Walt Disney Imagineering was created by Walt Disney back in the 1950s to make the impossible real. For decades Disney theme parks have made us look at new attractions and caused us to wonder how in the world the Imagineers made these experiences real. One of the most important creations of Imagineering was the audio-animatronic, realistic-looking figures that were capable of simple movement. At least, they used to only be capable of simple movement. A brand new Beauty and the Beast attraction has opened at Tokyo Disneyland and it includes brand new animatronics that are literally dancing.
In the 1960s Walt Disney Imagineering created an animatronic Abraham Lincoln that was capable of standing up and speaking. In the ensuing decades, these creations have become more realistic looking and have gained more mobility. But we've never seen anything quite like the new Belle and Adam animatronics at the end of the new Tokyo Disneyland Beauty and the Beast attraction. While the original video is no longer available, it's been saved by Twitter and it is simply phenomenal. Also, as it turns out the song "Beauty and the Beast" is just as beautiful in Japanese.
Tokyo Disneyland is the one Disney Park that isn't owned and operated entirely by Disney. It's operated by the Oriental Land Company, which licenses the Disney IP from the company and contracts with WED Enterprises (Imagineering) to design the attractions. The Oriental Land Company tends to not have the same financial restrictions that Disney itself has, and thus the two Tokyo Disney Resort parks have some of the most impressive attractions of any theme parks in the world.
And this certainly is impressive. With a combination of animatronic movement and what is likely a turntable, Belle and her prince are truly dancing together. The movement of the footwork is smooth as they sway back and forth. It's remarkable just how far animatronics have come considering this all started with Tiki Birds.
Fans are already hoping to see this attraction or something like it make its way stateside. And the good news is that there's a good chance we will. While it's anybody's guess if we could see this exact attraction appear at Disneyland or Walt Disney World, the work on designing the technology has now been done, making it that much cheaper to recreate it. There's a benefit to having a contract with a company with a nearly infinite pocketbook. It's fitting considering the first human animatronics were designed by Imagineering as part of the 1964 World's Fair. Disney got to design the technology but other people paid for it.
That's not to say that the domestic Disney parks aren't going to have some impressive animatronics before too long. We've seen prototypes of "stunt" animatronics that are expected to be part of Avengers' Campus at Disney California Adventure. the new land was scheduled to open in July before Disneyland Resort's closure. at this point, it's far from clear when the new land will be open.
Unfortunately, traveling to Tokyo Disney Resort is going be difficult for a lot of people, so hopefully, we will see these animatronics make their way to NorthAmerica so that others have a chance to experience them.
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CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian. Armchair Imagineer. Epcot Stan. Future Club 33 Member.