An animatronic giant
Garner Holt Productions has developed a new animatronic Yeti character, due to be installed at a themed attraction in early 2009. Weighing in at 1,700 pounds and standing 9ft tall, the Yeti is also one of the largest single animated figures ever built, yet incredibly friendly.
“He’s a gentle giant,” says Garner Holt, founder and president of the 30-year-old animatronics company. “He’s super hero sized, but has the heart of a child.”
The initiative to give the Yeti a personality was one of Holt’s prime directives in creating the creature. “In most cases, you only see an animatronic for a few seconds as you pass by on a ride. I wanted the Yeti to be a character the audience could experience for long periods of time and that would have a real sense of spontaneity, as if everything he did was improvised.”
With this goal in mind, designers at Garner Holt Productions wanted the mythical creature to stand out from its robotic predecessors. In order to meet this goal, the Yeti needed a sophisticated set of sensory tools to bring him to life. “He uses a variety of approachable vocals and emotional facial expressions to suggest a personality,” details Holt.
Although he lacks a spoken language, the Yeti will be able to communicate using American sign language. His heavily articulated hands, with more than 30 moves each, are capable of performing any movement achievable by the human hand. His eyes contain minute cameras linked to a photo-recognition library. Using this stored information, the Yeti will be able to pick out words and phrases in sign language and even to recognise faces stored in his database.
His facial movements include eye blinks, nostril flaring, and sticking out and wiggling of his tongue. In total the Yeti boasts 164 individual functions and 46 high-powered micro-processors throughout his body, synched to an Ethernet network to communicate between his interior and exterior computer controllers.
The Yeti’s interior framework, or skeleton, is partially made of titanium. By using electric actuators inside the figure, instead of hydraulic or pneumatic cylinders, the animatronic possessed enormous strength and us able to lift a man weighing 200 pounds.