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  • The Death of the Audio-Animatronic Show

    The lifespan of this specific type of attraction began in 1963 and ended around 1983. The first was Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room and was a smash hit showcasing Walt’s new form of animation. The next two were created for the New York World’s Fair, these were Carousel of Progress and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. In 1971, Imagineering created a second wave of A-A shows for the Magic Kingdom with three new shows including The Mickey Mouse Revue, The Hall of Presidents and Country Bear Jamboree. Tropical Serenade aka Tiki Room was created for the park as well. The popularity of Country Bear Jamboree would help replicate the show and bring it to Disneyland in 1972. By 1973, Carousel of Progress at Disneyland began to see dwindling attendance so it was decided to be moved to DisneyWorld and in it’s place, a new A-A show would debut, America Sings.

    Imagineering began to take a break from Animatronic shows as the 70’s brought more thrill seeking fans and the Imagineers answered by bringing in Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain and an abominable snowman filled Matterhorn Bobsleds. It wasn’t until an animatronics heavy Epcot began to come into being. Slated for Epcot in 1982 was a new slate of Audio-Animatronic shows, these were The American Adventure, Kitchen Kabaret and Meet the World. In the late 70’s, officials from Tokyo went to the Magic Kingdom to pick out a selection of attractions to replicate in Tokyo. Among them, The Enchanted Tiki Room, Country Bear Jamboree and The Mickey Mouse Revue we’re picked. Rather than replicate The Mickey Mouse Revue, they thought it would be easier to relocate it to Tokyo. Some say reasons for this was because of low attendance and others say it was because the queue could not fit the amount of people allowed inside. Meet the World would also make the change by heading to Tokyo Disneyland instead of Epcot which had already completed the building for the attraction. In 1983, Tokyo Disneyland would debut Country Bear Theater, The Enchanted Tiki Room, Meet the World and The Mickey Mouse Revue.

    After 1983, Animatronic shows seemed to be a thing of the past, a lost art and something the public wasn’t really interested in. New shows were kinda bounced around in late 80s and 90’s but they never came into being. Animatronic shows were more integrated into 3-D shows and shows which had a video element, examples being Muppet-Vision 3D, The Timekeeper, Cranium Command and it’s Tough to be a Bug!. When Disneyland Paris debuted there was not one A-A show in sight, nor for any other theme park thereafter.

    Many of these shows have gone under, America Sings saw dwindling attendance in the 80’s and closes it’s doors in 1988, the source material didn’t help it’s case either. In 2001, Country Bear Jamboree at Disneyland closed because of low attendance numbers that began in the 80’s. Meet the World in Tokyo closed in 2002 due to low attendance. Kitchen Kabaret/Food Rocks closes in 2004, also the source material was a big reason for that. Lastly The Mickey Mouse Revue closed in 2009, why? I’m not sure because Disney characters are highly popular in Japan.

    Many of these existing A-A shows have held onto life by being reprogrammed in some form or another. Many still exist for various reasons, Carousel of Progress was Walt’s favorite attraction and the family made a deal with the company to never get rid of it. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln was important to Walt because Lincoln was his idol, it would be very upsetting to take this out and considering it takes up such a small space. Tiki Room at Disneyland still fills the seats in my experience. CBJ and Tiki Room are very popular in Tokyo. American Adventure is very important to Epcot and defines its country at World Showcase. Hall of Presidents has encountered it’s political problems so who know how long more it could last. I feel like the Country Bears and Tiki Room in Disneyworld are holding on by a thread.

    I love these shows, they are of a bygone era and something you just don’t see anymore, there are many who feel they are boring because they are not rides but use Disney ride elements. When I’m watching them, it just screams Disney, it’s something Disney created and perfected and it just represents such a classic Disney feel. How do you all feel about Animatronic shows? Like them? Love Them? How do they make you feel? Dislike Them? Find them Boring? Please explain.
    Last edited by MAC1986; 07-24-2020, 07:54 PM.

  • #2
    Nice overview. I've only experienced the Disneyland AA shows.

    I didn't mind seeing the Carousel of Progress go, but I really miss America Sings. But I knew its size and lightly-attended theater (when I was there towards the end, anyway) was due for the chopping block. Splash Mountain is no consolation.

    Tiki Room at Disneyland fills its niche well, being landlocked into a tiny area that wouldn't be much good for anything else. *whew* The popularity of Dole Whip probably helps too.

    Lincoln was closed for a while (1973-1975) but popular sentiment brought it back and it also seems to be safe in its location.

    CBJ never seemed to be a good fit at Disneyland, made worse by its dual theaters, and comparatively minimalist design once the expansive America Sings opened not too long afterwards.

    When I watched the ASIMO show at Innoventions I couldn't help but think that if Walt Disney were alive today he would be planning rides and shows with free-roaming AAs.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by MAC1986 View Post
      The lifespan of this specific type of attraction began in 1963 and ended around 1983. The first was Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room and was a smash hit showcasing Walt’s new form of animation. The next two were created for the New York World’s Fair, these were Carousel of Progress and Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln. In 1971, Imagineering created a second wave of A-A shows for the Magic Kingdom with three new shows including The Mickey Mouse Revue, The Hall of Presidents and Country Bear Jamboree. Tropical Serenade aka Tiki Room was created for the park as well. The popularity of Country Bear Jamboree would help replicate the show and bring it to Disneyland in 1972. By 1973, Carousel of Progress at Disneyland began to see dwindling attendance so it was decided to be moved to DisneyWorld and in it’s place, a new A-A show would debut, America Sings.

      Imagineering began to take a break from Animatronic shows as the 70’s brought more thrill seeking fans and the Imagineers answered by bringing in Thunder Mountain, Space Mountain and an abominable snowman filled Matterhorn Bobsleds. It wasn’t until an animatronics heavy Epcot began to come into being. Slated for Epcot in 1982 was a new slate of Audio-Animatronic shows, these were The American Adventure, Kitchen Kabaret and Meet the World. In the late 70’s, officials from Tokyo went to the Magic Kingdom to pick out a selection of attractions to replicate in Tokyo. Among them, The Enchanted Tiki Room, Country Bear Jamboree and The Mickey Mouse Revue we’re picked. Rather than replicate The Mickey Mouse Revue, they thought it would be easier to relocate it to Tokyo. Some say reasons for this was because of low attendance and others say it was because the queue could not fit the amount of people allowed inside. Meet the World would also make the change by heading to Tokyo Disneyland instead of Epcot which had already completed the building for the attraction. In 1983, Tokyo Disneyland would debut Country Bear Theater, The Enchanted Tiki Room, Meet the World and The Mickey Mouse Revue.

      After 1983, Animatronic shows seemed to be a thing of the past, a lost art and something the public wasn’t really interested in. New shows were kinda bounced around in late 80s and 90’s but they never came into being. Animatronic shows were more integrated into 3-D shows and shows which had a video element, examples being Muppet-Vision 3D, The Timekeeper, Cranium Command and it’s Tough to be a Bug!. When Disneyland Paris debuted there was not one A-A show in sight, nor for any other theme park thereafter.

      Many of these shows have gone under, America Sings saw dwindling attendance in the 80’s and closes it’s doors in 1988, the source material didn’t help it’s case either. In 2001, Country Bear Jamboree at Disneyland closed because of low attendance numbers that began in the 80’s. Meet the World in Tokyo closed in 2002 due to low attendance. Kitchen Kabaret/Food Rocks closes in 2004, also the source material was a big reason for that. Lastly The Mickey Mouse Revue closed in 2009, why? I’m not sure because Disney characters are highly popular in Japan.

      Many of these existing A-A shows have held onto life by reprogramming the show in some form or another. Many still exist because for various reasons, Carousel of Progress was Walt’s favorite attraction and the family made a deal with the company to never get rid of it. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln was important to Walt because Lincoln was his idol, it would be very upsetting to take this out and considering it takes up such a small space. Tiki Room at Disneyland still fills the seats in my experience. CBJ and Tiki Room are very popular in Tokyo. American Adventure is very important to Epcot and defines its country at World Showcase. Hall of Presidents has encountered it’s political problems so who know how long more it could last. I feel like the Country Bears and Tiki Room are holding on by a thread at Disneyworld.

      I love these shows, they are of a bygone era and something you just don’t see anymore, there are many who feel they are boring because they are not rides but use Disney ride elements. When I’m watching them, it just screams Disney, it’s something Disney created and perfected and it just represents such a classic Disney feel. How do you all feel about Animatronic shows? Like them? Love Them? How do they make you feel? Dislike Them? Find them Boring? Please explain.
      In all honesty, I don't think the decline in "interest" of AAs is due to the technology, but rather in the application of it. If you look at the Attractions which use a combination of screens and AA, the AA is much more entertaining. You bring up Country Bear Jamboree and America Sings as examples. Those didn't decline because of the AA technology. Are you going to tell me if they kept CBJ and AS but just replaced the AAs with 3D screens, they would have increased in popularity? I highly doubt it.

      The decline of AAs, I believe, is due to the Pressler effect - do it on the cheap to maximize profits.

      And why not. When the Lemmings...I mean Guests...put up with ever increasing ticket prices, while Disney slaps some inexpensive screens on some tracked ride, why not abandon AAs?

      I think RoR would have been a much better Attraction if they would have played up the AAs. Look at the Imperial Hanger Bay with all the Stormtroopers. Disney could have plussed that with a lot more action. Instead what did we get? A bunch of static store manikins dressed up like Stormtroopers.

      No, I disagree. Audio-Animatronics didn't lose their appeal due to the art form, they lost it due to the application.
      We need another Walt...and fast!

      "It's always more difficult to recover than it is to do the right thing at the beginning" - Tony Baxter,
      The Imagineering Story, Episode 4 "Hit or Miss"

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Laugh-O-Grams View Post

        In all honesty, I don't think the decline in "interest" of AAs is due to the technology, but rather in the application of it. If you look at the Attractions which use a combination of screens and AA, the AA is much more entertaining. You bring up Country Bear Jamboree and America Sings as examples. Those didn't decline because of the AA technology. Are you going to tell me if they kept CBJ and AS but just replaced the AAs with 3D screens, they would have increased in popularity? I highly doubt it.

        The decline of AAs, I believe, is due to the Pressler effect - do it on the cheap to maximize profits.

        And why not. When the Lemmings...I mean Guests...put up with ever increasing ticket prices, while Disney slaps some inexpensive screens on some tracked ride, why not abandon AAs?

        I think RoR would have been a much better Attraction if they would have played up the AAs. Look at the Imperial Hanger Bay with all the Stormtroopers. Disney could have plussed that with a lot more action. Instead what did we get? A bunch of static store manikins dressed up like Stormtroopers.

        No, I disagree. Audio-Animatronics didn't lose their appeal due to the art form, they lost it due to the application.
        I’m not talking about Audio-Animatronics in general, solely where they are applied as hosts of their own theater show rather than them being used in rides.

        Comment


        • #5
          The Tiki Room is my favorite thing in the park (and let's be honest, probably the planet) by far. It always makes me upset when people find it boring. It's something I kinda get, the older sound and AAs make some people wanna snooze. After Moana came out, I've seen rumors of the Tiki room becoming a Moana experience circle every now and again... and it always scares me. My fears were quelled a bit with Tropical Hideaway, but it's hard to see past the fact that the general public would probably prefer something different. I hope Disney can avoid this in any way possible- even if it requires a big refurb that changes things. I love the AA shows to death, they're some of my favorite things to do when visiting the parks. I hope such a big part of the Disney Parks experience doesn't vanish

          Comment


          • #6
            Originally posted by MAC1986 View Post

            I’m not talking about Audio-Animatronics in general, solely where they are applied as hosts of their own theater show rather than them being used in rides.
            Well that's my point. It's not that the AA has lost favor and the "Ride" has become more sophisticated. It is the opposite. The rides have been dumbed down. It's the laziness of ride design (Toy Story Mania anyone?).

            I'll go back to RoR. That ride isn't good because of the use of screens, it's only because of the practical sets and physical effects. If that ride was all screens, it would be received with a resounding thud.
            We need another Walt...and fast!

            "It's always more difficult to recover than it is to do the right thing at the beginning" - Tony Baxter,
            The Imagineering Story, Episode 4 "Hit or Miss"

            Comment


            • #7
              Originally posted by Laugh-O-Grams View Post

              Well that's my point. It's not that the AA has lost favor and the "Ride" has become more sophisticated. It is the opposite. The rides have been dumbed down. It's the laziness of ride design (Toy Story Mania anyone?).

              I'll go back to RoR. That ride isn't good because of the use of screens, it's only because of the practical sets and physical effects. If that ride was all screens, it would be received with a resounding thud.
              Dumbed down is definitely right, Shades of the upcoming Spiderman ride or whatever the hell its called.

              Comment


              • #8
                I think AA shows, and AA's in general, began to fall out of favor when Disney really started pushing the idea that the characters were real. There was a time when yes, they invited guests to pretend it was all real, but there was a subdued acknowledgement that it was a pretense, and since we're all just playing along together, how cool are these robots that enable us to pretend on this level? The parks were willing to show off their technology as technology, and you must admit that robots that can talk and sing and emote on the level of a Disney AA constitute pretty impressive technology.

                Nowadays, it seems like they really want us to believe that these are the really for-real characters, brought to life off the movie screen via actual pixie dust, and when that's the message, suddenly AA's are shockingly limited. They can sing, but not dance. They're bolted in place so they can't walk or run, and you certainly can't hug one or get its autograph. If we're to watch characters put on a show, they should be able to do all the things characters in a movie can do, making college students in costumes a better deal than robots.
                Like this post? Read more like it at The Disneyland Dilettante!

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Karalora View Post
                  I think AA shows, and AA's in general, began to fall out of favor when Disney really started pushing the idea that the characters were real. There was a time when yes, they invited guests to pretend it was all real, but there was a subdued acknowledgement that it was a pretense, and since we're all just playing along together, how cool are these robots that enable us to pretend on this level? The parks were willing to show off their technology as technology, and you must admit that robots that can talk and sing and emote on the level of a Disney AA constitute pretty impressive technology.

                  Nowadays, it seems like they really want us to believe that these are the really for-real characters, brought to life off the movie screen via actual pixie dust, and when that's the message, suddenly AA's are shockingly limited. They can sing, but not dance. They're bolted in place so they can't walk or run, and you certainly can't hug one or get its autograph. If we're to watch characters put on a show, they should be able to do all the things characters in a movie can do, making college students in costumes a better deal than robots.
                  I don't know, this looks pretty real to me



                  Last edited by stovk; 07-24-2020, 09:27 PM.
                  “Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them
                  so many years of our own lives.”


                  DL Trips: '58, '59, '61, '65, '66, '67, '68x2, '69x2, '70x2, '71x2, '73x2, '74x2, '75x2, '76x2, '77, '78,x2, '79x2, '80x2, '81, '82, '83, '88, '89x3, '90x2, '91, '93, '94, '95x2, '96, '97, '98x4, '99, '00, '01, '02, '03, '04, '05, '06, '07x2, '08, '09x2, '10, '11, '13
                  WDW Trips: '81
                  EPCOT Trips: '93
                  Tokyo DL Trips: '86

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    Originally posted by MAC1986 View Post

                    Dumbed down is definitely right, Shades of the upcoming Spiderman ride or whatever the hell its called.
                    I'm with ya on that one. Lord help us.
                    “Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them
                    so many years of our own lives.”


                    DL Trips: '58, '59, '61, '65, '66, '67, '68x2, '69x2, '70x2, '71x2, '73x2, '74x2, '75x2, '76x2, '77, '78,x2, '79x2, '80x2, '81, '82, '83, '88, '89x3, '90x2, '91, '93, '94, '95x2, '96, '97, '98x4, '99, '00, '01, '02, '03, '04, '05, '06, '07x2, '08, '09x2, '10, '11, '13
                    WDW Trips: '81
                    EPCOT Trips: '93
                    Tokyo DL Trips: '86

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      I think there is more to it here.

                      The 3D movies, Captain EO, Honey I shrunk the Audience, MuppetVision 3D, and It’s Tough to be a Bug were definitely the replacements for AA shows. Cheaper maintenance costs I'm sure were big driving reasons for the change.

                      The thing is though, all of those shows are now gone at DLR as well (with the only caveat being that MuppetVision is still at DHS in Orlando).

                      If the maintenance costs were already lower with the 3D movies, I think a larger part of this must be a perception on Disney’s part that indoor shows of any kind are somehow no longer popular with guests as there have not really been any replacement for the shows in the parks (with the only caveat here being Mickey’s Philharmagic going into the old MuppetVision theater, which I still haven’t personally seen yet, but am not sure I will like as much as I did MuppetVision, nor am I convinced that it will stay long).

                      The It’s Tough to be a Bug, MuppetVision (until recently), and Captain EO theaters were instead converted into rather worthless attractions by showing feature film trailers which has always seemed odd to me. If the films themselves were not expensive to maintain, why stop using them all together? I get the controversy with Michael Jackson being a possible reason for the removal of Captain EO, but the rest seemed to have no reason at all for their closure.
                      Mike_M

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by stovk View Post

                        I don't know, this looks pretty real to me
                        That's also a ride with just the one AA, as opposed to a show with several.
                        Like this post? Read more like it at The Disneyland Dilettante!

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                        • #13
                          I loved the AA shows as a kid - CBJ, America Sings, Tiki Room. I have never been to the American Experience at Epcot, but I'd like to someday. As an adult, I don't visit the Tiki Room very often. I still think it's a good show, I just am more interested in rides now.

                          I like the idea of roaming AA in the rides. Bring the technology forward and I think current kids would be interested, but a static show with AA is not novel for today's kids. I think they also prefer something huggable with a show, though with coronavirus who knows when that will be back in vogue. I actually like the characters up on the buildings posing and waving, but I'm an adult who doesn't need to hug a costumed character ever.
                          "I wish they all could be California Bears!"

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Karalora View Post

                            That's also a ride with just the one AA, as opposed to a show with several.
                            The point is the technology exists.
                            “Not the least hard thing to bear when they go from us, these quiet friends, is that they carry away with them
                            so many years of our own lives.”


                            DL Trips: '58, '59, '61, '65, '66, '67, '68x2, '69x2, '70x2, '71x2, '73x2, '74x2, '75x2, '76x2, '77, '78,x2, '79x2, '80x2, '81, '82, '83, '88, '89x3, '90x2, '91, '93, '94, '95x2, '96, '97, '98x4, '99, '00, '01, '02, '03, '04, '05, '06, '07x2, '08, '09x2, '10, '11, '13
                            WDW Trips: '81
                            EPCOT Trips: '93
                            Tokyo DL Trips: '86

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by stovk View Post

                              The point is the technology exists.
                              If by "the technology," you mean still-improving audio-animatronic technology...yes, obviously it does. My point was less about whether WDI still uses and develops AA's, and more about the company's approach to presenting AA's and how that rubs off onto attraction design. If by "the technology" you mean robots that can do all the things live performers can do on a stage or costumed characters can do in a meet-and-greet...no, it doesn't exist, and I think that's part of why the technology that does exist has been less emphasized over the years. Marketing doesn't want us to be impressed with the special effects. Marketing wants us not to notice that they are special effects at all. Marketing wants us to totally suspend our disbelief in the reality of Disney characters, and that is much easier to do with a live person in a costume who can dance in a parade, sign autographs, and hug you, than with a robot that can do none of these things. So they've gradually moved away from AA-intensive attractions.
                              Like this post? Read more like it at The Disneyland Dilettante!

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                              • #16
                                The fairly new (90s) idea of in-park Broadway-musical-lites is probably another factor keeping the AA show in Yesterland.

                                Comment


                                • #17
                                  I think the main problem with lack of interest in AA musical stage shows is they're still locked into the "stage" paradigm. Like the early days of cinema when a static camera filmed actors on a stage, AA shows have remained imitations of human stage shows. Unlike cinema, they never developed their own storytelling language.

                                  The irony is that 57 years ago, the first AA musical show pointed the way forward: In the Tiki Room, the entire theater comes alive with the audience inside it.
                                  "Disneyland is often called a magic kingdom because
                                  it combines fantasy and history, adventure and learning,
                                  together with every variety of recreation and fun,
                                  designed to appeal to everyone."

                                  - Walt Disney

                                  "Disneyland is all about turning movies into rides."
                                  - Michael Eisner

                                  "It's very symbiotic."
                                  - Bob Chapek

                                  Comment


                                  • #18
                                    Originally posted by bigcatrik View Post
                                    The fairly new (90s) idea of in-park Broadway-musical-lites is probably another factor keeping the AA show in Yesterland.
                                    That sounds the most plausible. When an AA show goes stale you reprogram it or overlay it, a stage show gets replaced. Shows like POTC and HM get their key AA figures upgraded because of the attention they get (like the Auctioneer or Abe Lincoln), but the minor figures are still first generation that just get maintained. I think the day of the pure AA show are done but I hope an AA heavy attraction, like POTC, never goes away. If a new AA show is ever created it must be engaging.
                                    Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups.

                                    Comment


                                    • #19
                                      Is there a case for Murphy the dragon in Fantasmic? He’s still fairly new, and it appears that they’re always improving him (re: Fantasmic 2.0). I guess the question is that if there was a revival of AA stage shows, what would they look like today?

                                      Comment


                                      • #20
                                        AA works with non-human characters (that includes impossible human cartoons) or a strong storyline. Tiki Room is a perfect application of both. Lincoln & Friends works because of the presidential narrative (true or false is another matter). Even the latest AA mannequins, with their tiny, high-torque motors, lack the acceleration that we cannot mistake in real human movement.

                                        Comment

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