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How Animatronics Works

Making it Move
The people that control the animatronic figure are called puppeteers, because that is all that an animatronic device is -- a sophisticated puppet. These puppeteers are skilled actors in their own right and will spend some time with the animatronic figure learning its range of movements. Rosengrant calls this "finding the performance." The puppeteers are determining what movements make the animatronic figure look angry, surprised, hungry or any other emotions or moods that are called for in the script.

Photo courtesy Stan Winston Studio, photographer Chuck Zlotnick
The telemetry device for controlling the arms

Eight puppeteers operate the Spinosaurus:

  • Basic head/body - swivels head, opens and closes jaws, moves neck back and forth, makes body sway from side to side
  • Tongue slide levers - moves tongue up and down, side to side and in or out
  • Eye joystick control - eyes move, eyelids blink and eye ridge moves
  • Front arms - full range of motion; hands open and close
  • Cart/body - moves creature back and forth on track
  • Breathing potentiometer - inflated bladder inside chest cavity simulates breathing
  • Tail - full range of motion
  • Body raise slider - raises and lowers body

Rosengrant is the coordinator, and he makes sure that all of the other puppeteers are working in concert to create a realistic and believable motion. The telemetry devices used to control the Spinosaurus range from simple handheld units, reminiscent of a video-game joystick, to bizarre contraptions you wouldn't find anywhere else. For example, the puppeteer who controls the arms has a device that he straps onto his own arms. He then acts out the movement he wants the Spinosaurus to make, and the telemetry device translates his motion into a control signal that is sent to the circuit board controlling the mechanical components that comprise the arm system of the Spinosaurus.


Mouse over the arrows to rotate the dinosaur's head.
As you move the head, hold down your mouse button to open the mouth.