Since a rudimentary version of the technology was first used in Walt Disney’s Enchanted Tiki Room, Audio-Animatronics have been an essential part of the Disney theme park experience. The technology has been used to bring subjects as varied as pirates, presidents, princesses, and Rocket Raccoon to life. However, as lifelike as they appear, underneath their dressings, Audio-Animatronics are machines, and like any other machine their parts are valuable and recyclable. So often if Disney closes an attraction that features Animatronics, the odds are they’ll reappear somewhere else in some fashion.
Perhaps the most well known example of Audio-Animatronic recycling can be found – for a bit longer anyway – in Disneyland’s Splash Mountain. See, a vast majority of that E-Ticket ride’s critters and animals are recycled from the show America Sings, which ran in The Happiest Place on Earth’s Tomorrowland from 1974 to 1988. In fact, saving the America Sings Animatronics was a major reason Imagineer Tony Baxter came up with the Splash Mountain concept in the first place.
While Critter Country’s premier residents may be the best known example of reused Animatronics, they’re certainly not the only one. In fact, astute Walt Disney World guests can find many reused parts and full-scale robots scattered throughout the Florida property, if they know where to look.
Here are four notable examples to seek out on your next Walt Disney World excursion.
The tale of our first reused animatronics stretches back nearly 50 years, and takes us around the world… twice. When the Magic Kingdom opened, one of the park’s premier exclusive attractions was Fantasyland’s Mickey Mouse Revue. The show featured full-scale animatronics of over 20 Disney characters – including Mickey Mouse, Goofy, and most importantly for our purposes Donald Duck, Jose, and Panchito – singing classic Disney songs (think Mickey’s Philharmagic).
The show remained open from 1971 to 1980, when it was shuttered and moved across the world to Tokyo Disneyland. The revue, complete with all of its animatronics, opened with the Japanese Park in 1983 and remained in operation until 2009, when it was replaced by Mickey’s Philharmagic.
Six years after The Mickey Mouse Revue closed, Donald Duck, Jose, and Panchito were installed in the finale portion of the Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros attraction located in EPCOT’s Mexico pavilion. The trio of Animatronics were added eight years after the attraction had been rethemed to center on the characters.
The (Almost) Seven Dwarfs
While the Seven Dwarfs Mine Train has become one of the Magic Kingdom’s most beloved attractions in recent years, the initial fan reaction to the coaster’s announcement was slightly mixed, mainly because it’s opening as part of the larger New Fantasyland expansion was coming in tandem with the closure of opening day Magic Kingdom attraction Snow White’s Scary Adventures.
However, fans of the previous ride were able to find solace in the fact that numerous Animatronics from ‘Scary Adventures were brought over to the Mine Train. The largest contingent are in the final scene of the coaster, when we see Snow White and the Dwarfs dancing to “The Silly Song” from the film. The Animatronics of Doc, Happy, Sleepy, Grumpy, and Bashful from this sequence were brought over from the previous attraction. In addition, the two crows seen seen earlier on the Mine Train were also previously featured on Scary Adventures.
World of Motion’s Chickens
World of Motion was one of the original Epcot Center’s most beloved attractions, partially thanks to its use of comical gags to tell the history of transportation. One of the attraction’s most fondly remembered scenes involved “the world’s first traffic jam”, which included “items such as an upset horse, a spilling ice truck, and kids screaming during the 1900s.” Also present in the scenes were overturned crates of chickens.
Unfortunately for the attraction’s fans, the attraction was closed in 1994 as sponsor General Motors wanted a thrill attraction that focused more on their vehicles as opposed to the history of transportation. (That ride ended up being called Test Track. Maybe you’ve heard of it?)
Following the closure, World of Motion’s chickens found a new home across the Walt Disney World campus as part of The Barnstormer at Goofy’s Wiseacre Farm roller coaster at the Magic Kingdom. They reigned there until flying the coop again when the coaster was refurbed into The Great Goofini’s Barnstormer in 2011.
Uh-Oa the Tiki Goddess of Disaster:
In the late 1990s, the Walt Disney Company did a massive refurbishment of the Tropical Serenade (AKA Orlando’s version of The Enchanted Tiki Room) that changed the original show dramatically. The new version, known as The Enchanted Tiki Room (Under New Management), featured Iago and Zazu (from Aladdin and The Lion King respectively) taking over the show and running afoul of Uh-Oa the Tiki Goddess of Disaster.
The show, to put it mildly, was unpopular among Disney fans. It remained in operation until 2011, when a fire destroyed the Iago Animatronic and forced the show’s closure. When it reopened, the Tiki Room had been restored to (more or less) its original incarnation.
The closure of Under New Management didn’t mark the end of Uh-Oa at Walt Disney World, however. The impressive animatronic found a new life at Trader Sam’s Grog Grotto at the Polynesian Village Resort. There she sits static to this day, activating briefly only when a guest orders the bar’s Uh-Oa cocktail.
Which of these reused animatronics is the most surprising to you, and will you be on the look out for them and others on your next Disney trip? Let us know in the comments below.
Dig into more Disney history at the links below!
- What’s in The Water at “it’s a small world” in Disney World?
- Why Did Discovery Island Close in Disney World?
- How McDonald’s Happy Meals Have CHANGED
- What Were Mickey Mouse’s First Words? … and Why You’re Wrong About Them
- Mickey Mouse’s Birthday and 6 More Fun Facts About the World’s Favorite Rodent
- Disney’s America: What Happened to Disney’s History Theme Park?
- Disney’s FIRST Cartoon Character is NOT Who You Think