The 8th annual celebration of interactive technology dubbed Otronicon is taking place this weekend at the Orlando Science Center and this year Disney is showing off a behind-the-scenes look at some of their theme park technologies.
Attractions represented at Disney’s exhibit include Radiator Springs Racers from Cars Land, it’s a small world, the Hall of Presidents / Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, plus a few other popular characters.
It’s all in the name of education, where Disney is coupling these interactive displays with “Engineering the Magic” demonstrations taking place throughout the weekend at select times.
Video: Tour of Disney’s Otronicon exhibit
Representing Radiator Springs Racers is Luigi himself. Though not quite as large as his Cars Land counterpart, this Audio-Animatronics figure, scaled down to around 1.5-feet tall, shows off pneumatic cylinders animating him from underneath, in sync with audio from the ride, all triggered at the push of a touch screen button.
A head from the iconic attraction “it’s a small world” sits on the table next to Luigi, face separated from the robotics behind it, offering Otronicon visitors a chance to push a pair of buttons that trigger eye blinks and mouth movements. Slight creep factor aside, it’s a great way to get up close with the technology that’s been powering Disney’s theme park magic for decades.
Also on display is an A-1 Audio-Animatronics hand, the kind used on human figures like those seen in the Hall of Presidents, controlled by Disney’s digital animation control system, also shown off. As the fingers automatically cycle through a series of lifelike movements, visions of “Terminator” immediately come to mind. But the intricacies of how this robotic hand is assembled and powered are impressive, with Disney’s Cast Members on hand to describe the details behind its inner workings.
Small animatronics figures of Wall-E and Eve sit atop a stack of “Buy n Large” boxes, seemingly communicating with each other. Apparently this tiny pair was created by an Imagineer for demonstration purposes, though a fully functioning, life-sized Wall-E was built and seen in public, but never made it into Disney’s theme parks.
A wooden block demonstration shows off a magnetic braking system used to slow down attractions like Radiator Springs Racers. It’s rather simple, but quite ingenious.
Otronicon visitors can also pretend they are Frontierland Cast Members by controlling a track simulation of Disneyland’s Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, dispatching trains at the push of a button as well as pausing them on its three lift hills by turning switches. Though the control panel isn’t an exact duplicate of what is used in the parks, the wiring and technology behind it is, with a setup like this allowing Disney’s engineers to test and adjust rides from offices before implementing changes out in the parks.