Academy Comes Alive with Animatronics

The more realistic computer-generated imagry became, the more it looked as if the art of animatronics was a dying breed. However, the process of puppeteering creatures has also improved to the point that it is routinely used alongside 3D animation with seamless effect. It’s no wonder the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has chosen to honor the craft with a special exhibition featuring such iconic film characters as Aslan, Yoda, Mr. Tinkles, Audrey II and Mighty Joe Young. ‘It’s Alive!: Bringing Animatronic Characters to Life on Film’ will be open to the public on Friday, May 12, in Beverly Hills.

The Walt Disney Co., Amalgamated Dynamics Inc., Eric Allard, Rick Baker, Dave Barclay, Lyle Conway, Richard Edlund, Ray Harryhausen, Robert Short and Phil Tippett are among the industry lumnaries contributing to the exhibit. The Academy’s Fourth Floor Gallery will showcase numerous models, maquettes and animatronic creatures and their mechanisms, accompanied by video clips of the final product. Meanwhile, the Grand Lobby’s installation will focus on the extensive character design process with concept drawings, storyboards and photographs from the workshops and sets where the characters are built and operated.

‘Animatronics have played a key role in creating some of film’s most memorable and beloved characters. We are excited to be a part of this exhibit giving the public a rare opportunity to see their favorite creatures up close,’ says Brian Henson, co-CEO of The Jim Henson Co., which will exhibit characters from such films as The Dark Crystal and Labyrinth.

Other films represented in the exhibition will include Jurassic Park, 102 Dalmatians, AVP: Alien vs. Predator, An American Werewolf in London, Beetlejuice, Cats & Dogs, Doctor Dolittle, Ghostbusters, Gremlins, Harry and the Hendersons, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, Little Shop of Horrors, Men in Black II, Robocop 2, Spider-Man 2 and Star Wars: Episode V ‘ The Empire Strikes Back.

“It’s Alive!: Bringing Animatronic Characters to Life on Film” will be on display through Sunday, August 20, at the Academy. Gallery viewing is open Tuesday through Friday for 10 a.m. to 5 p.m., and weekends from 12 p.m. to 6 p.m. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences is located at 8949 Wilshire Boulevard in Beverly Hills. For more information call (310) 247-3600.