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Friday
Apr272012

Pirate Animatronic Behind-the-Scenes 

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:

 

Related posts:

Pirates of the Caribbean Like You've Never Seen It
Little Box of Treasures
ABANDONED DISNEY: Haunted Mansion Hitchhiking Ghosts
Walt Disney Studios Post Production Behind-the-Scenes
EYE CANDY: National Geographic Aug '63
Recreating the Pirates Jail Scene in Miniature


Reader Comments (4)

At 25:54 the wife yells "Carlos! No less coochies!" and I agree.

I speak French very well so let me translate a few points for you.
At 28:08 the narrator says "France has a cool octopus. WDW no longer has a cool octopus'"

She goes on to explain that "more work is being done in these simple clips than the combined years between 1982-2012 at Magic Kingdom Artists Prep."

At 26:18 the new Norm MacDonald head skin is ready for the show! The narrator says " These head skins will be repaired, painted, and back in the show overnight. At WDW Art P, they age their skins on a shelf for 15 months at a time. The artist are forced to endure days...weeks.....months of rigorous sleeping at his or her desk, barbecuing, eating, and reading the newspaper. They, of course, are prone to complaining about being overworked during this stamina testing process."

At 26:39 the young man explains "Here in Paris we keep the animation working as it was originally intended. To do any less would be giving our guests a poor show experience. We would NEVER turn down the movements of our characters just to save pennies on maintenance costs. They do this in Florida where the figures offend our senses."

I love this video. Thank you Imagineering Disney!

World Famous Dave Ensign! I'm so glad you could translate for us. Hahaha. Yeah, isn't it weird to see people doing this stuff half a world away? Speaking of animation being turned down... I have to stop watching YouTube videos of overseas rides. I swear Tokyo makes Florida AA figures look lifeless by comparison. And this octopus. How fun is that. Also, I wonder by the looks of things, do engineers and artist share a shop? Maybe they just worked like that for this video.

April 27, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMitch

Creepy in a way but extremely cool. Always love the Blain Gibson heads. So expressive!

April 29, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterTahitianTimmy

Excellent review of the process - thanks so much for sharing!

May 2, 2012 | Unregistered CommenterMatt

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