulled out and put in based on popular movies and the changing of generations. Some attractions like The Hall of Presidents are affected greatly when it comes to events in society because every time there is a new president they are added to the hall. Disney is prepared because they make both presidential candidates to add the right one in after the elections.[12]

In popular culture


See also


  1. ^ Strodder, Chris (2017). The Disneyland Encyclopedia (3rd ed.). Santa Monica Press. pp. 63–65. ISBN 978-1595800909.
  2. ^ "DizTech Vol. 5 - Real-Life Canvas: Animating with Animatronics".
  3. ^ a b c Kroon, Richard, ed. (2014). "Audio-Animatronics". An Encyclopedic Dictionary of Media, Entertainment and Other Audiovisual Terms. Jefferson North Carolina: McFarland. ISBN 9781785391194.((cite book)): CS1 maint: date and year (link)
  4. ^ Hoque, M. Ehsan. "Disney's First autonomous Audio-Animatronics". MIT Media Lab. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
  5. ^ Smith, Thomas (28 September 2009). "Disney Autonomatronics Figure Can Sense If You're Happy". Disney Parks Blog. Disney Parks.
  6. ^ Niles, Robert (17 December 2009). "Disneyland's Mr. Lincoln debuts Disney's next generation of animatronic storytelling". Retrieved 10 August 2014.
  7. ^ Panzarino, Matthew (June 28, 2018). "Disney Imagineering has created autonomous robot stunt doubles". Retrieved January 30, 2020.
  8. ^ "Stuntronics". Disney Research. 2018. Retrieved June 27, 2020.
  9. ^ "Expedition Everest effects status watch". Forums. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  10. ^ Garcia, Jason (31 July 2010). "Disney fans dismayed with 'Disco Yeti'". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved 13 May 2015.
  11. ^ "Hondo Animatronic Revealed for Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge at Disney Parks". February 28, 2019. Retrieved December 21, 2019.
  12. ^ Bringardner, Chase (2020). "It's Not Easy Being Orange: Animatronic Presidents, Patriotic Muppets, and the Configuration of Citizenship in Disney's Liberty Square". Theatre Symposium. 28 (1): 105–119. doi:10.1353/tsy.2020.0008. ISSN 2166-9937.
  13. ^ "Pennsylvania Lottery's 'Gus the Groundhog'". The Character Shop, Inc. Retrieved 13 May 2015.