Disney Parks' Newest Animatronic Creation Is Literally Doing Somersaults, And I'm Shook

Judy Hopps roller skating animatronic
(Image credit: Disney Parks)

When WED Enterprises, the company that became Walt Disney Imagineering created its first full-scale human audio-animatronic, in the likeness of Abraham Lincoln, there were people in the audience of the 1964 New York World’s Fair who believed it was actually a human actor. Since then, WDI has continued to push the envelope with more lifelike and impressive robotic creations, and today Disney Parks revealed its newest prototype, capable of doing a somersault, then standing back up again.

The Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences And Products division, Josh D’Amaro, appeared at the SXSW conference today to talk about the art and science behind Disney storytelling, and as part of his talk he debuted the newest in a long line of incredible animatronics, one that is capable of flipping over, falling down, and then picking itself back up. The Disney Food Blog captured video…

For decades, as impressive as animatronics have been, one of their requirements has been that they needed to stand in one place. They could stand up from sitting, and then sit back down, but that was about it. In recent years, however, we’ve seen this hurdle overcome in different ways. At Tokyo Disney Resort there are animatronics that dance. At Avengers Campus there is a Spider-Man animatronic that flies through the air. We’ve even seen a prototype of a Groot animatronic that is able to walk almost completely free of an external connection.

As far as this specific animatronic goes, while few specifics were given, the model is clearly designed to look like Judy Hopps from Zootopia. A City of Zootopia land is currently under construction at the Shanghai Disney Resort, and at D23 Expo we learned that a Zootopia land is also under consideration to replace the Dinoland U.S.A. area of Disney’s Animal Kingdom. While it’s impossible to know if this animatronic is far enough along to arrive when Shanghai’s land opens, it would seem there is a plan to use it there eventually.

The possibilities of this new technology, especially combined with everything else we’ve seen Walt Disney Imagineering create in recent years, are endless. With this, we could see meet-and-greet opportunities in parks with characters that couldn’t previously be created by people in costumes, or even more size-appropriate versions of the characters that we know. Imagine getting a picture with not only a massive Hulk or Baymax, which is already possible but also a much smaller Judy Hopps or Mickey Mouse.

Every time we see something new from Disney Parks we get wowed by what’s still to come. While it could still be years before we see this tech in the parks, it is coming, and by the time it arrives, we may already be looking forward to whatever incredible thing WDI has cooking next.

Dirk Libbey
Content Producer/Theme Park Beat

CinemaBlend’s resident theme park junkie and amateur Disney historian, Dirk began writing for CinemaBlend as a freelancer in 2015 before joining the site full-time in 2018. He has previously held positions as a Staff Writer and Games Editor, but has more recently transformed his true passion into his job as the head of the site's Theme Park section. He has previously done freelance work for various gaming and technology sites. Prior to starting his second career as a writer he worked for 12 years in sales for various companies within the consumer electronics industry. He has a degree in political science from the University of California, Davis.  Is an armchair Imagineer, Epcot Stan, Future Club 33 Member.