Outsource Animatronics???

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From the OC Register:

The Walt Disney Co. will begin out-sourcing the manufacturing of Audio Animatronics because of too much demand on staff time, according to an Imagineering memo sent to the Orange County Register and Disney Imagingeering Spokeswoman Marilyn Waters.

Audio-Animatronics figures are basically moving and talking (or singing) robotic figures that were started by Walt Disney’s company. Today, Audio-Animatronics can be seen in several Disneyland attractions, which include: “it’s a small world,” Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones Adventure, Monsters, Inc. Mike & Sulley to the Rescue! and the upcoming Toy Story Mania!.

The memo is dated June 12, 2008, and was sent to all Walt Disney Imagineering employees from Bruce Vaughn, chief creative executive, Craig Russell, chief development and delivery executive, and Kevin Eld, vice president of Disney Creative Production. The memo was sent to and received by the Orange County Register today. Imagineers is Disney’s a word for designers and engineers.

The memo states that after review manufacturing all Audio-Animatronics figures in-house is not feasible in terms of cost and staffing. Instead, Imagineering’s Manufacturing and Prototype Operations group based in North Hollywood will “build some select, highly complex” figures in-house.

Waters confirmed that the manufacturing of some Audio-Animatronics will be given to outside vendors. She said that over the past years Walt Disney Imagineering has begun to work with outside vendors on the talking and moving figures.

In one example, Waters said Disney employees worked with Chinese vendors to make some of the figures for the “It’s a Small World” attraction at the Hong Kong Disneyland.

“Our industry has generated quite a few heavily-skilled and proficient vendors who can supplement our teams with simple figures with significant oversight by our production team,” Waters said. “This will allow us to focus on creating more sophisticated and advanced figures.”

While Waters said Imagineering’s next step is to focus on the next-generation of Audio-Animatronics, an anniversary is coming for the oldest figures. June 22 is the 45th anniversary of the Enchanted Tiki Room in Disneyland’s Adventureland.

The Tiki Room includes 225 performers, including birds, flowers and tiki poles that spring to life. The attraction opened in 1963 and was the first attraction to function completely via the wonders of Audio-Animatronics technology.

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