If our look into the future with the incredible HoloTile floor and Lanny Smoot wowed you, then you’ll love what we’re sharing today for National Inventors Day – a special look at even more Walt Disney Imagineering inventions helping shape the future at Disney Experiences!
1. Audio-Animatronics figures
At the heart of Disney’s inventive journey lies the revolutionary Audio-Animatronics technology. First introduced in the Enchanted Tiki Room at Disneyland in 1963, these lifelike figures can now be found in so many of our attractions like Frozen Ever After, Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance, Pirates of the Caribbean, and the nearly 10-foot tall Na’vi Shaman of Songs figure at Pandora – The World of Avatar.
The creation of each Audio-Animatronics figure requires the collaboration of dozens of Imagineering disciplines, including Mechanical Engineering, Show Programming, Illusion Integration and Figure Finishing, representing the seamless fusion of technology and art. As the technology evolves, Audio-Animatronics figures offer the opportunity for unparalleled realism and transportation to magical realms.
2. OmniCoaster Ride System
Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind marked a milestone with the introduction of the Disney Omnicoaster ride system, a revolutionary “storytelling coaster” designed by Walt Disney Imagineering Ride Engineers. This innovative technology enables vehicles to rotate 360 degrees and execute a reverse launch, creating an immersive experience for guests. The Omnicoaster is an evolution of the classic Omnimover ride system, seen in attractions like Haunted Mansion, adapted to fulfill the Imagineers’ vision of a backwards portion of the attraction.
The original Disney ride system that has been around for decades [and was patented in 1968] proves that good ideas never really go away at Walt Disney Imagineering.
It’s been such a hit at Walt Disney World, that the attraction was even awarded with a prestigious Thea Award for Outstanding Achievement – Attraction in 2024 by the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA).
Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development and scientists at Disney Research have taken flight to new heights with Stuntronics, a fusion of advanced robotics and dynamic movement that is capable of accomplishing extreme aerial maneuvers with precision.
The idea originated with Imagineers wanting to create a dynamic controllable robotic system that mimicked the uncontrollability of flight. The team worked through numerous iterations and prototypes, resulting in a sophisticated 90-pound Stuntronics figure equipped with onboard sensors, enabling real-time decision-making during an 85-foot aerial performance, capturing the nuances of Spider-Man’s acrobatics, from somersaults and twists to perfectly executed landings.
If you want to see this technology in action, you can find it in The Amazing Spider-Man show at Avengers Campus in Disney California Adventure.
4. Free-roaming Robotic Characters
Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge is home to the fusion of cutting-edge special effects, groundbreaking attraction technology and timeless Disney storytelling. Recently, playtest droids showcased the latest in robotics and engineering, navigating park environments alongside a Batuuan droid handler.
To create these “BD units,” engineers and animators within Imagineering and Disney Live Entertainment worked together to craft a relatable character, whose movements and expressions resemble those of small children. The robots learn expressive motions through simulation environments, allowing them to quickly come to life, achieving a seamless blend of advanced technology and artistic craftsmanship.
The trio of droids not only move independently, but can also interact dynamically with guests, cast members and other animatronics, providing an exciting glimpse into future possibilities.
5. Indestructible Robots
At the SXSW conference last year, Disney Experiences Chairman Josh D’Amaro, with the help of Imagineers from Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development, unveiled an innovative prototype robot capable of dynamic maneuvers, including somersaults and recovering from falls … which is not what people expect from a robot.
What makes Indestructibles unique is that Imagineers designed the robots with a keen focus on fostering human connection. These robots are crafted to convey personality through their dynamic movements, allowing Imagineers to explore captivating and emotionally resonant performances. This groundbreaking technology promises to push the boundaries of character experiences, adding an extra layer of realism to Disney storytelling.
During the recent grand opening of Zootopia at Shanghai Disney Resort, Josh D’Amaro introduced Duke Weaselton, a dynamic robotic character capable of expressive movements and speech. Duke represents the latest advancement in robotic technology by Walt Disney Imagineering R&D and Disney Research. With expressive animated faces and newfound speech abilities, Duke was seamlessly integrated into a stage show, showcasing Disney’s commitment to elevating storytelling through groundbreaking technological innovations.
As we celebrate National Inventors Day, we applaud the boundless spirit of innovation at Walt Disney Imagineering, where creativity knows no limits, and the magic continues to evolve for future generations of guests. Stay tuned as we continue to share more innovation from these creative minds!