Your Walt Disney World Information Station
Results 1 to 11 of 11
Imagineering Discuss Free-roaming, interacting audio-animatronic Muppets in the Miscellaneous Disney forums; ANAHEIM, Calif. Watch out, Mickey Mouse. The Muppets might be sneaking up on you. Walt Disney Imagineering last week debuted its latest cutting-edge creation: free-roaming, interacting audio-animatronic Muppets capable ...
  1. #1
    Chesters_Liver's Avatar
    Chesters_Liver is offline C-Ticket Holder
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Somewhere between sane and Insane
    Posts
    180

    Free-roaming, interacting audio-animatronic Muppets

    ANAHEIM, Calif. Watch out, Mickey Mouse. The Muppets might be sneaking up on you.

    Walt Disney Imagineering last week debuted its latest cutting-edge creation: free-roaming, interacting audio-animatronic Muppets capable of "seeing" and "talking" without a human puppeteer in sight.


    Disney's most advanced robotic creation to date makes the costumed, mute Winnie the Poohs and Donald Ducks seem like felt-covered relics, although Disney executives are quick to reassure that the beloved autograph-signing cast isn't going anywhere.


    "This is an incredibly compelling and powerful way to experience the characters," said Bruce Vaughn, vice president of Walt Disney Imagineering's research and development division.


    "They are fully aware of the people in their presence and can call you by name. It is a 100 percent live experience."


    The technology is vastly more sophisticated than Disney's first foray into audio-animatronics with the Tiki Room birds in 1963 and Mr. Lincoln in 1964.
    In their debuts at Disney's California Adventure last week, bumbling scientist Bunsen Honeydew and his meep-meeping sidekick Beaker joked and chatted with guests.


    The Muppets could see the color clothes the kids wore and the lollipops they licked casting a slight Big Brother vibe over the proceedings. They maneuvered in a silver, egg-shaped roving laboratory outfitted with flashing lights, spinning signs, confetti cannons and smoke and water sprayers.


    "That's amazing!" said Adam Young, 27, a tourist from Alberta.
    As Beaker and Honeydew encouraged people to do the hokey pokey, Young scanned the park, high and low

    He twisted around, his eyes darting in search of the human manning the controls: "I'm trying to figure out who was driving it. It's crazy."


    One boy walked away with this question: "Do you think there's someone down there talking, Dad?" His father shrugged.


    Never wanting to divulge their secrets, Imagineers waved it off as "Disney magic" and "pixie dust." In reality, a live puppeteer who can see and hear everything reacts remotely from afar.


    The Muppet Mobile Laboratory was to roam the streets of California Adventure through Sunday before heading back to the shop for more tweaking.


    During last week's initial testing phase, a team of Disney techs and Dave Goelz, the original voice of Muppet characters including Dr. Honeydew and Gonzo, were behind the scenes in Anaheim.


    The goal is for one person to operate the characters from as far away as the headquarters of Walt Disney Imagineering, the theme park design and development arm of Walt Disney Co. about 35 miles north of Anaheim.
    Through its "Living Character Initiative," Disney is trying to improve interaction between characters and YouTube-watching, Nintendo Wii-playing guests.


    In 2005, the company introduced Turtle Talk with Crush, a real-time animated show that allows the Finding Nemo character to chat with fans.


    In 2003, Disney scientists and engineers built Lucky, a 20-foot-long dinosaur that could smile, grunt and burp. It was the first time an audio-animatronics creation was unleashed into the park, instead of tethered to an attraction. Lucky has since gone into hibernation.


    Bunsen Honeydew and Beaker, which were purchased along with the rest of the Muppets in 2004 from Jim Henson Co., can be removed from their roving lab and put into theater chairs on rides, or any other setting. No nearby operator is necessary.


    The portable, wireless technology also enables Disney to bring to life nontraditional characters. The Muppets, for example, would have been too big in costumes.


    "With prior audio-animatronics, you see the figure standing, but there's a huge infrastructure backstage and all sorts of machines," Vaughn said.
    "With this, if it doesn't fit in what you see, we're not using it. ... I think what you'll ultimately see is a lot of characters that we haven't been able to deliver before."



    Now with video goodness



    Disney Fan Since Day 1


  2. #2
    mini-V's Avatar
    mini-V is offline Home at last near Mickey!
    Join Date
    Oct 2005
    Location
    Mickey's backyard
    Posts
    8,966
    This has so much potential, however Honeydew never answered a question well and in some cases didn't answer it at all. I'd love to see this in person, just the same. Thanks for sharing the video.
    mini-V What will you celebrate?

    Adult daycare for the kid inside you.

  3. #3
    disneyfanatic101's Avatar
    disneyfanatic101 is offline Trying to Get Back Into the Swing of Things!
    Join Date
    Feb 2007
    Location
    Hoosier State
    Posts
    9,268
    There is a talking and moving trash can in WDW I saw in AK.
    Adam ~ A Proud D23 Charter Member!

  4. #4
    The_Heat's Avatar
    The_Heat is offline Scourge of Lake Superior
    Join Date
    Sep 2004
    Location
    Orlando!
    Posts
    772
    hmmm....it doesn't really sound like Dr. Bunsen Honeydew either...which is a shame. In my experience, the voices make the muppets as memorable as their appearance.
    All the people will look up and shout: "Save us!" and I'll whisper...'no'.

    Who watches the watchmen?

  5. #5
    Hakuna Matata's Avatar
    Hakuna Matata is offline Yo Ho Yo Ho a pirates life for me!
    Join Date
    Jul 2006
    Location
    Wishing on a star for my prince to come...
    Posts
    4,572
    that is very cool, hopefully i will get to see them this summer
    It's our problem-free philosophy Hakuna Matata!
    I've been to Disney World 22 times and can't wait to go back!

    yo ho yo ho a pirates life for me!





  6. #6
    firemedic's Avatar
    firemedic is offline Premium Annual Passholder
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Louisiana
    Posts
    6,166
    The technology that WDW has is absolutely amazing! I have to see this in person.



    You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.
    Walt Disney



  7. #7
    hgraber's Avatar
    hgraber is offline E-Ticket Holder
    Join Date
    Jun 2006
    Location
    Charleston, SC
    Posts
    316
    Couldn't they have started with some more interesting characters? I think they are on the right track and for a brand new technology, that was a pretty good first run. Lately, I've been thinking about something similar with the characters from Cars. Having Lightning McQueen and Mater roaming the parks freely chatting with guests. If they can do this, they can do that.
    I believe in Happily Ever Afters.

  8. #8
    MandaBella's Avatar
    MandaBella is offline "She who must be loved."
    Join Date
    Aug 2004
    Posts
    24,436
    Quote Originally Posted by The_Heat View Post
    hmmm....it doesn't really sound like Dr. Bunsen Honeydew either...which is a shame. In my experience, the voices make the muppets as memorable as their appearance.
    I couldn't agree more with you. That was the first thing to jumped out at me too! It kinda reminded of when I watched the Muppets version of the Wizard of Oz, and Frank Oz's absence was very noticeable...

    I'm impressed with the technology. As far the characters they chose, I think they choose the right ones in a sense. If you are familiar with the Muppets, and therefore Muppet Labs, it makes sense to test this technology with these two characters.
    Amanda
    always plotting, planning, and looking forward to our next adventure...


  9. #9
    firemedic's Avatar
    firemedic is offline Premium Annual Passholder
    Join Date
    Mar 2006
    Location
    Louisiana
    Posts
    6,166
    I agree with you Amanda, these two were pretty good "guinnea pigs." And Dr. Honeydew's voice was the first thing I noticed as well. Pretty close, but not the same. By the way, Steel Magnolias was filmed in my hometown and I got to meet Dolly Parton, Darryl Hannah, and Tom Skerritt. They were pretty cool. Great Movie!



    You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.
    Walt Disney



  10. #10
    MainStreet, USA's Avatar
    MainStreet, USA is offline I'm walking right down the middle of Main Street, USA!
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Southington, CT/Daytona Beach, FL/ Main Street, USA!
    Posts
    2,040
    I haven't had a chance to listen to the video yet (I'm in a school computer lab and don't have headphones with me, so I'll have to check it out later), but I LOVE the concept. Dr. Bunsen Honeydew and his assistant Beaker (Mee-Me!) are two of my absolute favorite muppets characters. It looks great from what I can see of the video, and I can't wait to give it a listen.

    A lot of folks are saying that Dr. Honeydew's voice sounded off, which is strange because didn't the article state that the original voice of the character was behind it? So maybe it's something to do with the microphone or the speaker the voice is going into or coming out of? Maybe it's something they can tweak to get just right. I would think that the voice would be kind of the least of their concerns, as voice-altering technology has been around forever.

    As for the choice of characters, and how they move and look... I definitely like what I see!
    -Don-
    Your heart can just take wing,
    You can live out all your dreams...
    ...it's time to Remember the Magic!
    Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pilot's Life for Me...

  11. #11
    MainStreet, USA's Avatar
    MainStreet, USA is offline I'm walking right down the middle of Main Street, USA!
    Join Date
    Mar 2005
    Location
    Southington, CT/Daytona Beach, FL/ Main Street, USA!
    Posts
    2,040
    Ok, now I've had a listen too. Well, the voice isn't perfect, but I still think that may just be the speaker (or perhaps even the microphone on the camera that recorded this video?) But in any case, like I said earlier, the voice should be a relatively easy fix. Other than that, I thought it was very cute, and I know I would gladly take a few minutes out of my busy Disney day to check them out. Considering that this contraption is literally the next step up from free-wheeling, talking gizmos like Push the talking trashcan and Wes Palm, the wise-cracking palm tree, I'm quite impressed with what they've done. No, it's not perfectly convincing, and moves a bit slow... but I have to hand it to imagineering on this one. I like it!
    -Don-
    Your heart can just take wing,
    You can live out all your dreams...
    ...it's time to Remember the Magic!
    Yo Ho, Yo Ho, A Pilot's Life for Me...

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •