In 1963, Disneyland wowed audiences all over the world with their launch of their first ever Audio Animatronics.
The project was intended as a small show for Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room. They wanted to entertain dining guests with mechanical birds and flowers. This little program eventually became so successful that it grew to be its own show outside of the restaurant.
Since then, Disney Parks have added animatronics into their rides and attractions: Pirates of the Caribbean, the Haunted Mansion, and Small World dolls all became staunch symbols of the Disney legacy. Disney became the leader in innovative robotics, dazzling newcomers and loyal visitors alike.
But it’s no longer 1963, and technology has advanced rapidly outside of Disney’s Imagineering studios. While the mega-brand has constantly improved upon their own animatronics technology, they’ve hardly made the news. Their attractions have become average. In a world where children are practically born with an iPhone in hand, the once-dazzling Disney animatronics have become hallmarks of the past.
So it’s no surprise they want to add artificial intelligence into the mix. Over the years, Disney has experimented with animatronics to varying degrees of success. Their most beloved introductions include the Avatar shaman added in 2017 and a new Spiderman stuntronic robot, unveiled in June of this year. The latter was able to perform high-altitude tricks that left viewers speechless.
That doesn’t mean, however, that robots are replacing human entertainers entirely. Visitors will still be able to spot Cinderella and Snow White in their signature gowns. But for smaller characters like Groot from Marvel’s Guardians of the Galaxy and the Mandalorian’s Baby Yoda, Disney is planning a more Promethean approach.
According to Disney Parks chairman Josh D’Amaro, their decision to incorporate AI into their attractions was born out of a need for relevance and customer satisfaction.
“We have an obligation to our fans, to our guests, to continue to evolve, to continue to create experiences that look new and different and pull them in. To make sure the experience is fresh and relevant,” he spoke.
As of now, there is no set date for the launch of these new robots, but the team is committed to making it happen despite the risk.
“There is legacy here. People like the way things are,” adds D’Amaro. “But we’re going to keep pushing, keep making it better.“