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Modern animatronic in the form of " Chuck E. Cheese ".

As Animatronic (also Germanized animatronics are called) mechanical , pneumatic and electronically designated controlled characters that animal-faceted or anthropomorphic can be, and in amusement parks , at fairs should ensure, in major department stores and in the film industry for entertainment.


The modern term animatronic is a suitcase word that is made up of the English words animation (to German "animation", "movement") and electronic (to German "electronics") and primarily indicates how the figure works. Both the English and the German form of the term come from the area of ​​amusement parks, where the figures were initially used most frequently.


Mechanically controlled music boxes , robots and dolls may have been known since ancient times. The Chinese work Liezi (Chinese 列子; around 30 AD) describes an alleged "mechanical man". The life-size figure is said to have been able to pose, walk and even sing. It is controversial whether it was a really purely mechanical device or not rather an actor in disguise. Around 1551, the famous inventor and painter Leonardo da Vinci developed and constructed the so-called Automata Leone , a mechanical lion that - according to contemporary eyewitness reports - could not only walk but even roar. Da Vinci had given the figure to the French king as a gift as thanks for Lyon's successful alliances with Florence . The Automata Leone would have been the first animatronic in the world.


Endoskeleton of a modern animatronics.

Usually animatronics consist of a mechanical endoskeleton , a sheath, and a costume . The endoskeleton is constructed in such a way that it defines the basic shape of the animatronic figure and the sheath and costume only have to be adjusted. It can be made of aluminum , plastic and / or steel . As with a marionette , most body parts are more or less free to move thanks to electronically controlled small motors. Mobility does not have to be limited to the main limbs (such as arms, legs and head). The most modern animatronics, for example, have extremely complex and varied facial mechanics that allow realistic facial expressions and gestures. The sheath only surrounds certain parts of the endoskeleton in order to protect them and to avoid electric shocks. But it is also used for shaping, that is, body areas such as thighs, chest and buttocks are pre-shaped, adjusted and later covered by the costume. Finally, the costume usually consists of two or three layers of foam and other materials commonly used for costumes (e.g. feathers and faux fur). For certain movie monsters, animatronic costumes are often lavishly made up.


Modern animatronics are computer- controlled. The working method can be divided into two phases: programming the software and coordinating playback . During the programming phase, the future movements of the character and the selected soundtrack are entered into the control software. In the playback phase, movement and soundtrack are coordinated as synchronously as possible until they match each other in a way that is appropriate for the result. The playback phase can either be carried out manually (via joystick , keyboard and various buttons) or via so-called motion capture . After programming, soundtrack and movement commands are transmitted to the mechanics of the character, which carries out the movements while the music is played over (mostly hidden) speakers.

Areas of application

Modern animatronics are primarily set up in theme and amusement parks, at fairs and sometimes in large department stores. However, they are also used in the film industry. Many of the animals and monsters shown in films from the 1980s and 1990s (for example, the characters T-Rex and Godzilla ) are animatronics. A very well-known example is Jurassic Park from 1993, most of the dinosaurs presented in the film are partly remote-controlled animatronics, partly actors in costumes.

However, the use of animatronics in the film industry has declined significantly due to the availability of CGI graphics and similar special effects software. The fact that the use of animatronics is also declining elsewhere is due to the attitude and attitude of modern youth, whose entertainment demands and expectations have risen sharply due to the Internet and smartphones . Animatronics are often considered "out" and "old school". However, interest in animatronics was increased again by the computer game series Five Nights at Freddy’s .

The animal filmmaker John Downer uses deceptively realistic animatronics in animal form with built-in cameras and loudspeakers in order to be able to observe and film other animals and their behavior up close. The remote-controlled systems simulate the natural movement patterns of the animals and emit lures.

See also


  • Matt Bacon: No strings attached: the inside story of Jim Henson's creature shop . Macmillan, 1997, ISBN 0-02862-008-9 .
  • John Huntington: Control Systems for Live Entertainment . Elsevier, Amsterdam / Boston 2007, ISBN 0-240-80937-8 .
  • Pascal Pinteau: Special Effects: An Oral History . Harry N. Abrams, New York / Virginia 2004, ISBN 0-810-95591-1 .
  • Stephen Prince: Digital Visual Effects in Cinema: The Seduction of Reality . Rutgers University Press, New York 2011, ISBN 0-8135-5218-4 .
  • James Egan: 500 Facts About Video Games, Vol. 1 ., Raleigh (North Carolina) 2016, ISBN 1-326-41982-X .

Web links

Commons : Animatronics  - collection of images, videos and audio files

Individual evidence

  1. ^ A b Andi Stein, Beth Bingham Evans: An Introduction to the Entertainment Industry . Peter Lang, Orlando 2009, ISBN 1-4331-0340-0 , p. 142.
  2. ^ TH Barrett: Lieh tzu 列子 . In: Michael Loewe: Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide. Berkeley: The Society for the Study of Early China, London 1993, ISBN 1-55729-043-1 , pp. 298-308.
  3. Estelle Shirbon: Da Vinci's lion prowls again after 500 years on , article from August 14, 2009 (English)
  4. Pascal Pinteau: Special Effects . Pp. 317-319, 328.
  5. ^ Paul Ekman; Wallace V Friesen: Unmasking the face: a guide to recognizing emotions from facial clues . Englewood Cliffs / Cambridge, New Jersey 2003 (new edition), ISBN 0-13-938175-9 , pp. 102-104.
  6. ^ Matt Bacon, No strings attached. Pp. 131-134, 147-150.
  7. ^ John Huntington: Control Systems for Live Entertainment , pp. 101-103.
  8. Stephen Prince: Digital Visual Effects in Cinema . Pp. 5, 6, 104.
  9. James Egan: 500 Facts About Video Games, Vol. 1 . Pp. 24-26.
  10. Terra X: Spies in the Animal Kingdom on www. ZDF .de