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Audio-Animatronics

by
Paul F. Anderson

Reprinted with permission from Paul F. Anderson and the Persistence of Vision web site.


The following two articles are just a small portion of the 100-page article "A Great Big Beautiful Tomorrow: Walt Disney and World's Fairs" that appeared in Persistence of Vision #6/#7 (144 pages total). Although there is more in the article concerning Audio-Animatronics (not to mention the numerous photographs and illustrations), these two pieces together form the most comprehensive history of early Audio-Animatronics ever written.


This piece is from the Carousel of Progress section

AUDIO-ANIMATRONICS 101

To better understand the problems that were experienced in New York, it is important to understand the process that was used for Audio-Animatronics. With this understanding will come a new found respect for what Walt and his Imagineers accomplished, literally years before its time.

The first use of Audio-Animatronics was for Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland, which opened in June, 1963. The Tiki birds were operated using digital controls; that is, something that is either on or off. Tones were recorded onto tape, which on playback would cause a metal reed1 to vibrate. The vibrating reed would close a circuit2 and thus operate a relay. The relay sent a pulse of energy (electricity) to the figure's mechanism which would cause a pneumatic valve to operate, which resulted in the action, like the opening of a bird's beak. Each action (e.g., opening of the mouth) had a neutral position, otherwise known as the "natural resting position" (e.g., in the case of the Tiki bird it would be for the mouth to be closed). When there was no pulse of energy forthcoming, the action would be in, or return to, the natural resting position.

This digital/tone-reed system used pneumatic valves exclusively--that is, everything was operated by air pressure. Audio-Animatronics' movements that were operated with this system had two limitations. First, the movement had to be simple--on or off. (e.g., The open and shut beak of a Tiki bird or the blink of an eye, as compared to the many different positions of raising and lowering an arm.) Second, the movements couldn't require much force or power. (e.g., The energy needed to open a Tiki Bird's beak could easily be obtained by using air pressure, but in the case of lifting an arm, the pneumatic system didn't provide enough power to accomplish the lift.) Walt and WED knew that this this pneumatic system could not sufficiently handle the more complicated shows of the World's Fair. A new system was devised.

In addition to the digital programming of the Tiki show, the Fair shows required analog programming. This new "analog system" involved the use of voltage regulation. The tone would be on constantly throughout the show, and the voltage would be varied to create the movement of the figure. This "varied voltage" signal was sent to what was referred to as the "black box." The black boxes3 had the electronic equipment that would receive the signal and then activate the pneumatic and hydraulic valves4 that moved the performing figures. The use of hydraulics allowed for a substantial increase in power, which was needed for the more unwieldy and demanding movements. (Hydraulics were used exclusively with the analog system, and pneumatics were used only with the tone-reed/digital system.)

To illustrate the voltage regulation system, take for example the movement of the narrator's (Father) head. If the resting position was for the head to be at the far left position, then during the show the voltage would need to be controlled, by a tone, so that the head would be in the natural middle (e.g., looking forward at the audience). If the tone signalled the voltage to increase, then the head would move toward the right, if the voltage was decreased then it would move toward the left. When there was no voltage, the head would once again return to the resting position (far left). All of the actions that were variable (not just "on or off") for the figures were controlled in this way. All of the actions that were "on-and-off actions" (e.g., eye blink, simple finger movements, etc.) were controlled using the digital system. With the two systems working together, Walt had the technology he needed to program the figures in a lifelike manner.

Most people's conception of how the figures were programmed, dates back to the May 17, 1964, Wonderful World of Color episode, "Disneyland Goes To The World's Fair." In that TV program, Walt is seen working on an act from the Carousel show. As Walt explains the Audio-Animatronics figures, he makes a path to Wathel Rogers, Disney's principal Audio-Animatronics programmer for the Fair shows. Wathel, who is programming the Father figure, is strapped into a control harness that resembles something out of a medieval torture chamber. As Wathel moves and gestures, so does the AA figure; Walt comments that, "The operator of the harness has to be a bit of a ham actor." It was also learned that in order to make the figure talk, the operator would have to synchronize his lip movements to a pre-recorded dialogue track, although this is not demonstrated in the show. This same film, with additional footage, was also utilized in an early progress report to G.E. While the show is enlightening, it leaves one to believe that the programming of the figures is something that was done with relative ease. In actuality, the methods of programming the figures were infintely more complex--and impressive--than Walt would have us believe.

There were two basic ways of programming a figure. The first used two different methods of controling the voltage regulation. One was a joystick-like device called a transducer, and the other device was a potentiameter (an instrument for measuring an unknown voltage or potential difference by comparison to a standard voltage--like the volume control knob on a radio or television receiver). If this method was used, when a figure was ready to be programmed, each individual action--one at a time-- would be refined, rehearsed, and then recorded. For instance, the programmer, through the use of the potentiameter or transducer, would repeatedly rehearse the gesture of lifting the arm, until it was ready for a "take." This would not include finger movement or any other movements, it was simply the lifting of an arm. The take would then be recorded by laying down audible sound impulses (tones) onto a piece of 35 mm magnetic film stock5. The action could then instantly be played back to see if it would work, or if it had to be redone. (The machines used for recording and playback were the 35 mm magnetic units used primarily in the dubbing process for motion pictures. Many additional units that were capable of just playback were also required for this proccess. Because of their limited function these playback units were called "dummies.")

Eventually, there would be a number of actions for each figure, resulting in an equal number of reels of 35 mm magnetic film (e.g., ten actions would equal ten reels). All individual actions were then rerecorded onto a single reel--up to ten actions, each activated by a different tone, could be combined onto a single reel. For each action/reel, one dummy was required to play it back. Thus for ten actions, ten playback machines and one recording machine were required to combine the moves onto a new reel of 35 mm magnetic film.

"Sync marks" (syncrhonization points) were placed at the front end of each individual action reel and all of the dummies were interlocked. This way, during the rerecording, all of the actions would start at the proper time. As soon as it was finished, the new reel could be played back and the combined actions could be studied. Wathel, and often times Marc Davis (who did a lot of the programing and animation design for the Carousel show) would watch the figure go through the motions of the newly recorded multiple actions. If it was decided that the actions didn't work together, or something needed to be changed, the process was started over; either by rerecording the individual action, or by combining the multiple actions again. If the latter needed to be done, say the "arm lift action" came in too early, it would be accomplished by unlocking the dummy that had the "arm-lift reel" on it. The film would then be hand cranked, forward or back, a certain number of frames, which changed the start time of the arm lift in relation to the other actions. The dummies would be interlocked, and the actions, complete with new timing on the arm lift, would be recorded once again.

With this dummy system, the dialogue and music could also be interlocked and synched-up with the actions. Then the audio could be listened to as the figure went through the actions. This was extremely helpful in getting the gestures and actions to match the dialogue.

The other method used for programming a figure was the control harness. It was hooked up so that it would control the voltage regulation relative to the movements of the harness. Wathel tells horror stories of sitting in the harness for hours upon end, trying to keep every movement in his body to a minimum, except for the several movements they wanted for the figure. This method had the advantage of being able to do several actions at once, but obviously due to the complexities, a great deal of rehearsal was required.

There was also a harness for the mouth movements. Ken O'Brien, who was responsible for programming most of the mouth movements, used a transducer at first for the mouth programming. "Later we designed a harness for his head that controlled the movement of the jaw," remembered Gordon Williams, recording engineer on the AA figures for the Fair. "It was easier for him to coordinate the movement, because he could watch the movement at the same time that he was doing it." The movements programmed with the harnesses were also recorded on 35 mm magnetic film stock.

As explained so far, these methods would be fine if they were just dealing with a few actions; problem was, that wasn't the case. The narrator alone could have had as many as 30 actions--and there were four narrators (one for each Carousel of Progress act). Thus, just for the narrator figures, close to 120 actions could have been needed. All of this was to eventually be combined onto a 32-track6 one-inch master tape for the show. The dilemma was that the technology didn't exist to put so many actions onto so few tracks7. Enter the National Aeronautics & Space Adminstration.

A great deal of the technology that WED was using had been developed by NASA for use in the Space Race. Fortunately for Disney it had been declassified by the Government in time for use at the Fair. Of particular interest to Disney at this time, and with this problem, was IRIG (an acronym for Inertial Reference Intigrating Gyro). IRIG8 consisted of a series of ten tones, low to high, that wouldn't interfere9 with each other. Therefore a machine could not mistake one tone for another. With this technology Disney had the ability to place up to ten tones on any single track, thereby controlling up to ten actions on one track. It was the much-needed breakthrough.

As can be seen, a great deal of rehearsal, refinment, and time was needed to program the actions and gestures of a figure. The use of tones, tracks, and IRIG had to be masterfully manipulated and planned, in order that everything would work. Countless hours went into just piecing everything together; it was a Chinese puzzle of mammoth proportions. It is an amazing achievement, because the technology really wasn't available to do what they wanted to do. "We didn't let the technology stop us. We found a way to do it," beamed Williams.

In addition to the figure's movements, all of the activites on the stage were also recorded individually. Using Act 3 as an example, this included actions such as the vibrating washing machine, the oven door opening on the electric range, and the regrigerator door opening. There would be sub-actions within actions too, like when the refrigerator door opened, three actions occurred: the lower vegetable compartment drawer slid out; the lower meat compartment drawer slid out; and the ice cube trays slid out and tilted down a bit. For each of the actions required on stage, another individual reel was recorded, again using the sound impulses.

Finally, and still using tones, programming was done to control the theater lighting and stage lighting, (e.g., when the refrigerator door opened it needed to be spotlighted, as did all of the AA figures).

Besides the reels that were made for the actions in the show, the dialogue and music tracks were also recorded separately on magnetic film. What resulted was an enormous quantity of single reels, each one controlling a single piece of the show.

Through the use of a battery of dummies, all of these tapes were then "mixed down," onto single act masters, called "sub- masters." These sub-masters would contain all of the information for one specific act of the Carousel of Progress show, with each act using as many as six tracks. As can be imagined, a high degree of precision was required to transfer all of the recorded "messages" and the voice and music tracks onto the sub-masters. Again, due to IRIG each action did not require a single track of its own, and thus could be pieced together; but extreme care had to be taken because they didn't want Grandma's information10 going to the refrigerator door.

Chuck Myall summarizes the frustration in trying to combine all of the actions needed, "As I remember, they had AM and FM frequencies on the tracks so they could get a wider spectrum. Theoretically you could put 10 to 20 actions on one track. Problem was, we had hundreds of them [actions]." It was extremely complicated.

Further complicating the situation, was the problem of getting all of the tracks from the sub-masters to fit onto the 32-track master. This meant that in the breakdown each act might receive a total of six tracks11, with the less complicated exit and pre-show acts receiving four tracks each. Thus, every action in any given act--actions, dialogue, music, AA figures, lighting, etc.--had to be skillfully and painstakingly organized onto six tracks. As if the show itself wasn't enough, operational functions also needed to be put on the tracks of the master (e.g., turning the Carousel Theater, opening and shutting doors, etc.).

With everything in New York, the time came to run the master tape, and consequently all six acts simultaneously. It was quickly discovered that many of the signals had been recorded too "hot" (loud) in the mix downs. Because they were recorded too loudly, they were suffering from distortion and "cross-talk."12 With the tone readers getting all sorts of signals, it resulted in the show's AA figures and props getting mixed messages from numerous and varied tones. It was the definition of the word chaos. "We had to redo and change everything," recalled Art Philo.

In an effort to get the problems worked out, Gordon Williams would spend his days at Reeve Sound, a New York recording studio. In an attempt to find the tones that were over modulating, Gordon had the unenviable job of examining each of the individual tones with an oscilloscope. To assist him in this task, were Herb Taylor, one of WED's sound engineers, and Art Philo. The twosome would sit through the show taking notes on any figures (or actions) that were not working properly. The information would be phoned to Gordon who would then start the exacting task of finding not only the tones for that figure, but then the specific tone for whatever action, or actions, were causing the problem. First he would would have to locate the sub-master of the act, then the track that the action was on, then out of all the different sounds that were playing on that track, he would have to single out that action's tone. If there was a problem with it, he needed to figure out how to fix it, without messing everything else up. Fixing it might consist of anything from remixing all the actions for a single figure to rerecording an entire sub- master. To top it all off, the "fixing" had to be done at night!

"It was very difficult to get one master that was perfect for all the acts," explained Myall. "We were working with Reeve Sound Studio in Manhattan, but they were all booked up during the day. So we had to do it at night. Plus, since it required so much equipment, they didn't have it all on one floor. They were in a tall building, and their equipment was on different floors, so we had to run cables down the stairwell and down the fire escapes from one floor to another, just to get all the equipment hooked up. We fine-tuned and worked on the master at Reeve Sound, and then it would be given to a motorcycle driver who would hurry it over to Queens [the site of the Fair]. We'd run the master and we would sit in on all four acts and take notes on what was screwed up. Then it was back to the motorcyle driver and back it went to Reeve Sound for more work. This went on for a long time, and it was all done in the middle of the night."


This piece is from the Lincoln section

A WINKIN' BLINKIN' LINCOLN - AUDIO-ANIMATRONICS 102

The origins of the Lincoln Audio-Animatronics figure can be traced back to the very dawn of Audio-Animatronics. It began when Walt Disney and Ken Anderson embarked on a project of miniatures in 1950 called "Disneylandia." One day Walt said to Ken: "I'm tired of all of you [artists] doing all the drawing and painting around here. You know, I can draw and paint myself. I'm going to do something creative too. I'm putting you in a private room, and taking you off the payroll; I'll pay you out of my own pocket. I want you to draw some typical scenes of life in America, and then I'll carve the figures and make the scenes in miniature. When we get enough of them made, it will travel all over the United States. It will be like a little labyrinth, and when you break an electric eye the models will come to life."13

"I knew what he wanted in the way of drawings," Anderson later recalled14. "It was Americana that Walt liked, so I developed that kind of work using the techniques and style of Norman Rockwell. The first15 one we did was a soft-shoe dancer on a little proscenium stage. Walt wanted to do it all himself, but before long he got Cristadoro16 in to sculpt it; the machine shop in to build it; and Wathel Rogers in to work on the animation."

This soft-shoe dancer, often called the "Dancing Man," is considered to be the very genesis of Audio-Animatronics; it was the coming into being of Walt's ambition to develop a method of animating three-dimensional figures. To help on the Dancing Man, Walt contacted Buddy Ebsen. Ebsen, Walt reasoned, would provide two important elements for the animated figure. First, Ebsen would become the model for the miniature. Second, and the more important of the two, was to demonstrate a vaudeville-styled dance for the camera. This film allowed the machine shop to scrutinize the actions, frame by frame, in an attempt to animate the figure with the same movements. Working with the nine-inch replica of Ebsen provided valuable information, if not frustration, as Roger Broggie, Sr., recalled in a 1985 interview17: "We would study the film of Buddy Ebsen tap dancing against the grid. We looked at it frame by frame to see what goes on when you tap dance. We discovered that nothing was ever repeated in the dance. Frame by frame--no matter how many times we shot Buddy Ebsen dancing--he never repeated his technique. So we went ahead and built the figure--and it did dance."

The figure performed a vaudeville-like dance through the use of a series of cables and metal cams18. Walt was always dropping buy to check on the mechanical man. One day he declared, "That's good. Now let's try something different."19 His notion was to build a barbershop quartet scene that not only moved, but would also sing "Sweet Adeline." Even though the machine shop improved the dancing-man mechanisms for the quartet, the "system" posed serious obstacles, let alone that it was unrefined with very crude, mechanical movements. Bob Thomas in his book Walt Disney: An American Original described the limitations: "Cutting of the cams was a tedious process, and the actions of the figure was limited to the diameter of the cam; also, the mechanism had to be placed within a foot or two of the figure." In addition, it was surmised that the 25 a show that Walt wanted to charge to see the exhibit, wouldn't even come close to covering the maintenance costs, not to mention the numerous other expenses. The project was shelved.

Throughout the next several years, Walt's focus turned towards the creation and building of a "Theme Park." Even facing this monumental task, however, Walt continued to ponder the idea of animating three-dimensional figures, especially as it would relate to his new baby--Disneyland. Although not labeled as "Audio-Animatronics," when Disneyland opened, the Jungle Cruise featured moving animals (albeit with very simplistic movements). The first use of the term, "Audio-Animatronics," came with the opening of Nature's Wonderland in May, 1960.20

With Disneyland successfully up and running, Walt turned his attention back to the concept of animated figures; only this time full-size figures. During the final days of the Dancing Man, Broggie had informed Walt about one of the major setbacks: size. The figures were too little. "I told Walt that if we were allowed to build full-size figures, we could put the equipment inside the figure. We wouldn't have to go through cables and cams, we could build integrated figures," recalled Broggie21. With Broggie's counsel and the numerous ideas, plans, and concepts forming in Walt's mind, the movement towards a full-size three-dimensional animated figure was only natural. Walt began preparing his Imagineers for the development of full-size figures. Early on he even joked about his motivation to Jack Gladish, an Audio- Animatronics designer, "I'm tired of finicky actors. I want to develop a fully animated, articulated human being to use in place of motion picture actors and actresses."

Before long, Walt enthused his Imagineers with this challenge, "I want to have a Chinese restaurant at the Park. Out in the lobby will be an old Chinese fellow like Confuscious--not an actor, but a figure made out of plastic. Now the customers will ask him questions, and he'll reply with words of wisdom. We'll have an operator in back of the figure answering the questions and making the lips move."22

Walt was very adamant that the figure talk, so as the WED designers began to design and develop the head, he told them to watch television without the sound so as to learn how people formed words. "You could always tell who was working on the job; they never looked at your eyes when you were talking to them, always at your mouth,"23 remembered the director of the project, Wathel Rogers.

A Chinese head was built in the machine shop with a latex covering and mechanisms that allowed for eye movement and blinking. (It was the testing of the Chinese head during this time that demonstrated the inferior properties of latex, resulting in the breakthrough of Duraflex.) As development proceeded for the talking mechanism on the Chinese head, work began on Lincoln.

While the sculpting of Lincoln was being accomplished under the able tutelage of the model shop, the machine shop worked diligently on the Chinese head. Before it was ever finished, though, Walt directed them to drop the project and begin working on the Lincoln figure. Walt enlisted various studio departments to help the machine shop bring this honored man to life.

Traditionally the studio's sound department was involved in the operations of anything dealing with audio--such was the case with Audio-Animatronics dating back to the beginning with the Dancing Man. This tradition would not be broken with Lincoln. The sound department, under the direction of Herb Taylor, found itself in charge of the President. However, the figure would require the skills of many others in the studio.

The evolution of Lincoln's Audio-Animatronics began in the animation department. Marc Davis and others prepared sketches based on the motions they wanted the figure to accomplish. These drawings were studied by the sculptors in the model shop, specifically Blaine Gibson, for proportions. The drawings also provided the sculptors with information to sculpt figures capable of executing the movements requested by the animators. Then it went to the machine shop, which was responsible for the mechanics--the design, construction, operation, and application of the machinery and mechanical structure.

Foremost to the figure's success was the head, thus it was the first piece built. "It took about a year to develop the head," remembered Gladish. "It was very difficult, because we were trying to copy human movement. Walt would come by and sit down and talk to me all the time when I was working on Lincoln's head. He had his ideas of how he wanted it to look and what the motion should be," recalled Gladish who built the first Lincoln head. When Gladish finished, the prototype head was capable of all normal functions--winking, blinking, raising eyebrows, etc.-- and Walt was pleased.

Much of what was learned in the development of movements for the Chinese head found its way into the mechanics of the Lincoln head. The various movements were accomplished through a rather archaic (but ingenious for its time) use of solenoid coils within the framework of the head. Unfortunately only digital movements were available (e.g., only two positions: an open or shut eye; or a raised or normal eyebrow).

The solenoids, which were made in the machine shop, were devices made of a long, insulated wire wound many times into a tightly packed cylindrical coil and having a length much greater than their diameter. When current was sent through a solenoid a uniform magnetic field was created inside the solenoid. Inserted within the solenoid's cylinder was a ferromagnetic24 core, affectionately called "slugs" by the Disney machine shop. (The slugs were solid and had only a slightly smaller diameter than the cylinder used for the solenoid.) When current was sent to the solenoid and created the magnetic field, it would cause the slug to be pulled "down" into the solenoid. Movement would occur by hooking the slug up to Lincoln's mouth, through the use of wire with linkage (interconnected rods, springs, and pivots) and leverage (typically metal bars that pivoted on a fixed fulcrum). When the current was on, the slug would move "down" into the solenoid and open the mouth. When the current was off, the slug would return, and the mouth would close. In this early prototype every action in the head used this solenoid system. (Interestingly the development of this system came at a time which allowed for its use in the first-ever Audio-Animatronics show. Solenoids gave the Tiki birds their ability to talk in Walt Disney's Enchanted Tiki Room.)

What is astonishing about this system was that all of the solenoids and their related hardware (other than the power source) were built within the framework of Lincoln's head. "That's a lot of equipment for one human-sized head," declared Roger Broggie, Jr., who was working in the machine shop with his father at this time. To be honest, all of the mechanisms required to operate the head, turned out to be more than one normal Presidential head could hold. "That first Lincoln head we did, we couldn't get all of the machinery in it," remembered Blaine Gibson. "Wathel called me in one day and said, `Blaine, we can't get all the actuators in his head. We're going to have to add to his head!' I told him we can't do it, because his head was based on human proportions. He said, `Well, we have to do something.' We came up with this idea; I sculpted part of his hair on his head, so I raised his head up a half an inch, and then the wig went over that. The only problem we had, was sometimes the make- up men in New York wouldn't get the wig on right, so the bump25 would show."

This first Lincoln head was a marvel to behold. In fact, it was so realistic, that it managed to scare a studio janitors. "We had the Lincoln head on a black box with all the mechanisms underneath it," recalled Gladish. "It was in this room--and with the glass eyes, the false teeth, and everything it looked like a real head. The cleaning fellow walked in, and the Lincoln head looked him straight in the eye. Well, the guy went off the deep end. He ran down the hallway, screaming that he wasn't going to clean the room."

Walt was getting anxious. He wanted a working figure to show potential World's Fair sponsors, and it had taken a year to build just the head. Immediately work began on the fabrication of the rest of the body. The designers knew that a system more advanced, and more powerful, would be needed for the precise actions required for the body; so began the experimentation with hydraulic and pneumatic systems. In the meantime, a body was constructed that included basic movements accomplished by solenoids.

A vital selling point to the package would be an operating system; a method of controlling the figure's actions and dialogue. Tones had been used by the Disney studio since Fantasia (1940), thus at this early stage of development they were seriously considered. [For more information on the tone system, see Audio Animatronics 101 in the "General Electric" section of this article.] The problem was, there was no way (or system) to lay multiple tones down onto one track, without causing interference. Because of the numerous actions required for Lincoln, it would have severely limited the figure. A very crude and archaic method was devised for controlling Mr. Lincoln. It was the first control system devised for Lincoln and was the brainchild of Jack Gladish.

The mechanically-minded Gladish began to search the studio for ideas. One device that was in plentiful supply--in fact every animator probably had one--was the Moviola, a vertical movie-editing machine used to review film. "I took a Moviola and put six spring-loaded contacts26 across it so that it would touch the film," explained Gladish. "Then we had silver paint, like with fine silver flakes in it. We would paint these thin, silver strips onto the film with the silver paint, so when the contact ran over it, it would create a circuit sending the electricity to open the mouth, or whatever."

The 35 mm magnetic film stock that was employed for this process was capable of being divided up into six "tracks," each one capable of holding a thin streak of silver paint. Thus each Moviola had the ability of controlling six movements. Lincoln required two Moviolas, one for the head (six movements) and one for the body (six movements). The two were "hooked" together which allowed the two reels of film to be synched up. Also ingenious to this system was that the soundtrack on the 35 mm magnetic film stock could be utilized for the Lincoln's dialogue and the show music; while at the same time controlling the actions through the use of the silver paint.

Besides the fact that Moviolas were plentiful, portable, and easy to use, they offered pragmatic applications when it came to programming the Lincoln figure. Animators had been conditioned to think in terms of feet of film. For instance, an animator would view a movement in 101 Dalmatians as lasting three feet, rather than two seconds27. Thus if the animator/programmer wanted Lincoln to raise his eyebrows for two seconds, he would merely mark the location on the film where the movement was to start, and mark the location three feet away where it was to end. All that remained was to brush the silver paint on in a thin line from the first mark to the second mark. The Moviolas also offered the convenience of being able to speed up or slow down.

Walt understood that this system was strictly for demonstration purposes, as it had several serious limitations that would prohibit it from running an actual Lincoln show. First and foremost of the drawbacks was that after several uses the paint on the film had a tendency to flake off. Also a serious liability was that the system was capable of running only digital movements. "It was pretty crude, but it worked," laughed Gladish.

As Walt and the Imagineers began to expand the technology of Audio-Animatronics with analog28 movements and the use of tones to control actions [both described in Audio-Animatronics 101 in the "General Electric" section of this article], the search for an adequate system to run the tones began. At this time, if tones were used to control actions, the only procedure available required one dummy playback machine for every single action of the figure. In other words a whole roomful of dummies would have been required to run Lincoln. Space limitations aside, the maintenance factor was overwhelming--if just one playback machine went down it would have been a nightmare. The system was deemed unacceptable.

The machine shop also began working on new and better ways of controlling the actions of the figure, through the use of hydraulics and pneumatics. The sound department, the electronic experts at the studio and the department in charge of Lincoln, developed a concept for using servo valves29 and actuators (for activating the servomechanism) to control the hydraulics and pneumatics. The figure was now being designed, built, and programmed by two separate departments. The mechanical elements were designed by the machine shop and the electrical and control (or programming) elements were designed by the sound department. It resulted in some friction. For example, the machine shop was not confident in the new electrical system designed by the sound department, especially after some early set backs and basic technical errors. Another problem resulted because the two departments were controlled by two different unions. "Lincoln was difficult, because we couldn't even disconnect an analog valve without a sound guy or electrician," related Broggie, Jr. (As mentioned earlier the barriers presented by the unions were among the main reasons that led Walt to search for a location off the studio lot for WED.)

In an effort to consolidate the Lincoln elements and bring harmony to the design team, Walt had the Lincoln figure and equipment moved to a "secret" room in the animation building. Walt had another motive, too. "Lincoln was now out of sight and out of mind, so it helped to quiet the union controversy," commented Neil Gallagher, then a precision machinist and later head of maintenance for Audio-Animatronics at the Fair.

It was 1962, and the "Lincoln Room" became the center for all future design and development of the figure. "It wasn't a big room, maybe 40 feet by 20 feet, but all the control systems were in there, and that's where we did all the mechanical work, electrical work, wiring... most all of it," remembered Gallagher. It was in this room that the analog motion using servo actuators and valves, was further developed--it was considered to be a breakthrough for realistic movement. When this room saw the completion of the Lincoln figure, every method and type of movement developed was used (e.g., solenoids, pneumatic and hydraulic valves, etc.), both digital and analog.

While the work continued on the designing and building of servos, hydraulics, and pneumatics, the figure underwent one major overhaul late in the summer of 1963. "Walt called me over to the studio and showed me the secret room," stated Bob Gurr. "He showed me the Abe figure, which was dripping red oil. He said, `I want to get this figure to work, and I want it to weigh half as much and have twice as many motions.' A lot of it had been made out of heavy parts, but I was in a glider club, so I started looking at it as if it were an airplane, which always used light-weight parts. I started drawing up the parts for the body and the elevator, Jack Gladish did the head, and someone else did the hands. We made gigantic leaps in technology, even though we did it in about 90 days. The machine shop was doing parts as fast as I could draw them."

When it was finished in early 1964, the new, re-designed, light-weight Lincoln was indeed an improvement, with "twice as many motions."30 Soon it would be twice as many motions, plus one. "After I had finished, my wife and I were watching an old Lincoln movie starring Raymond Massey," commented Gurr. "As I watched Massey standing on the back of the train leaving for Washington, D.C., it dawned on me. I stood up and said, `I forgot the shrug!' I went back in and spent a couple of days trying to get Lincoln to do his shrug. I did it by using a design from auto suspension--the MacPherson Strut Suspension. I turned it upside down, and it became the `Lincoln Strut Suspension.'"

Walt was delighted with this improved Lincoln and its wide- range of motions. As it turned out, however, several of the motions were never needed. "This Lincoln could do far more than what we took to the show," recalled Gladish. "He could pick up a glass or an egg, he had more articulation, he could put his hands behind his back, and more. We found out that we could eliminate some of the motions because nobody would see them. Plus we couldn't develop a program that would do them all. So we eliminated a few of the things he could do."

Shortly a system for controlling and programming the figure became available. This major breakthrough was the declassification of IRIG and the Pacific Instrument machines. [This is discussed in Audio-Animatronics 101 in the "General Electric" section of this article.] The use of a P.I. machine for Lincoln came almost as an afterthought. "It was getting really late [well into 1963], and we didn't have a clue on what kind of control system we were going to use to run Lincoln. The P.I. machines had already been bought for Small World and G.E.'s Carousel of Progress," remembered Gallagher. "We realized that the P.I. machine would also work for Lincoln, so they said we could buy a small one for Lincoln." Thus a "table-top model" of the made-for-submarine machine was purchased from Pacific Instruments. The model purchased for Lincoln was only slightly larger than a TV and had only 14 tracks, with no AM and FM frequencies. "Walt liked the idea that it was used on submarines. He really liked to keep up with the times," related Gordon Williams.


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