Imagineers reveal animatronic characters on Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

Posted Wednesday, April 30, 2014 9:01 AM | Contributed by Jeff

How do you recreate Disney characters for a new attraction in the most authentic way possible? According to Walt Disney Imagineering, it all starts with a hand-drawn sketch.

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Wednesday, April 30, 2014 9:04 AM
Jeff's avatar

Mind blown. This looks like the weird reverse video projection that they've done previously with the eyes on Mr. Potato Head in Toy Story Midway Mania, and Sebastian on The Little Mermaid. I think they do it for Buzz Lightyear in that awful shooting game at Magic Kingdom, too. The technology has definitely evolved. In this case, it doesn't look as much like projected video, like they've learned to control the light in a way that's a little more natural.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 10:17 AM

I think it's awesome, too. One of the things that keeps it believable is the static pieces around the faces, like hats, glasses, noses, etc. Plus the coloring and shading really make it seem real and not just a projection. This technology is a far cry from some of the original projected faces in Haunted Mansion etc.

It's exciting to think of other applications and how the technology can grow. I've read where at Disneyland a six month overhaul is planned for all the Fantasyland dark rides, with Alice already underway, and will change the characters from the 2D look to this much better 3D effect.

Large animatronic shows like American Adventure at EPCOT could benefit by an update as well. Those figures are cool, but to a point. As time goes their movements seem stiff, almost laughably outdated, and their facial features when they speak make them seem more like ventriloquist dummies.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 11:51 AM
Jeff's avatar

Agreed. That's a good show somewhat weakened by the dating of the tech.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 12:53 PM
LostKause's avatar

I'm still trying to figure out how they do this. So you guys are saying that the faces are projected from in front of the characters onto a blank face?

I've seen the Buzz Lightyear, and it looked to me like the projection was from inside the character's head. This just fascinates me.

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 1:14 PM
Jeff's avatar

Presumably it's projected from within. I wonder if it might be a flexible LCD screen or something instead, but I honestly don't know.

I was a little disappointed that of the three Sebastians in Mermaid at MK, two have been downgraded to static eyes. The life that those video eyes alone add to a character is staggering.

Jeff - Editor - - My Blog - Silly Nonsense

Wednesday, April 30, 2014 10:58 PM
slithernoggin's avatar


Life is something that happens when you can't get to sleep.
--Fran Lebowitz

Thursday, May 1, 2014 5:03 PM
janfrederick's avatar

That is the problem with paradigm shift. All the old stuff now seems "old and stupid". :) Very cool indeed.

"I go out at 3 o' clock for a quart of milk and come home to my son treating his body like an amusement park!" - Estelle Costanza
Thursday, May 1, 2014 5:07 PM

Every time I get all "meh" on Disney, they do something that just amazes me. Awesome stuff, and just fascinating.

"Look at us spinning out in the madness of a roller coaster" - Dave Matthews Band

Thursday, May 1, 2014 6:35 PM
waynethexplorer's avatar

How creepy will they look if it goes blank and will they close the ride in that case?


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