The iconic Sonny Eclipse audio-animatronic began to emanate smoke and discharge fluid last night before slumping over his keyboard entirely at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café in Magic Kingdom.
Sonny Eclipse Surrenders
The meltdown was witnessed in Tomorrowland around 7:29 p.m. Saturday evening. In the videos, relatively large amounts of smoke can be seen traveling from Sonny toward the ceiling. Liquid is also dripping from his signature keyboard at a steady pace. The steady flow of draining fluid can be seen falling from slightly right from center underneath Sonny’s keyboard, while the smoke can be best seen in the spotlights as it rises toward the ceiling.
The audio-animatronic entertainer held on for some time amidst the discharge and smoke before eventually collapsing onto his keyboard, startling the guests dining at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Lounge inside Disney’s Magic Kingdom last night.
Sonny Eclipse returned to the Starlight Café in February after an extended absence. He initially disappeared in September 2022, was blocked behind a set of curtains in January, and ended up entirely gone again.
When Sonny returned, his appearance and audio hadn’t changed, though his movements seemed more clean and consistent.
The entire set can be lifted into the ceiling of Cosmic Ray’s whenever Sonny is on break. This opens up a stage below for dance parties and other entertainment groups to perform in the quick-service restaurant if desired. Below is a look at the Eclipse himself in his more healthy, rejuvenated prime a handful of months ago:
Sonny Eclipse usually performs an approximately 26-minute set on a loop throughout the day. His catalog consists of eight songs written by George Wilkins and Kevin Rafferty, including “My Name is Sonnny Eclipse,” “Hello Space Angels,” and “Yew Nork, Yew Nork.”
He is also now featured on a poster in the Merchant of Venus seating area in Tomorrowland.
Last summer, musician Kal David — who voiced Sonny Eclipse — passed away at the age of 79.
With this most recent malfunction, we may see more downtime for this audio-animatronic entertainer sooner than what may have been originally anticipated. While he seemed to be operating smoothly this afternoon, it is unclear whether we might expect reoccurring incidents mirroring the footage shared by a dining guest last night.
What Are Audio-Animatronics?
Audio-Animatronics are a form of robotics animation — mechanical contraptions intended to resemble real people or characters for the purpose of storytelling, education, or entertainment. Walt Disney’s earliest Imagineers pioneered and trademarked the technology in the 1960s, but the roots go slightly deeper in the past.
The Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco explains Disney’s first-ever attempt with moving, talking, interacting figures:
In 1951, machinist Roger Broggie and sculptor Wathel Rogers (a year before they would be labeled Imagineers) led a team tasked with creating a nine-inch-tall figure that could move and talk. Actor Buddy Ebsen was brought in to perform vaudevillian dance routines (under the direction of Walt Disney), providing movement for the little mechanical man to emulate.
Development of this technological art-form was temporarily set aside while all creative effort went toward the construction of Disneyland, though the dreams only got larger, and eventually, Walt Disney and his team were thinking up potential experiences or attractions that could utilize lifelike creations.
1964 became a breakthrough year: the New York World’s fair gave Disney a chance to tinker with various new concepts that could be transferred back into Disneyland. Great Moments with Mr. Lincoln was created for the event, with a realistic model of President Abraham Lincoln that could speak, gesture, express facial emotions, and recite iconic speeches from a century prior. Nothing like it had ever been seen before, and the advanced nature of this Lincoln figure cemented audio-animatronics as a revolutional staple in Disney storytelling. Classics “it’s a small world” and Carousel of Progress also debuted at the World’s Fair.
What’s your favorite Disney Dining entertainment memory? Which audio-animatronics are the most compelling to you? Let us know in the comments.
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