By: Nick Gambino
Disney Imagineers have been behind some of the most impressive spectacles Disneyland and other Walt Disney theme parks have produced in the last 50-plus years. But now they’ve really outdone themselves with stunt robots that move like humans.
Under the project title “Stuntronics,” the Imagineers have created autonomous robots capable of performing aerial stunts replete with self-corrections that allow it to complete the “death-defying” act every time.
As you can see in the video, the stunt robot swings on a wire and performs all of the little corrections and movements a human would use in getting from A to B, with some twists and turns in mid-air to add some flourish.
“So what this is about is the realization we came to after seeing where our characters are going on screen, whether they be Star Wars characters, or Pixar characters, or Marvel characters or our own animation characters, is that they’re doing all these things that are really, really active,” Principal R&D Imagineer, Tony Dohi, told TechCrunch. “And so that becomes the expectation our park guests have that our characters are doing all these things on screen – but when it comes to our attractions, what are our animatronic figures doing? We realized we have kind of a disconnect here.”
In other words, the idea for robots that can perform amazing feats, was born out of the need to compete with CG and wired stunts being displayed in blockbuster films. This kind of spectacle should naturally translate to the parks that are supposed to further the fantasy of films.
Until now, animatronics was confined to robots that stayed in place and spoke dialogue (think The Hall of Presidents). This is fine, if the year was 1962. But just as movie-goers have become more sophisticated (or, more accurately, demanding), so have park goers.
While it looks cool and seemingly ready to go, there’s no word on how this will fit into the parks or when we might see them. For now, it’s still in the R&D stages.
And if this all seems a bit creepy to you, it’s probably because you just got through binging the second season of Westworld and realize this is the first step towards making that a reality. I give it about 20 years and we’ll get there. Good luck to us, right?