What is my definition of animatronics? To use a mechanical creation to provide a lifelike appearance to an otherwise static prop. This could be as simple as animating an arm to reach out at a guest, to the
creation of a fully articulated and talking character.
In upcoming months, we will explore new ideas and
methods for building your own quality props.
This will be a journey of discovery and experimentation
as we explore the wide variety of motors, materials, and
controllers available today. Hopefully, we will also invent
some new methods which will allow our creations to
become even more lifelike.
Although my focus and primary reason for getting into
this hobby was to create characters that would be
integrated into my Halloween display, there are many other
opportunities to utilize animatronics. In addition to
amusement parks and holiday displays, some other
examples of how animatronics can be used is for school
projects, in film and stage productions, model railroads,
teaching aids, and as store displays to interact and entertain
customers, just to name a few.
How Did I Get Here?
My interest in building my own animatronics began
when I discovered the online Halloween display community.
I was looking to expand on what I had been doing, and
wanted to take the leap from a static display to one that
Living in Southern California allowed me the
opportunity to visit Disneyland and experience all it had to
offer. I’ve always been intrigued by the characters in the
park, and often wondered what it would take to actually
build them. Although I don’t have an engineering or
electronics background, I found plenty of knowledgeable
people on various Internet chat groups and forums that
were willing to share their experience and assist me as I
learned the skills necessary to complete the characters I was
dreaming up. I always enjoy a new challenge and was
ready to learn, so I made progress quickly.
My Halloween display quickly evolved into a wonderful
moving, talking, Disney-inspired production. Each year, the
challenge is to continue to take it to new levels. I’m always
on the lookout for new techniques that will allow my
display to improve.
In this article series, I would like to explore the many
methods, materials, and techniques available to the
hobbyist that will allow us to construct and control our own
animatronics. A major challenge will be to discover ways to
Quality animatronics have long been the domain of well staffed,
professional prop shops. However, with the considerable
progress and improvements, and the many new products
currently available, it is now possible for the home hobbyist to
create and control incredible creations.
By Steve Koci
for the Do-It-Yourselfer
SERVO 06.2015 45
The success of this adventure into animatronics will
rely on the participation of our entire collection of readers
and builders. In order for this community to flourish, we
all need to be willing to share and brainstorm our ideas.
I welcome your contributions, your ideas, and
resources. Your design may spark an idea or be the one
puzzle piece someone is missing to bring their creation to
Please submit ideas of things you'd like to see.
Although the build list for the next several months is
already laid out, I'm always looking for new ideas for