Garner Holt’s Next Gen ‘Mr. Lincoln’ Animatronic May Bring More Emotion to Disney Parks


Disneyland’s Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln may become even greater, if test footage of a next generation audio-animatronic is any indication.

The Mr. Lincoln bust was developed by Garner Holt Productions (GHP), who makes many animatronics for Disney Parks around the world. It is currently not in use, but is a test to show just how realistic and emotional audio-animatronics can be.

According to MiceChat, the bust was not designed specifically with Disneyland in mind. Rather, GHP looks to also utilize the technology in museums and other educational institutions.

The animatronic Lincoln bust we showcased at our open house represents the current state of the art in mechanical animation. It’s also the first in a new line of super-expressive animatronic products we’re calling “The Living Faces of History,” which we will market not only to our traditional theme park clients but to museums and cultural centers as a means of bringing cutting-edge technology into alternative narrative-driven locations.

(…) Our new venture will include historic personalities like Abraham Lincoln, Mark Twain, Benjamin Franklin, Eleanor Roosevelt, Thomas Edison, and many others—in fact, infinitely more as the expressive animatronic head platform we’ve created can be adapted to any person’s face. We can even digitally scan the faces of people living today to create animatronic characters based on specific individuals, as we did with Samuel Morrison of the African American Research Library and Cultural Center in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

According to GHP, their Mr. Lincoln is many times more advanced than the model Disney is currently using.

Animatronics generally run at 32 frames per second. With the expressive Lincoln, we run at a rate of 1,000 frames per second to ensure crisp and exceptionally fluid movement. When operating 45 individual actuators in a space as small as a human head—including twelve that operate just the lips, four on each eye, and so on—room and playback speed are at a premium. With this sort of fluid realism, combined with facial recognition and tracking and other AI features, I believe we’ll soon be looking at animatronics that effectively blur the line between fantasy and reality.

GHP has provided Disney Imagineering with several animatronics over the years, including those used in Under the Sea – Journey of the Little Mermaid, Radiator Springs Racers, Mystic Manor, Fantasmic and new dolls for it’s a small world to name but a few. They also have built several parade floats and props for Walt Disney World, Disneyland and Universal Studios, including new floats for venerable classics like the Main Street Electrical Parade.

Many of Disney’s audio-animatronics are still built by WDI, however, including the groundbreaking Shaman of Songs from the Na’vi River Journey in Pandora.

A Peek into the Future?

Will GHP be providing Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln with some new great moments? How about the Magic Kingdom’s Hall of Presidents with a mechanical Donald Trump?

Another project GHP is excited about involves a Yeti. In fact, the origin of Mr. Lincoln can be traced back to “Project Yeti”…

Our “Project Yeti” initiative focuses on the creation of a seven foot-tall animatronic yeti capable of more than 120 individual motions, more than thirty of which are in the figure’s face. The Yeti’s hands are so articulated that they can be programmed to communicate with the hearing impaired using American Sign Language. The figure also employs a GHP-created visual/mechanical interface that allows the figure to track individuals in an audience, lock onto faces, follow specific faces, colors, or images (like logos or other insignia), and cross-reference what it sees with an index of faces and other images so that the character can “recognize” individuals or specific insignia.

(…) In the same way, the GHP Expressive Head Project takes the things we learned over the past decade or so with the Yeti to the next level. The Yeti’s head is over 24 inches tall, and most of its motions are accomplished with traditional linear pneumatic actuators.  Now, we can fit more functions (almost twice as many) than we were able to get in the Yeti’s face into the considerably smaller footprint of the Lincoln character.

With the Yeti broken on Expedition Everest for many years now, would Disney tap GHP to replace it with a much more lifelike animatronic? It’s possible.

There’s no mention of whether or not Disney is thinking of using any of these “talking heads,” just that GHP is developing some super advanced animatronics that could someday wind up in a Disney park… or a competitor’s, like Universal.

[Source: MiceChat]

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I've loved Disney as long as I can remember. As a former newspaper editor, web developer, and Disney comics freelancer, I'm able to combine that experience into writing about Disney online. I'm also the co-host of a Disney fan podcast called 'Pirates & Princesses.' Opinions mine.