Are You Ready for Sentient Disney Robots? #Robotics @Disney @nytimestech
“Some of the animatronics at Disney’s parks have been doing their herky-jerky thing since the Nixon administration. The company knows that nostalgia won’t cut it with today’s children,” writes the New York Times.
“A new trend that is coming into our animatronics is a level of intelligence,” said Jon Snoddy, a senior Imagineering executive. “More believable. More outrageous.”
He looked at Groot adoringly. “This guy represents our future,” he said. “It’s part of how we stay relevant.”
Robots have been part of Disney’s special theme park sauce since the 1960s, when Walt Disney introduced “audio-animatronics,” his word for mechanical figures with choreographed movements. There were endlessly harmonizing Small World dolls, marauding Caribbean pirates (“yo-ho!”), Abraham Lincoln delivering the Gettysburg Address.
Disney has a long-term predicament. The quickening pace of daily living, advances in personal technology and the rapidly changing media landscape are reshaping what visitors want from a theme park. Disney knows it has to devise a new generation of spectacular attractions rooted in technology if it wants to continue to vacuum up family vacation dollars.
How are the rudimentary animatronic birds in Disneyland’s Enchanted Tiki Room supposed to compete? They dazzled in 1963. Today, some people fall asleep.
Disney said it had no plans to replace human performers. Winnie the Pooh, Cruella de Vil, Peter Pan, Princess Jasmine and other beloved “walk-around characters” will continue to be played by people wearing costumes. Rather, Disney’s newest robotics initiative is about extreme Marvel and “Star Wars” characters — huge ones like the Incredible Hulk, tiny ones like Baby Yoda and swinging ones like Spider-Man — that are challenging to bring to life in a realistic way, especially outdoors.
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