How to Create Simple Animatronics


Robotic puppets first appear at Disneyland, but they soon made their way into the movies with the name animatronics. Special effects animatronics use electronic and engineering skills to create lifelike creatures like dinosaurs. With simple technology at your fingertips, you can create simple animatronics for school projects or to grace your doorway at Halloween.

Things You'll Need

  • Tubing
  • Sharp knife
  • String
  • Narrow PVC pipe
  • Hot glue gun with glue sticks
  • Tape
  • Embroidery hoop
  • Draw out your idea of what you would like your creature to look like. Best to keep your first animatronics simple, but use something with joints like a claw.

  • Build the fingers of your claw from tubing. Cut a V-shape into the tubing at the joints of each claw. You want each individual claw to droop appropriately at the joints.

  • Make the hand part of the claw from PVC pipe of an appropriate width. If you can find pipe with angles, it will look more realistic.

  • Thread a long piece of sturdy string through each claw. Tie it off at one end of the claws. These will be the claw tips.

  • Insert the other ends of your strings through your PVC hand. Glue the claws to your hand, and tape the string into your hand to hold the string in place.

  • Attach the embroidery hoop to use as frame. Secure the string to the frame, removing the tape from the string.

  • Pull each string to move one of the claws. This is the simplest way, although special effects people often use electronics or remote controls to move animatronics. Tie strings together for ease of use.

Tips & Warnings

  • Dress up your animatronics claw once you have the mechanics of movement down. Use your imagination to make the claw look more claw-like by dressing it up with fabric or foam.
  • If you want a little more challenge, look into buying a piece of hardware, called the MAKE controller, available from the Making Things website. The controller works with hobby servos, motors and lights.
  • Today, the film industry uses computer animation more often than the more costly special effects animatronics.
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