Animatronics & Robotics for Film & Television


Animatronic : (Ani-ma-tron-ik).


An 'animatronic' is a robotic puppet. The term animatronic comes from the word 'audio-animatronics' which was coined in the early 1960's by the Walt Disney Imagineering Company, to describe their moving models and figurines on display at Disney Land. Since the early days of film making, it was the responsibility of the Special Effects or Art departments to provide mechanical props: As time moved on and audiences became more critical, a new branch within Visual Effects emerged under the adopted name of 'animatronics'.


Animatronics or Robotics?


Animatronics is an illusion.  It is an effect.  The effect of mimicking life, or life forms, or even mimicking robot life!  Generally speaking, animatronic models have no intelligence - they are performed by human puppeteers – whereas a robot would be built for a specific application or a practical use and usually incorporate some sort of intelligence.  


The hexapod walking robot created for Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban - that is actually a hybrid of both animatronics and robotics.  Its walking is done by the intelligence of the software engine, but a human tells it where to go and what to do.  It has some basic intelligence to control its gait and body attitude, but ultimately it’s behaviour is determined by the puppeteer.