Today we go behind-the-scenes to look at the figure-finishing process of Pirates of the Caribbean animatronic figures.
Animatronic figures are maintained on the inside by Engineers in the Engineering Services department. On the outside they are maintained by Figure Finishers, Show Artists, members of the Artist Prep department, Creative Costumers, etc. Ultimately Walt Disney Imagineering is responsible for the show standards of all AA figures. Let’s look at the process.
A pirate is sent to the shop on a trailer, truck, palette, or golf cart to be stripped down. Less prominent figures can be removed from an attraction without being immediately replaced. In theory... the more important figures are not removed unless an identical spare takes its place. You’ll notice this isn’t always the case.
Grab the new headskin that you’ve already buttered up. Buttering is a technique where you trim and add detail to the rubber using metal tips of various shapes on the end of a torch. Notice the hand filled with a spray styrofoam.
Place the headskin in a mold so it keeps its form while working on the inside.
Snaps with rubber flaps are buttered to the inside.
Each snap corresponds to the snaps on the hard under shell.
Ask this guy for the eyes.
Add rubber eyelids and plastic eyelashes to the eye mechanism.
Paint layer upon layer to match the original head shown in documentation photos. Exaggerate the skin tones and other details in order to be more visible from a distance. Consider show lighting conditions.
Add facial hair and wig. Check out the Peter Pan crocodile head in the background!
Add the hat you got from the nice ladies at Creative Costuming.
Once he's back in the show, ride through to see your handy work and tell your friends, "I did that". This process is definitely what I miss most about by past creative career. There's just something about working with these materials then seeing them come to life, animated and speaking and such.
All above photos are from Disneyland Paris. Not all job titles and department names mentioned are consistent with all properties.
Watch this great little video called "Disneyland et ses secrets HD Reportage France 3" for more behind-the-action footage:
Pirates of the Caribbean Like You've Never Seen It
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Walt Disney Studios Post Production Behind-the-Scenes
EYE CANDY: National Geographic Aug '63
Recreating the Pirates Jail Scene in Miniature