More Walt Disney World Resort Stories

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

Thomas Smith

by , 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.


  • My daughter is an inspiring Disney Imagineer. Does anybody know what kind of engineering background would serve her the best?
    She has her eye on Computer Engineering. Is she going in the wrong direction?

  • Thomas,

    Thanks for bringing a piece of D23 Expo to those of us who could not attend! Any chance some of this will go on display in the parks?

  • Very enjoyable and different. Thanks for the information and I look forward to seeing it in action.

  • I wanted to follow up a negative comment with a good one. Thank you for making the adjustments to the counter service restaurants in the parks. The addition of a greeter that controls how many people are let in is a great idea and will truly enhance customer service. Thanks for making eating counter service more enjoyable, relaxing, and magical.

    • Thanks for the comment, Jacob. As a reminder, our goal is to keep comments on-topic for each blog post.

  • I loved this section of the Parks & Resorts at D23. So much great information, and the actual Imagineers working on the projects were there to talk to you about anything and everything related to it!

    Needless to say, this new technology is breathtaking. I can’t wait to see how it’ll be used at the various Disney Theme Parks around the world!

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