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At Disney, we are storytellers, and all good stories are filled with compelling characters. One way to present these characters to audiences in immersive, 3D environments is through the use of entertainment robots, or Audio Animatronics Figures, as they have traditionally been known at Disney in attractions such as Pirates of the Caribbean. In this talk, I hope to give insight into the design and development of entertainment robots at Disney. In particular, I share - from the point of view of a robot builder - some of the guidelines distilled from Disney's tradition of hand-drawn animation as they are applied to these systems. As examples of characters which partake in two-way interactions with audiences via teleoperation, I discuss two newer characters. The first, Lucky the Dinosaur, was designed to roam freely through the Disney theme park environment while interacting with guests. The second, Wall-E, was developed in conjunction with Pixar Animation Studios to represent the character from the film, and has made appearances and given interviews at red carpet premieres, press events, and in television studios around the world. Ultimately, we hope that a further scientific study of the principles of animation and character development would be useful to anyone designing robots, autonomous or teleoperated, which must interact with humans.
Date of Conference: 11-13 March 2009