Today’s Wonder of the Day was inspired by Rafaela. Rafaela Wonders, “How are animatronics made?” Thanks for WONDERing with us, Rafaela!

Think about your favorite movie. Is it live action? Stop-motion? Maybe it’s claymation or even 3D. Many films today have special effects. Your favorite might have CGI or even animatronics!

What are animatronics? Put simply, they’re puppets that can move thanks to technology. They’re run by people using remotes or other devices to tell them how to move.

Can you think of any examples of animatronics? They’re used in many movies. Films like “Jurassic Park,” “E.T. the Extraterrestrial,” and “King Kong” helped make them famous. They were also key in making “Jaws” and “Gremlins.” Even Jabba the Hutt in the original Star Wars films used this technology.

Animatronics are also common in theme parks. Visits to Disneyland and Disney World wouldn’t be the same without them. The “Enchanted Tiki Room,” “Pirates of the Caribbean,” and “Splash Mountain” are a few examples of rides that include them. You’ll also find these types of characters in The Wizarding World of Harry Potter™ at Universal Studios.

Have you ever seen an animatronic? Did you think it looked true to life? If so, you’re not alone! As technology has advanced, these moving puppets have improved as well. But while they seem realistic, they are in fact made by people.

How are animatronics made? The process may differ from project to project. Still, it always starts with a design. An artist first sketches an idea. Then, they build a small model. The design goes through an approval process before continuing to the next step.

Next, an artist or team of artists will build a full-size sculpture. They’ll start by molding clay or another material into the right shape. Then, they’ll use sculpting tools to add details like facial features and skin texture. This sculpture is used to make a mold. Molds are especially useful when more than one of the same animatronic needs to be made.

Once the mold is finished, the next step is to make a cast. The materials used will vary based on what kind of creature is being made. It can include rubber, fiberglass, resin, and many other substances.

The animatronic object is then split into several pieces. This helps the final product move more realistically. Finally, the cast is filled with a plastic or metal “skeleton.” All the pieces are then connected. The completed product can then follow directions and move around controlled by a remote.

Over the years, many advances in technology have improved the function of animatronics. For example, 3D printers are often used nowadays to build models and molds, making the process faster. 

Would you like to build animatronics? Many people are involved in the process, from artists to engineers. Maybe you’ll see your creations on the big screen one day!

Standards: CCRA.R.1, CCRA.R.2, CCRA.R.4, CCRA.R.10, CCRA.W.2, CCRA.W.4, CCRA.L.1, CCRA.L.2, CCRA.L.3, CCRA.L.6, CCRA.SL.1, CCRA.SL.2

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