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Lincoln: Looking Back and Moving Forward

posted on December 15th, 2009 by Heather Hust Rivera, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications, The Walt Disney Company

More than 44 years ago, Walt and Lillian Disney celebrated the opening of Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln at the Main Street Opera House in Disneyland park. As you can tell from the photo, it was an exciting time for Walt Disney. The show had just received international acclaim at the 1964 New York World’s Fair, and the ribbon cutting ceremony pictured below marked the official opening of the Main Street Opera House.
The Official Opening of the Main Street Opera House
Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln underwent a few changes over the years, and Walt Disney Imagineers have made great progress in refining this classic show. Last month on the Disney Parks Blog, we gave you a sneak peek at the most advanced Audio-Animatronics technology yet.

Today, we have new video of the figure being programmed in the theater. Imagineer Brian Scholz explains the process and how they’ve blended older attraction elements with new technology.

The show is scheduled to open to guests very soon if you’d like to check it out for yourself.

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Filed: Behind the Scenes, Disney History, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort

Blog Exclusive: First Video of the Most Sophisticated Audio-Animatronics Technology Yet

posted on November 17th, 2009 by Heather Hust Rivera, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications, The Walt Disney Company

Taking you the behind the scenes and giving you a sneak peek at new attractions is one of our goals on the Disney Parks Blog.

Today’s video gives a first glimpse of the new Abraham Lincoln figure that will be the main attraction in the returning “The Disneyland Story presenting Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln” show. The new, advanced figure features Disney’s most sophisticated Audio-Animatronics technology, with incredibly lifelike facial features and expressions.

The new, fully-electric head allowed Imagineers to add new technology and functionality to a figure that has entertained Disneyland guests since 1965. The previous Lincoln head and face had seven functions, and the new and improved head and face has a total of 20 functions. Lincoln can now purse his lips, smile, grimace and form an “O” with his lips. Don’t take my word for it. Check it out for yourself.

The classic attraction is scheduled to re-open at Disneyland Park in December. The fascinating figure – along with new and classic show elements – continue the Disney tradition of merging great storytelling with breathtaking technical innovation. The rich and moving show provides a patriotic tribute to our nation’s 16th president.

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Filed: Behind the Scenes, Disney Differences, Disneyland Park, Walt Disney World Resort

Disney’s Handheld Device Adds Audio Description

posted on November 2nd, 2009 by Heather Hust Rivera, Senior Manager, Corporate Communications, The Walt Disney Company

Did you know the Disneyland Resort has several services available for guests with visual and hearing disabilities? I am 40 percent deaf, and I didn’t know about Disney’s Handheld Device until last month.

I’ve never been able to hear all of the audio in attractions such as the Enchanted Tiki Room, and I’ve often wondered if I’m missing some of the rich storytelling that Walt Disney Imagineers carefully and creatively incorporate into all of the attractions at the Resort. Now, thanks to Disney’s Handheld Device, I won’t be missing those special details anymore.

Today, I thought I’d give you a quick rundown of this service in case you or someone you know can benefit from this really cool tool.

Disney's Handheld Device

Disney’s Handheld Device is a palm-sized wireless device that was developed in 2002. The device features several services, including Assistive Listening, which provides amplified audio at 12 attractions, and Handheld Captioning, which displays text for 14 attractions.

A new service was just added yesterday. Audio Description, now available at Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World Resort, provides narrated audio for guests with visual disabilities by describing visual attraction elements, such as actions, settings and scene changes.

The audio below is from the Audio Description for the Haunted Mansion. We’ve layered in some clips from the attraction to show what the audio is describing.

Audio Description is being offered at 19 attractions at Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure parks: Enchanted Tiki Room, The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh, Alice in Wonderland, ‘it’s a small world’, Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride, Peter Pan’s Flight, Pinocchio’s Daring Journey, Snow White’s Scary Adventures, Storybook Land Canal Boats, Disneyland Railroad, Haunted Mansion, Pirates of the Caribbean, Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage, Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters inspired by Disney-Pixar’s “Toy Story 2,” “Honey, I Shrunk the Audience”, It’s Tough to be a Bug! inspired by Disney-Pixar’s “A Bug’s Life,” Turtle Talk with Crush inspired by Disney-Pixar’s “Finding Nemo,” Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! inspired by Disney-Pixar’s “Monsters, Inc.” and Muppet*Vision 3D – Muppet Vision 3D © The Muppets Studio, LLC.

So, now that you know all about it, where do you get it? Guests with visual or hearing disabilities can obtain a handheld device at the Guest Relations offices, near the entrances to Disneyland and Disney’s California Adventure parks. The devices are provided on a first-come, first-served basis, and there is a fully-refundable $100 daily deposit for use.

Have you ever used Disney’s Handheld Device? What did you think of it?

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Filed: Disney California Adventure Park, Disneyland Park, Disneyland Resort

‘Chef Remy’ Audio-Animatronics Figure Remains in Epcot

posted on October 14th, 2009 by Thomas Smith, Editorial Content Director, Disney Parks

Judging by online conversations, there’s some question about whether Chef Remy, one of our newest Audio-Animatronics characters, can still be seen in Epcot. The answer is, yes, you can still enjoy Chef Remy’s culinary talents.

“Bon Appetit from Chef Remy” at Les Chefs de France at Epcot was initially scheduled to end in September but his appearances have been extended.

If you haven’t experienced Remy’s hijinks, you should. The rat-turned-chef made famous in the Academy Award-winning film Ratatouille flirts, dances and entertains several times a week at the France pavilion in Epcot.

Chef Remy

Excitement around Chef Remy begins with his presentation — how he’s revealed. He travels table-to-table on a rolling gourmet food cart. Then a Maitre d’ lifts the lid off a silver-domed cheese platter to begin the show and the smallest Audio-Animatronics character ever created by Walt Disney Imagineering doesn’t disappoint. When Remy recently visited our table at Les Chefs de France restaurant, he didn’t leave until the entire group was laughing.

Check out Chef Remy for yourself in a video we recently created at Disney Parks.

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Filed: Disney Differences, Epcot, Walt Disney World Resort

Hands, Eyes Convey Emotions For Disney’s Audio-Animatronics Technology

posted on October 6th, 2009 by Thomas Smith, Editorial Content Director, Disney Parks

Quick…think about your last face-to-face conversation — how you used facial movements or arm gestures to show emotion. Disney Imagineers know humans often convey emotions with their hands, arms and eyes and tend to focus much of their Audio-Animatronics development work on it.

A first glimpse at how our three-dimensional figures can display emotions came in the Disney Parks and Resorts Pavilion at the D23 Expo. Now, we’ve got more.

Animatronic Hand

Our newest hand prototype has 15 movable joints which is three times greater than a traditional Audio-Animatronics hand. Today, Disney Imagineering works with cutting-edge electronic servo motors to create realistic hands as well as arms. These compact mechanisms are able to move faster and with greater precision. In the past, Audio-Animatronics relied on pressurized air and hydraulics to generate life-like movements.

“Imagineers have been using Audio-Animatronics technology to bring Disney characters to life for over fifty years, and today we’re continuing that legacy of innovation and creativity by constantly creating new wows for the next generation of guests,” says Scott Trowbridge, WDI VP Research and Development.

Creating skin formulations for hands is also a highly scientific process that involves chemists, material scientists and artist. Imagineers often look to other fields for inspiration since a character’s skin must look as good as new after hundreds of thousands of hours of wear and tear.

Animatronic Eye

Imagineers realize that the eyes convey emotions and a two-foot eye prototype showcases our newest concept. It’s a new type of mechanism that uses electromagnets to create realistic eye motions. There is only a single moving part — the eye itself — and no wear points. That means faster, more realistic movement and longer life.

As Disney Parks continues to experiment and innovate, as with our newest Autonomatronics technology, we’ll certainly be talking about it on this blog. Stay tuned.

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Filed: Behind the Scenes, Disney Differences, Disneyland Resort, Walt Disney World Resort