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The Death of the Audio-Animatronic Show

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  • bayouguy
    replied
    AA will not die, but probably be used sparely...

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  • Co Foo
    replied
    I’m not sure if there’s a grand unifying theory of AA use in shows to be applied here. It's all about the application.

    I like the Hall of Presidents and American Adventure at Disney World, but I don’t like Country Bear Jamboree.
    My favorite is Tiki Room, but the animatronics are so small in scale that it doesn’t really matter that they’re not lifelike. In fact, that adds more to the charm of it.

    In general though, I’m not a huge fan of shows. Given that, I understand why management would shy away from developing a ton of new animatronics for them and basing an entire attraction around it. When the show gets stale you have to constantly be putting in new expensive tech. Some of the new AAs are spectacular (see the Avatar Na'Vi one above), but I have no idea what it would cost to scale that out to an entire show's worth of AAs. I also think there's a case to be made for less is more. If you have 100 advanced AAs then they start to lose their impact.

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  • sbk1234
    replied
    I believe that Disneyland definitely lacks for more animatronic rides and shows. This is something that has been uniquely a Disney. Even though other companies may use them, their quality has always seemed to trail behind Disney’s, in my experience.

    I’m of the mindset that it’s the quality of the attraction that will bring in an audience and make them come back, regardless of the technology or format used. That said, I personally see no reason why an animatronic show can’t work and be popular, if it’s made to be entertaining enough and it’s made with quality. I think the biggest motivator in all of Disney’s decisions is money, and this is no exception. Too many bean counters are trying to squeeze out every possible penny for the absolutely least amount of investment. Maintenance costs and upkeep fitting into it, as well. It’s this attitude, which comes from above, that has really held the imagineers back. (But that’s a whole other discussion.)
    I think Disneyland really needs one or two more fully animatronic shows to balance out their entertainment offerings. Had I been in a position to make decisions for Disney, Galaxy’s Edge would have an animatronic Show, as would another land. But nobody at Disney ever asked me.

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  • Tomorrowland_1967
    replied
    I’ve never heard CoP suffered from dwindling attendance. It was just GE’s wish to show off their show to east coast audiences. They made that decision at CoP’s height around 1971. Throwing WDI into a tizzy, regarding what to do with a future empty carousel theater. America Sings development started in 1972. Somewhere I got a picture of imagineer Al Bertino wrapping himself in an American flag on holiday in Florida in 1972. ... and the idea for America Sings was born.

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  • Undaunted Mansion
    replied
    In terms of attendance levels, I think much of it has to do with repeatability. Generally, rides are more repeatable than film-based attractions. I think this is true for the AA shows as well. They have more repeatability than films, but there's something about moving through physical space that brings people back to rides over and over again.

    Perhaps value for money is also part of it. If you're paying $100 admission, you're likely to focus on unique experiences (such as rides) that you can't get anywhere else. I imagine plenty of guests think "Why would I sit around and watch a movie when I have a TV at home? Let's go on a roller coaster."

    I've always loved AA shows, and it's a shame there are so few left. The Tiki Room is a must-see on every visit, and though I've only been to Florida a few times, I dearly miss the Kitchen Kabaret. Since Disneyland now only has one, I certainly wouldn't mind if they added another.

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  • JerrodDRagon
    replied
    I'm not against more shows...but they just don't draw people in. Tiki Room gets I think the most because of it being located next to the Dole Whip.

    I love Lincolns show but it has maybe 1/50 filled up when ever I've seen it sadly. But maybe one day we will see some really high tech shows just because they want to show off...The Spiderman ride might not impress people here but the swing AA that will do shows in front of the ride is impressive as hell

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  • Jar.Jar.Abrams
    replied
    Originally posted by Karalora View Post

    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.
    I'm trying to imagine POTC with "live actors", and honestly, it would suck. To me it would be like another cheesy "Pirate's Dinner Adventure".

    I know it is strange, but with AAs, I am drawn into the story more. With "live actors" I can't help but not think of that person in a (not so enjoyable) human way. I'm always thinking things like, "I wonder how far of a commute this guy has to make to get here?" "That looks like the girl I saw puking her guts out at the bar I was at last night."

    Point is, I know they are actors and I know they are acting. In the back of my mind I'm wondering if they think this (performance) sucks doing it day in and day out.

    Lastly, there is no consistency, and that bugs me the most. I saw CHICAGO with the original Broadway cast. It was terrific. I then saw it a few more times in other cities with different cast members. It was very disappointing.

    No. Keep live actors to what they do best, stage and film. Keep them out of Attractions - they'll just ruin the story.

    Leave a comment:


  • Yohohoho
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Captain Andy
    replied
    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?

    Leave a comment:


  • MRaymond
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Mr Wiggins
    replied
    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.

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

    Leave a comment:


  • Karalora
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • stovk
    replied
    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.

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  • Sun Bonnet
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Karalora
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • Mike_M
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • stovk
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:


  • stovk
    replied
    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.

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  • Karalora
    replied
    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.

    Leave a comment:

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