How Animatronics Works

In the Beginning

The first two steps in creating an animatronic figure are the sketches and the miniature model.

Put it on Paper
The first thing that happens with any animatronic figure is that an artist creates preliminary sketches of the creature. The Spinosaurus sketches were developed by working closely with expert paleontologist Jack Horner and the crew working on "Jurassic Park III." The sketches are analyzed and changes are suggested. Eventually, the artist creates a detailed illustration of the creature. In the case of Spinosaurus, SWS went from preliminary sketch to final design in about three weeks.

Photo courtesy Stan Winston Studio, photographer Chuck Zlotnick
An artist sketches the Spinosaurus.

The paper sketches are vital. Everything else relies on the accuracy of these designs.

Build a Maquette
From the final paper design, a miniature scale model called a maquette is created. Fashioned out of clay, the first maquette SWS made of Spinosaurus was one-sixteenth scale. This initial maquette is used to verify that the paper design is accurate. If there are any problems, they are corrected and a new paper design is made.

Photo courtesy Stan Winston Studio, photographer Chuck Zlotnick
Jurassic Park III Director Joe Johnston and the one-fifth-scale maquette of the Spinosaurus

Next, a one-fifth-scale maquette is made. This sounds small, until you realize the sheer size of the Spinosaurus. The one-fifth-scale model was about 8 feet (2.4 m) long! The larger maquette allows the designers to add more surface detail. This maquette is then used to produce the full-size sculpture.