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How Animatronics Works

Putting it Together
When all the components are done, it's time to build the Spinosaurus. The frame is put together and then the mechanical systems are put in place. As each component is added, it is checked to ensure that it moves properly and doesn't interfere with other components. Most of the electronic components are then connected to the mechanical systems they will control. The controls have been tested with the mechanical systems prior to final assembly, but the systems are checked again.

Photo courtesy Stan Winston Studio, photographer Chuck Zlotnick
The "skeleton" of the Spinosaurus

Parts of the skin that have embedded pieces of the frame in them are put in place when the frame is assembled. The other skin pieces are fastened in place on the frame once the mechanical and electronic components are installed. Assembling the skin is a very laborious process. As each piece is added, the team has to check to make sure there are no problems, such as:

  • Unwanted folds
  • Buckling
  • Stretching
  • Too tight

Whenever one of these problems occurs, the skin must be adapted or attached differently. Also, there are places where you do want the skin to fold or hang loose or travel in a certain way, and it must be adjusted to achieve that effect. One of the tricks that SWS uses to make the Spinosaurus and other dinosaurs seem more realistic is to attach bungee cords between areas of skin and the frame. During movement, these bungee cords simulate tendons under the skin, bunching and stretching.

Photo courtesy Stan Winston Studio, photographer Chuck Zlotnick
Painting the skin

The skin is mostly "painted" before it is attached to the frame. Stan Winston Studio does not use actual paint, though. Instead, a specially formulated mixture that is akin to rubber cement is used. Tints are added to the mixture to get the correct color. Rosengrant says that they use this mixture in place of traditional paint because it bonds more strongly with the foam rubber and stretches with it as the animatronic moves.

Once the animatronic device is complete, the team has to test it and work out any problems.