Why Animitronics Can Make a Comeback in 2020 and Beyond
Updated: Jan 17
We have all seen the CGI filled movies with rubbery, Gumby like characters flopping around with goofy looking faces. Even I was disappointed with the quality of AVATAR when I was the one hyping it up in my social circles. I was embarrassed, disappointed, and fell asleep in the theater for the first time ever...and I saw Home Alone 3 and Ninja Turtles 3 in theaters as a kid!
CGI is best done when mixed with physical actors and props. It acts like spackle to a wall with a hole in it. It covers it just enough to make it a a little bit more believable.
The first time I noticed failure in CGI was when I was watching movies like The Scorpion King, the first two Star Wars Prequels (oh God I was hungry for those and always confused as a kid). Those movies has such unnatural movements and coloration to the models. I remember when Obi Won does a jump down inside one of the droid army drop ships in the first prequel and I thought...
But, muh Star Wars feels!
CGI takes hours upon hours to get right and even then in 2019 they still are lacking in believability depending upon the type of movie. Granted Toy Story 4 will still be believable because it is ENTIRELY based in a CGI world so we accept the fact that everything coming out of it will be pure animation. The problem is in movies that feature mostly human characters and real world settings that rely too much on CGI. This can be seen in any Avengers movie which rely heavily upon green screen filmed settings that are painted over with animated, believable CGI backgrounds. This is where they shine, in the background.
When it comes to characters and props, they should be as realistic and physical as possible. This is where WE come into play. Animatronics.
Have you seen the most recently added Disney Frozen Attraction?
I'm no fan of the movie (I swear they reused the ship in Rapunzel) but the new attraction at Disney's Park is unmatched. It features the most sophisticated, realistically, smooth moving animatronics ever! It is quite a sight to see. I believe the faces are blank and have animated faces projected onto them which I think is a very smart move. Faces are VERY difficult.
Look specifically at Elsa's animation. Looks just like the CGI in the movie, right? Almost gives me goosebumps, and with Disney's soon additions of Star Wars and Marvel parks within their main parks, they are sure to impress with believable animatronics and projection animations. Just when we thought there was no reason to burn a few thousand dollars to fly the family out there.
Another case study I would like to introduce is the absolutely FANTASTIC and overlooked work done in the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy remake. Look at this video. It's jaw dropping what they were able to accomplish.
Here is a video from a few years ago, 2011, that I like to watch over and over. It makes me think HOW they work. The components involved. Is it AC or DC powered? What kind of motors are used? Servos? DC Motors? AC Motors? Stepper Motors? How did they get the eyes to blink? Looks like halves of ping pong balls connected to metallic arms connected to servos. All controlled via analog joystick....likely remotely.
My gears in my mind start turning. There are some EXTREMELY talented people who have been doing these things for many many years.
Recently, you may have even heard of the acrobatic robot Disney is using to launch into the air which they plan to layer CGI over. Maybe a character from their movie. Great idea!
The bottom line is...I believe animatronics will continue to be significant over the coming years.
On top of that, the sheer demand for all types of A.I. and machine learning is staggering.
Combine these two and you have a "living, breathing" animatronic. A full fledged robot.
You should be. This opens up a whole new job market for those who know how to put these complex systems together! That potentially includes YOU!
The fact that you will have significant experience programming will allow you to more successfully collaborate with the A.I. team members and understand what they expect from your team.
Do I think robots will take over the world?
No. Not yet at least. I don't see us allowing that to happen and programming any machine to that level is an almost insurmountable challenge.
Who knows? Anything is possible.
Where will you be? What will you make? Resume? Degree?
How about what is becoming more and more important to job recruiters. A portfolio!
Start building projects NOW, TODAY.
Get ahead of anyone else. Start with my beginner's course where I teach you the basics of the components you will need to learn in the simplest way I know how to explain them. I will be here to help those who are NOT good at math, who have ADHD, etc. but want to make really cool things. Even if it is just a simple toy.
Remember, the difference between toys and killer robots is scale. That is all.
Check out my channel for videos and tutorials to get you started!