Disney Parks May Soon Have Robotic Stunt People

iStock
iStock

Animatronics are a staple of any Disney park, but as the company introduces more characters into the fold—like heroes from Star Wars, Marvel, and Avatar—the bar is being raised on audience expectations. On the screen, these characters defy gravity and pull off death-defying stunts, yet at the Disney parks, they’re still relying on fairly static animatronic models for their live shows and attractions. As Tech Crunch details, though, the gap between what the heroes do on film and in the park may be closing.

This development is all thanks to Disney’s R&D department, where Imagineers are working on next generation animatronics that can pull off aerial stunts like you’d see in any of the studio’s blockbuster films. The project is called Stuntronics, and its goal is to create animatronic stunt "heroes" that can replace a more static model in the middle of a Disney park show when the scene requires some high-energy action to take place. It's similar to the flesh and blood or CGI stunt people that movies have been using for decades.

In a video demonstrating their progress, a robot model is shown leaping from a cable to do backflips, double backflips, and other heroic landings. It’s something straight out of a Spider-Man movie and is years ahead of any animatronic character currently at the park.

Tony Dohi, principal R&D Imagineer at Disney, told Tech Crunch that the idea for this type of animatronic came about because they realized there was a “disconnect” between the exhibits at the park and what people see on film, so swapping in advanced animatronics for complex action scenes would go a long way toward making Disney’s parks feel more authentic to their properties. The Na’vi Shaman from the Avatar exhibit shows that Disney can get their animatronics to emote; this next step will put them into action.

According to Tech Crunch, right now the stunt robots are realized with the help of an “on-board accelerometer and gyroscope arrays supported by laser range finding.” They are autonomous and self-correct their aerial stunts to hit their marks. Though the model used in the video is just a generic mockup, it’s not hard to see how the Imagineers at Disney can easily turn it into any number of heroes from Marvel or Star Wars.

Stuntronics is just one of the advancements happening with robotics at Disney. Tech Crunch also detailed the Vyloo, which are a trio of autonomous bird-like robots in the park that react to guest movements. They can be seen in the Collector's Fortress in the Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT! attraction at Disneyland in California.

The Stuntronics project is still in the R&D phase with no practical application in place just yet. But if this technology does progress the way the Imagineers are hoping, the blockbuster action of Star Wars, Marvel, and The Incredibles won’t just be exclusive to the movies anymore.

Virginia’s University of Lynchburg is Adding a Harry Potter Class to Its Fall Curriculum

Warner Bros. Ent. Harry Potter Publishing Rights J.K.R.
Warner Bros. Ent. Harry Potter Publishing Rights J.K.R.

While it’s not exactly an invitation to Hogwarts, students at Virginia’s University of Lynchburg are getting just about the next best thing. This fall, the campus is adding a Harry Potter-themed class to its curriculum as a general education course.

The university is in the process of changing some of its course offerings and streamlining classes in recognition of its modern students. According to WSET ABC 13, Dr. Sharon Foreman, director of general education, said of the new curriculum: "It is very targeted towards 21st century students who are going out into a global society and so we want faculty, staff, and administrators to know what that means, what it looks like, and [to] experience it first hand.”

Faculty have decided providing an education for a global society includes offering courses like the upcoming "Harry Potter and the Good Life," which will ask students to read J.K. Rowling’s books alongside the works of philosophers to create connections between the past and present.

University of Lynchburg coordinator of integrated seminars Amy Merrill Willis told WSLS 10 News that the course's instructor, Devin Brickhouse Bryson, is "going to be introducing philosophical concepts from [Plato], Socrates, and Aristotle, and asking students to think about the Harry Potter series in depth.”

Although there may not be a sorting hat or Butterbeer involved, the class sounds like a creative way to engage students in philosophy and critical issues, all while focused on the beloved Harry Potter series.

[h/t WSET ABC 13]

Wizarding World Orlando’s New Roller Coaster Is Full of Harry Potter Easter Eggs

Universal Orlando
Universal Orlando

While Universal Studios Orlando is already home to some incredible attractions in its Wizarding World of Harry Potter, such as its very own Hogsmeade, the Hogwarts Express, and even a Hogwarts Castle, the newest roller coaster seems to be bringing out the most dedicated of Potterheads. The ride, called Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, saw whopping 10-hour waits in its opening days, and for those lucky enough to have experienced the brand-new attraction already, it looks like many have deemed it worth the line.

GameSpot got to take a ride on the Motorbike Adventure, and writer Meg Downey noted all the great details riders will encounter as they soar through the Forbidden Forest—which included a load of Easter eggs.

In particular, Downey calls out the many Harry Potter nods on the walls of the castle ruins. The graffiti, which resembles cave drawings, includes a joke about a Hippogriff attempting to catch Draco Malfoy (likely in reference to the Prisoner of Azkaban scene where the cocky wizard encounters Buckbeak), a drawing of a Phoenix that looks just like Fawkes, and even some sweet writings from Harry’s parents, James and Lily Potter.

A Blast-Ended Skrewt within Universal Orlando's Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure
A Blast-Ended Skrewt within Universal Orlando's Hagrid’s Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, a reference to Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
Universal Orlando

Additionally, the ride includes a reference to Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, according to Downey, who reports that Hagrid has a poster of Nifflers in his main workshop.

The new ride seems to be a must-do experience for diehard Harry Potter fans, exploring some of the most mysterious parts of Hogwarts and the fun style of Hagrid and his creatures.

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