Imagineering is at its finest when creating points of interest with elaborate environments and dimensional present scenes inhabited by Audio Animatronics figures. Most of my favourite rides at Walt Disney World are slow-moving boat or darkish rides precisely like that, and this prime 10 checklist covers my favourite AAs in points of interest at Magic Kingdom, EPCOT, Hollywood Studios, and Animal Kingdom.
So far as know-how goes, Audio Animatronics are each brand-new and many years previous. Actually, the corporate’s fascination with Audio Animatronics started with Walt Disney himself, who stumbled upon an vintage mechanical singing hen in a store whereas on trip in New Orleans. He was intrigued by this 3D animated determine, which ultimately led to Imagineers growing an Abraham Lincoln Audio Animatronics determine that might go on for use through the 1964–1965 New York World’s Truthful.
Round that very same time, Disney started growing animated figures of birds, flowers, and tiki gods that populated the Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. That opened the floodgates, and Audio-Animatronics would go on to be an integral a part of most of the points of interest on the Disney parks, together with Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, America Sings, Nation Bear Jamboree, and Corridor of Presidents. Then got here the unique EPCOT Middle and a brand new golden age of Audio Animatronics, with seemingly each attraction having dozens of superior AAs!
Audio Animatronics since have had their ups and downs. To make certain, many points of interest from the Nineteen Nineties up till immediately have featured AAs. However derision as creepy “robots” coupled with the rise of different applied sciences displacing them–to not point out the upkeep prices–has led to Audio Animatronics falling out of favor. At the least, as in comparison with their heyday from the Sixties to Nineteen Eighties.
As an old-fashioned EPCOT Middle and Walt Disney World fan, I’m an enormous proponent of Audio Animatronics. Most of my all-time favourite points of interest to today characteristic AAs. Not solely that, however I strongly imagine that Audio Animatronics are evergreen. Whereas the underlying know-how is now over 60 years previous, the benefit AAs have over screens or different flashy tech is that few visitors see Audio Animatronics within the on a regular basis lives.
Screens are throughout us, and their high quality consistently evolves. The large theaters in Remy’s Ratatouille Journey or Mickey and Minnie’s Runaway Railway look clear and modern immediately, however what about ~5 years from now when the Apple Imaginative and prescient Professional augmented actuality headsets have come down in worth and are ubiquitous? Will a few of these rides be as laughably dated because the script within the Carousel of Progress finale?
Audio Animatronics and the scenes they inhabit are one thing you hardly ever encounter–at the least performed on the caliber of Walt Disney World–exterior of a handful of theme parks. These scenes will proceed to wow generations of audiences as a result of they’re one thing that can’t be reproduced on the supercomputers all of us carry round in our pockets. However I digress–that is meant to be an inventory of my favourite AAs, not a manifesto on why they’re superior to the technical taste of the week.
For an Audio Animatronics determine to make this checklist, it must have extra than simply fluid movement and spectacular know-how. This checklist is all about how the characters are dropped at life and are imbued with a way of character. The very best know-how fades into the background, permitting you to droop disbelief–and that’s true of Audio Animatronics, too.
In some instances, that is achieved in fleeting encounters and and not using a line of dialogue. In different conditions, the Audio Animatronics has twenty minutes to construct rapport with visitors. You find yourself caring in regards to the character, the mission, or their destiny, because the case could also be. At might look like some dystopian Westworld type stuff, however you sorta neglect that they’re a robotic and as a substitute join with the Audio Animatronics’ (synthetic) humanity.
Or one thing like that. Anyway, on with the checklist of the ten finest Audio Animatronics at Walt Disney World…
T10. Hopper – We don’t see It’s Robust to Be a Bug! at Animal Kingdom as usually as we most likely ought to, however at any time when we do, I discover myself marveling on the Hopper Audio Animatronics determine. Just about single-handedly, Hopper elevates this from a easy 3D film into one thing extra. (I really like MuppetVision and even desire PhilharMagic to this, however Hopper is much better and extra compelling than the AAs in these reveals–underscoring that this can be a checklist of Audio Animatronics, and never points of interest.)
In any case, It’s Robust to Be a Bug goes extinct within the very close to future in favor of a Zootopia present contained in the Tree of Life. So except Hopper packs his luggage and strikes to Zootopia, I’m guessing he’ll be evicted with the remainder of the bugs by the top of 2024. As such, I’m placing Hopper tied for tenth fairly than leaving him off the checklist solely or inserting him additional up.
T10. Lightning McQueen – Okay, hear me out. Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy is just not an important attraction. Actually, it doesn’t even crack the highest 50 on our Record Rating All 91 Points of interest at Walt Disney World. For those who haven’t performed something on this checklist, it’s most likely Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy. Actually, we wouldn’t be stunned if fewer than half of you have got expertise it.
In any case, to no matter extent this present is pleasurable (and admittedly…it sorta is!), it’s due to the spectacular Lightning McQueen Audio Animatronics automotive. The character of that automobile, plus the best way he interacts and jokes round with the opposite characters from the Vehicles universe are next-level.
The Lightning McQueen AA itself is fairly spectacular–higher than those in Radiator Springs Racers, because of a larger vary of movement and a capability to dynamically interact with visitors. This Lightning McQueen appears like the true character, and that plus a robust arsenal of father jokes blows youngsters away and even entertains mother and father. Racing Academy is only-okay, however the Lightning McQueen AA is A-grade.
T10. Ursula – Below the Sea ~ Journey of the Little Mermaid is fairly removed from excellent. A lot of the Audio Animatronics (if they’ll even be referred to as that) are a bit lifeless, some scenes fail to have interaction, and the type does it no favors. Regardless of that, we firmly imagine it’s among the many Most Underrated Rides at Walt Disney World.
One of many huge causes for that’s the show-stopping Ursula scene. Coming instantly after the merriment of “Below the Sea,” visitors go deeper (I suppose?) below the ocean into the ocean witch’s lair, the place we’re greeted by Flotsam and Jetsam, Ursula’s pets/hench-eels. The clamshells cross into the mouth of an unlimited beast’s skeleton and see Ursula singing “Poor Unlucky Souls.” She stands at her crystal ball, surrounded by her assortment of misplaced souls, and engages in probably the most life-like and dynamic movement of something on the whole attraction.
It’s robust to separate out Ursula, the Audio Animatronics determine on the experience, and Ursula the villain in a film I’ve seen dozens of occasions. Not like Hondo (see above), I come into this with a whole lot of prior data and love for the character. However, this appears like a scene from a completely totally different experience–one which’s a lot better and extra partaking. The moody surroundings is a part of that, however the Ursula AA has severe wow-factor.
9. Abraham Lincoln – Disneyland’s Lincoln is extra traditionally important and revered, however the Magic Kingdom model from Corridor of Presidents can be worthy of inclusion on this checklist. In a present that includes each president, Lincoln has probably the most presence; his phrases have probably the most poignance.
Previous to the Corridor of Presidents refurbishment a couple of years in the past, I most likely would’ve put Lincoln a bit larger on the checklist. His previous voice performing (by Royal Dano of Twin Peaks) was superior, and gave extra emotional heft to the president’s speech. I’ve gotten used to the brand new voice, and it’s nonetheless fairly good. Plus, I’ve no clue what Lincoln really appeared like.
Whereas I don’t suppose this AA offers the identical weight to the phrases he delivers because the one in Nice Moments with Mr. Lincoln, this Lincoln determine does give life to his rousing phrases. George Washington initiatives an analogous stateliness, however not one of the different AAs with talking roles within the present model are worthy of point out.
I can see why individuals again on the 1964 World’s Truthful freaked out when Lincoln got here to life on stage, fearing ole Sincere Abe had come again from the lifeless. (Significantly.) Lincoln solely hunts vampires—he isn’t one of many undead himself.
8. Figment – EPCOT Middle of the Nineteen Eighties till mid-Nineteen Nineties most likely had extra Audio Animatronics per capita than anyplace on earth. I’m not joking after I say just about each experience had dozens. Which was a part of the “drawback,” because the park had a severe “imbalance” of prolonged darkish rides…and little else.
Sadly, Epcot isn’t any EPCOT Middle, and the surviving AAs pale compared to what existed within the authentic incarnation of the park. Unique Figment paired with Dreamfinder as they piloted the Dreamcatcher would prime such an inventory.
New Figment doesn’t have fairly that very same spark, however he nonetheless has a ton of coronary heart. As he introduces visitors to the Creativeness Lab, the character reveals each his inquisitive facet (which endeared him to visitors within the authentic attraction) and mischievous facet (which is arguably a bit grating later on this model) earlier than main visitors in a rendition of the attraction’s iconic track. Figment nonetheless manages to place a smile on my face.
7. Mark Twain & Benjamin Franklin – Because the dynamic duo who host the American Journey, these two are just about inseparable. They every assist inform the story of america, and achieve this with humor and humanity that elevates the American Journey above a historical past guide lesson and grants it emotional weight.
These two ship partaking performances with a stage of wit and dynamicism that it’s virtually troublesome to imagine there are not any human performers within the American Journey. In addition they every carry out some pretty spectacular technical feats, from Benjamin Franklin strolling up stairs to Mark Twain smoking his cigar to the 2 hosts shaking palms through the attraction’s finale. Throughout that finale, additionally they provoke emotions of pleasure and introspection within the viewers, as soon as once more demonstrating the humanity of those “robotic” performers.
American Journey is arguably deserving of a number of extra honorable mentions: Frederick Douglass paddling down the Mississippi River, Chief Joseph delivering an impassioned plea to finish his individuals’s struggling, Will Rogers twirling a lasso, and others.
6. Hondo Ohnaka – I’ll be sincere: few issues make me eyes glaze over sooner than a Star Wars fan saying, “you must see Clone Wars to completely admire…” I’m sorry, and I imply this as no offense, however I’m not watching 7 seasons of a Star Wars cartoon rendered by a Ps 3. My favourite critics might say it’s on par with The Wire or Breaking Unhealthy, and I nonetheless wouldn’t be persuaded.
So my preliminary intuition was that it was a missed alternative to have a Chewbacca Audio Animatronics within the pre-show to Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run. And I nonetheless suppose that might’ve been the extra crowd-pleasing selection that might’ve resonated with common visitors and extra informal Star Wars fanatics, like me, who didn’t see a present that initially aired on Cartoon Community.
However I’ve grown to like Hondo Ohnaka of Ohnaka Transport Options, a smuggling operation that ‘borrows’ the Millennium Falcon. He’s acquired a wry humorousness and is a lovable scoundrel, and the Audio Animatronics of Hondo within the pre-show is actually spectacular. By the top of Smugglers Run, I’m not left wanting extra of the UPS supply mission, however I’m additional invested within the character and studying extra about his (mis)adventures in house piracy.
5. Olaf & Sven – Frozen Ever After’s AAs are polarizing, with some followers being chilly on the projected faces on Anna and Elsa. Now that the modernized variations have debuted in Hong Kong Disneyland, these complaints are heating up.
However the package deal deal of Olaf and Sven the Reindeer might thaw even probably the most frozen of hearts. The reindeer provides goofy comedic aid, whereas the standard and fluidity of the Olaf AA that sings “Do You Wish to Construct a Snowman?” whereas gliding throughout the ice is fairly spectacular.
Not solely that, however Olaf’s facial expressions and mannerisms rapidly reinforce the character of Olaf from Frozen and provides the determine a childlike sense of wonderment, making him one thing of a religious successor to Figment…at the least in time period of the Audio Animatronics determine. (What can I say—I like Olaf.)
4. Henry – Nation Bear Jamboree is an ensemble efficiency, however Henry is the standout determine within the present. He’s not probably the most memorable character from the present—that honor goes to Massive Al, arguably deserving of his personal separate spot—however not like the opposite bears who set up their character via caricatured design or colourful track lyrics as a result of he conveys a whole lot of character via physique language.
Whether or not or not it’s his awkwardness when Teddi Barra flirts with him or his earnestness when coping with the opposite bears, Henry’s actions say quite a bit, even when he doesn’t. Due to his animations, he’s simply as animated because the extra comical wanting and behaving bears.
Oh, and as an added bonus, there’s Sammy the raccoon in his hat, making Henry a little bit of a twofer! Right here’s hoping Henry nonetheless has the identical presence and character in Nation Bear Musical Jamboree.
3. Progress Dad – John, the daddy from Carousel of Progress, is just not a technically spectacular AA. For the primary a number of scenes, he simply sits there with restricted vary of movement, and even within the finale, his actions are pretty restrained (save for when the turkey catches fireplace, and he hilariously flails his arms about over his head).
But, the John Audio Animatronics work as a result of they praise his dialogue, slew of father jokes, and direct the viewers’s consideration appropriately all through the scenes. In a manner, John is an emcee for the know-how within the properties and different characters. The character’s AAs via the many years fulfill that position completely whereas additionally offering him with loads of lowkey, “fatherly” character.
2. Lieutenant Bek – You’re the “principal character” of Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, dwelling out your personal ‘Star Wars’ story, and Lieutenant Bek is Robin to your Batman–or maybe the Obi-Wan Kenobi to your Luke Skywalker. Whereas different, extra beloved or notorious characters all make cameos on the experience, Lieutenant Bek is the one one current for each part of the multi-stage expertise.
I can already anticipate some Walt Disney World followers quibbling with this selection, arguing it ought to’ve been Kylo Ren. And to make certain, these Audio Animatronics, particularly within the climactic scene, are spectacular. Ren is a menacing determine all through the experience, however for me, he by no means rises to the identical stage of villain as through the movies. (Bear in mind, this checklist is about how the AAs come to life, not simply their technical impressiveness.)
For me, Lieutenant Bek’s presence on board the Resistance Intersystem Transport Ship piloted by Nien Nunb is without doubt one of the coolest components of the attraction. The power of visitors to get so shut to the Audio Animatronics and be immersed within the subsequent dogfight is actually cool and has me on the sting of my seat (whereas standing) each time. If that doesn’t persuade you that Lieutenant Bek is the true star of the present (nicely, second to you), there’s the emotional second on the finish whenever you’re holding your breath whereas ready to be taught his destiny. Maybe we’re biased, although, as we’ve praised Lieutenant Bek because the True Hero of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge.
1. Shaman of Songs – As an old-fashioned Walt Disney World fan, it was troublesome to place the Shaman of Songs from Na’vi River Journey at #1. It required passing over actually iconic and beloved figures, and selecting one based mostly upon a movie I don’t actually even keep in mind. And a determine in an attraction that’s in any other case solely okay.
Technical wow-factor apart, what I can not recover from when driving Na’vi River Journey is how the Shaman of Songs manages to attach with visitors. As you slowly method her, her fluid and rhythmic actions are fascinating and take the attraction from a misfiring try at discovery and exploration to certainly one of whole enchantment. The whole lot else melts away, as you’re entranced by this Audio Animatronics determine. The Shaman is connecting on an emotional and virtually primal stage.
Then, in some actual loopy Rise of the Machines motion, she makes eye contact with you. It’s without delay surreal and particular, and though you understand it’s an Audio Animatronics determine, it feels no totally different than whenever you make eye contact with a parade prince or princess. Though the Shaman doesn’t have an amazing quantity of character growth or profit from storytelling the best way different AAs above do, there’s one thing about her that simply “clicks” with visitors and likewise elevates Na’vi River Journey right into a stable attraction. This all might sound actually odd, however this stunning marriage of know-how and character are why I really feel compelled to place the Shaman above so many legacy Walt Disney World AAs.
Honorable Point out: Sonny Eclipse – Mr. Eclipse is from the planet Zork (Yew Nork, particularly) and he performs the Astro Organ, with back-up vocals from his wonderful House Angels. He performs a twenty-some minute loop of music that’s infused with dad jokes that’s actually entertaining, throughout which period there’s additionally a ton of character growth. Sonny Eclipse like a cross between Uncle Joey and somebody from the Max Rebo Band, which is an effective combo.
Whereas his AA is just not probably the most superior that Imagineering has ever created, it’s fairly expressive, with loads of arm flailing, eyebrow elevating, and facial expressions. Between that and his charismatic efficiency, there’s a motive why tons of visitors have fallen in love with Sonny Eclipse, and there are speedy fears at any time when his stage is raised up for a refurbishment. Due to his attraction and personability, it’s straightforward to see why this alien lounge lizard is so beloved.
Our very first Walt Disney World obsession as a pair was Sonny Eclipse. Throughout our annual summer season visits, we spent many a late night time within the cubicles at Cosmic Ray’s watching Sonny carry out his full units, and at dwelling we’d “relive” these moments by enjoying his full present at dwelling.
Regardless of Cosmic Ray’s being busier than ever, our love for Sonny Eclipse endures. His backstory is cleverly instructed by way of his songs and his set has a hybrid comedy/musical high quality paying homage to Nation Bear Jamboree. Due to his mixture of humor, character, catchy songs, and look, Sonny Eclipse ranked within the prime 5 on our checklist of High 10 (Unique) Disney Parks Characters. Actually, if this weren’t particularly an inventory of Audio Animatronics in points of interest, Sonny Eclipse could be prime 5 right here, too.
That wraps up our checklist of the very best Audio Animatronics at Walt Disney World. At this level, you could be scratching your head, questioning why a number of iconic Walt Disney World points of interest aren’t represented in any respect. It could look like an enormous oversight to omit Pirates of the Caribbean, Haunted Mansion, Spaceship Earth, and Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room from this checklist. Certainly the Auctioneer, Hitchhiking Ghosts, Pc Engineer, and Jose are deserving of spots on this checklist.
Maybe on an extended checklist. For this, I got here to the conclusion that every of these are like an early-era P.T. Anderson movie–nice points of interest that excel due to the best way the ensemble solid of characters comes collectively. If this had been an inventory of the highest Audio Animatronics points of interest, every of them must make the checklist. But it surely’s not. We’ve already performed a number of ‘better of’ points of interest checklist, and I needed this to be distinct from these. There’s no manner on earth Lightning McQueen’s Racing Academy is rating on a prime checklist of something (except for possibly ‘vehicles’ rides, the place it might edge out Tomorrowland Speedway however not the Omnibus), however that AA is totally deserving of recognition.
However, I’m betting loads of you’ll disagree with my decisions. If it’s any comfort, I’m pretty sure I might get up tomorrow and make a completely new checklist of various Audio Animatronics figures that might be simply good as this one. There are such a lot of glorious, emotive AAs at Walt Disney World. Simply keep in mind, these is my prime 10 checklist based mostly on which Audio Animatronics resonate and impress my probably the most, not a scientifically arrived-upon checklist of probably the most technologically marvelous Audio Animatronics at Walt Disney World.
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Do you agree or disagree with my prime 10 Audio-Animatronics at Walt Disney World? Suppose it’s absurd to don’t have anything from two of the largest classics–Pirates of the Caribbean and Haunted Mansion–even when they’re ensemble points of interest with no singular standout? Which AAs would make your private checklist of favorites? Every other ideas in regards to the Audio Animatronics of Walt Disney World? Listening to suggestions about your experiences is each fascinating to us and useful to different readers, so please share your ideas beneath within the feedback!