Animatronic Animals: How They Work & Why You Should Book Them For Your Event
Animatronics have been around in entertainment since the mid 1970s – starting with the premiere of the film Jaws. Of course audiences at the time didn’t realise this – they focused on watching and enjoying the experience. Now in 2017, this kind of technology has come a long way and is still prevalent in all forms of entertainment – even live events.
If we cast our minds back, we can find other examples of animal characters in popular culture that came to life thanks to animatronic technology. Bringing to life real and fictional animals that you would never be able to get close to in ordinary life, animatronic animals are a huge novelty and a great success with audiences of all ages.
How Animatronics Work
First things first, let’s start with a definition of animatronics. Animatronics are widely known as electronic puppets. They are robotic or electronic mechanisms that simulate the appearance and behaviour of living beings. Animatronic creatures are characterised by their anthropomorphic looks. They are designed to be remotely controlled and recreate simple and complex movements. These sophisticated robots have been mainly used to add realism to films, although they are also frequently used in theme parks and in other events related to the entertainment industry.
Robotics is an engineering discipline that involves the knowledge and expertise of engineers, mechanical and electrical technicians and artists. Animatronics technology uses various components and parts to build animatronic creatures that appear to be real. The process of creating a realistic animatronic animal is divided in four steps:
Mechanical: specialists and engineers build all the mechanical systems. From gears to complex hydraulics, experts need to focus on what is requires and the type of movements the animal will emulate.
Electronic: Another group of experts in robotics take care of the electronic mechanisms. The electronic control systems are the ones needed to operate the device, which means they work closely with the mechanical team in order to deliver effective results. Their part in this sophisticated process is crucial, as they need to create circuit boards from scratch and giant remote-control systems.
Structural: We like defining this part of the process a mix between artistry and technical knowledge. This group of experts is in charge of creating a frame for the animatronic creature so its shape is maintained. Their work is truly impressive as they usually recreate the real creature’s skeleton, which requires a lot of research and skills. As a curious fact, you should know this frame is usually built with graphite, a synthetic material that is strong but light.
Surface: finally, the most artistic part of the process. Materials such as foam rubber, silicone and urethane are used to create the ‘skin’ of animatronic animals. Animatronic animal costumes are need to be resistant but easy to work with, especially if we’re talking about electronic sharks that need to work under water like the ones used for ‘Jaws’. The solution created by this team of specialists is poured into different moulds and then allowed to dry. Once cured, each piece is meticulously placed all across the skeleton frame
Examples of Famous Animatronics
Stephen Spielberg’s Jaws, E.T. and Jurassic Park are definitely the films that took special effects to a whole new level by recreating giant beasts and extra terrestrial beings. These projects involved big budgets and the director and producers relied on the best specialists in robotics to create these terrifying beasts. Jurassic Park was especially praised for its animatronics and was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Visual Effects. We’d also like to personally praise E.T.’s and Jaw’s animatronics, as the first captured our hearts and the second scared us to death, which is quite an achievement taking into account they’re from the 80s and 70s, respectively.
Some of the most famous animatronic animals in movies are dinosaurs. There is no question about it as Jurassic Park is one of the most successful franchises in the world. However, what about that 90s TV series featuring a dinosaur family that stole our hearts? ‘Dinosaurs’ was on air for four years and it captivated millions of spectators all over the world. The concept was simple - a normal family dealing with daily issues - but the animatronic technology used was really advanced for the time.
It seems that reptiles are one of the most famous animals to recreate and transform intro animatronics, as the 1990s Ninja Turtles film bet on this technology to bring the most famous reptile teenagers to life. Directed by Steven Barron, this film was a box office success until ‘The Blair Witch Project’ was released. It is quite surprising how the turtles had unique and very personal facial expressions, something really impressive for the 90s.
The 80s also left us animatronic creatures nobody has been able to forget, but not precisely because of the advanced animatronic technology used. The Gremlins were the nightmare of several 80s and 90s young children. This little evil monsters were destructive creatures that caused trouble everywhere. This comedy horror film left lasting memories and demonstrated how advanced robotics was by bringing such small animatronics to life.
Other famous trilogies and sagas that used animatronics technology are Star Wars, The Lord of the Rings or Harry Potter, super productions that required the latest technology to be faithful to the books and original scripts they were based on.
Reasons to Hire Animatronics for your Event
As mentioned above, animatronic animals have become increasingly popular thanks to films such as ‘Jaws’, ‘Jurassic Park’ and ‘ET’. They can be frequently found at theme parks, but event organisers have also realised their potential as an entertainment option for different types of occasions and are currently hiring realistic animatronic animals for sporting events, street celebrations, exhibitions, Zoos, Aquariums and many other celebrations. If you’re looking for more reasons to hire animatronics for your event, we are happy to give you a few.
Turn any parade into a mythical adventure with this mechanical dragon
This mechanical dragon can turn any theme event, parade or street celebration into a real mythical adventure. Its measurements are breath-taking: 22 metres long, 6.5 metres high and 4.5 meters wide, this giant creature can leave audiences at your event speechless with its colossal frame, fire breathing abilities and giant teeth. A fully remote controlled mechanical beast, this mystical dragon can be the perfect way to recreate famous fairy tales, movies or TV shows like Game of Thrones. Although it’s not completely realistic due to its industrial structure, this dragon’s mechanism involves animatronics technology and can be a truly unique creature to impress audiences with.
Trick the eyes of people at Zoos with this half-animatronic walkabout Gorilla
This half-animatronic animal is guaranteed to be a sensation at any museum, zoo, family event or theme party. Amazingly realistic, it is operated by a real human, although it has animatronic facial features. At first sight, it always leave people wondering whether he’s a real gorilla or not. When guests at your event find out he’s not a real animal, they will queue to pose for pictures with him and children will follow him around imitating his movements and playing with him. This walkabout gorilla provides a truly unique photo opportunity and will get people talking about the fun cheeky monkey that liven up your celebration for years to come.
Take guests at your event to the Mesozoic era with this T-Rex Dinosaur
Dinosaur fans will be happy to know there is a 9ft life size T-Rex dinosaur they can hire for their event. This terrifying creature will cause jaws to drop as it roams around your venue roaring and showing its sharp teeth. This giant animatronic dinosaur has performed on MTV with Nicky Minaj, the Colchester Zoo and the Natural History Museum. Our outstandingly realistic animatronic dinosaur can be the ideal way to draw little ones’ attention to prehistoric history. This T-Rex friend can be terrifying at first, but it will quickly show its friendly personality and children will love to pet it, feed it and play with it.
Immerse in a fantasy world with this roaming troll
Neither an animal, nor a human. This roaming troll found its way onto this list due to its unclassifiable nature. This giant creature can walk, talk and interact with people and win the public over with his clumsy movements. Fully remote-controlled, this 90ft animatronic fantasy character is sure to draw people attention and help audiences immerse in a fantasy universe.
They can be terrifying, but we all love them and would like to pose for pictures with them. Trolls, dragons, gorillas and the famous prehistoric dinosaurs are some of the most popular and in-demand animatronic animals for events worldwide. They add something different and undoubtedly spectacular to any occasion, as audiences love and applaud entertainment that combines advanced technology with artistry. Visually stunning and technologically sophisticated, animatronic animals are one of the latest trends in entertainment and it has come to stay.
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If after reading this you’d like to see for yourself how an animatronic animal is built, then check how the 90s Ninja Turtles film’s visual effect specialists created Raphael’s, Donatello’s, Leonardo’s and Michelangelo’s animatronics.
Get in Touch
Booking an animatronic animal for your event or special occasion is easy with Scarlett Entertainment. Our team of experts will be happy to give advice on what the best animatronic option for your event is and discuss further possibilities with you. Call us on 01626 572072 or fill our contact form so se can help you make your choice.