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Animatronic freedom?

 
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Silito



Joined: 13 Apr 2008
Posts: 24
Location: Dixie! (tha South)

PostPosted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 3:17 pm    Post subject: Animatronic freedom? Reply with quote

Thanks to the people who contributed to the first of this question Surprised .

Hi Nate,

I have examined the patent links provided by Holly and Rcj3 and am still very unsure as to how much Disney has cornered the animatronic industry. I was wondering if you could possibly confer with a colleague or two to get a rough idea of the extent of Disney's control over animatronic creation and implementation. Im trying to understand what freedoms an independent company would have in creating and conducting animatronic assisted entertainment.

I am very appreciative of any efforts and thank you for your time.

-Silito
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MartinJ



Joined: 09 Aug 2007
Posts: 93
Location: Flint, MI

PostPosted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 4:47 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I don't think that you could take out a patent on the concept of an animatronic. That's like trying to patent the personal computer. It's too general. They can take out a patent for a new technology that is employed, though (such as the one that described a mechanism to allow an animatronic to walk without an umbilical).

I believe that they would pursue any IP infringements, such as building your own animatronic Stitch (Lincoln or Ben Franklin might be a little hard for them to pursue, unless you copied theirs completely). In this case, you would be getting close to copyright issues.
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-Martin
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Holly
Site Admin


Joined: 06 Aug 2007
Posts: 229
Location: Orlando, FL

PostPosted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 6:36 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Silito,

I don't know if I really understand your words "control over animatronic creation and implementation"... There are a lot of parks that have animatronics -- it's just that Disney's implementations are the most famous. And there are a lot of other companies that create animatronics... the concept has been around a lot longer than Disney. Disney was inspired by a clockwork bird, which were popular in the 1700's, along with clockwork simulations of humans that drew a lot of attention:
http://fogonazos.blogspot.com/2007/01/writing-automaton.html

And Disney has not, by far, cornered the industry. There are some modern companies that are doing some great work:
http://fogonazos.blogspot.com/2007/01/writing-automaton.html

If you go to the trade conventions, there are quite a few animatronics companies out there. Very few do it as well as Disney, but it also has to be kept in mind few entertainment venues have the money that Disney has... many of these animatronic companies are selling to regional parks, museums or haunted houses...

That being said, Disney has made some significant contributions to the industry, and I think that, as MartinJ said, it is generally these contributions (as specified by applicable patents) that are "proprietary".

If you want to see some of Disney's specific contributions that have changed the world of animatronics, you might want to research/google the following terms:
"audio-animatronic"
"A100 animatronic"
"Living Character Initiative"

If you enjoy research, the history of animatronics is quite interesting and worth reading about... If you are building a park, this kind of work is something that would probably be cheaper (from both a creation and maintenance standpoint) to subcontract.
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icandrawem2



Joined: 16 Aug 2007
Posts: 171

PostPosted: Thu Apr 24, 2008 11:02 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

While at IAAPA this past year, there was one company that sticks out in my mind, LifeFormations...their work is beyond incredible. Check them out at lifeformations.com
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admin
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Joined: 28 Jul 2007
Posts: 381

PostPosted: Fri Apr 25, 2008 1:32 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Actually, the most advanced figures at Disney are actually made by Sarcos and aren't Disney figures at all. Sarcos is a company based in Utah. www.sarcos.com Examples of the Sarcos figure are from the following attractions:

1) Buzz Lightyear in the preshow at Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin
2) The Tiki God at The Enchanted Tiki Room show
3) Jack Sparrow at Pirates
4) The Wicked Witch of the West, the Great Movie Ride (Disney MGM Studios)
5) S.I.R. at Alien Encounter
6) Timekeeper (Tomorrowland)... now defunct.

I'm sure there are more.

The first Disney audio-animatronics were pneumatic. In other words, they operated on air power. You can still hear the hisses and pops from many of these sorts of animatronics if you listen carefully. They're pretty easy to hear on the Jungle Cruise, for example. Any place that had animatronics was using pneumatic systems. They were reliable and worked well.

I spoke with a rep from Gilderfluke, who had on display one of the original Jose the McCaws from the Tiki Room. He was the son of one of the original guys who worked on Jose (Disney's first animatronic) who left Disney to start Gilderfluke. As it was explained to me, the original animatronics could only do certain movements. Nothing was fluid. The movement was either "Stop" or "Go" so in order to move from point A to point B in a lifelike manner in which we move our arms and hands, they had to program a series of movements each of which was a shorter distance. This gave the illusion that the arm was slowing down as it moved... and was therefore more lifelike than a typical jerky robot action. Tough to explain on here, but that's how it works. Now everything is digital but pneumatic animatronics are still widely used today. They do well operating 16 hours a day.

As for Disney having the corner on the animatronics industry, that's quite a misconception. Go read the article we've got about John Wood. Sally Corporation makes animatronics and there's any number of really good (and bad) animatronics companies out there.

You might also check out the article on Tom Sorrano. He was in his late 20's when he programmed the animatronics at Jurassic Park at UIOA. He got really into it. While the figures themselves don't look that great (arguably because they're exposed in the daylight where nothing is left to the imagination) the show control aspect of it isn't bad at all. Way to go Tom! Last I heard, he was still at ITEC Productions here in Orlando.

The way the industry is heading is actually more toward the automotive industry, by the way. Many larger companies that develop robots for automobile manufacturing can easily spin them off for theme park operation, while having a diversified base to weather the downturns in the economy. Even so, the animatronics industry is alive and well in this industry, and there are a lot of companies who make them.

Sally Corporation, Advanced Animations, Sarcos, Life Formations...that's just off the top of my head.

Nate
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Holly
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Joined: 06 Aug 2007
Posts: 229
Location: Orlando, FL

PostPosted: Fri Apr 25, 2008 11:47 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Sorry... The second link was supposed to be to LifeFormations! That's what happens when you keep going back to edit your post! But yeah... they are amazing... you can see the pores on the skin of their sculptures and the facial expressions are so realistic!

Nate, interesting with Sarcos. I recognize quite a few of the ones you listed as robots supposedly from the A100 line... I guess maybe Disney did not develop that technology as is widely claimed... they just use it!

...Although I am finding that out more and more with Disney: that their cutting-edge developments were actually created by outside companies and are not exlusively theirs... sigh... where have the days of inside R&D gone?
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