I truly respect the story that Garner Holt has, he really has made his dreams come true. It was an honor and privilege to work for Garner from 1995-1997 as one of his creative team. I miss my time working there and it was truly a major learning experience for me. He runs the best company out there for Audio-Animatronics and he has improved the craft of this esoteric art. His Disney stuff is top quality and incredibly impressive. I've had to move on in my life and now I own my own theatrical business that is growing by leaps and bounds. I could have never achieved my dreams as well without learning from Garner and his philosophy. Owning a company has been the hardest things I've done in my life but I learned so much about business and the entertainment industry from my early experiences. Thank you Garner for teaching me and helping to encourage me! Christine Alducin Bogle. www.stagewestcostumes.com.
What an amazing story! And what wonderful teachers you must have had, to encourage and support you in your efforts.
Thanks for sharing your dream and now your reality. Life is full of wonder and real magic for those who follow their dreams...
Welcome to MiceAge/MiceChat, Garner! Great column, and I am so looking forward to many more as we go forward.
Love the article!
I look forward to your upcoming articles delving into more AA minutia, trivia, and insights.
Hello to everyone and thank you for all the very kind and positive comments! GHP really is a dream come true and we get to do wonderful, amazing things every day. I'm glad the column has had such good feedback--I'll definitely have to write more now!
A couple of you commented on the advances made in computers for running these animatronics. That's a big part of the evolution story...cams to reel-to-reel tapes, to early solid-state controllers to today's mini controllers. When I first started, my figures ran on cams I made out of cardboard. Now, our standard controllers are the size of a paperback book, can hold hours of animation data, audio, lighting cues, and have an on-board amp! A lot still depends on size of the figure we're controlling: the controller for the Ursula figure we built for Tokyo DisneySea is as big as a refrigerator, while the one for Jack Skellington at Disneyland is about the size of brick.
Size and relative impact and price of control has gotten cheaper, but the hardware and internal materials are still a bit pricey. This has more to do with the price of animatronics than their controllers. I'll talk more about the anatomy of animatronics in a future installment...all that fun nitty-gritty stuff.
As time goes on I'll do my best to respond to your questions where I can. Again--thanks very much for your enthusiasm! I've got something in the works for the next column already and look forward to sharing more about animatronics and GHP with you then!
Thanks so much for sharing your inspiring story. Looking forward to your future articles!
Very interesting article. Looking forward to more in the future. One request? When you publish article pages from magazines like you did, a clickable link to an enlarged source would make reading it a lot easier. Thanks!
Welcome to our (MiceAge/MiceChat) World. What a great story. Looking forward to learning more.
Sam SamLand's Disney Adventures
First of all, welcome to MiceChat! I'm so happy that you are sharing your stories, thoughts and history with us!
What an amazing start! I loved reading about your early days, and am in awe how you were able to start the path to your career so successfully at such an early age! Such an inspiration! I look forward to seeing more!
Garner Holt, I can't even begin to properly thank you for sharing your experiences with everyone here. Your story really hit home for me. You and I are about the same age. I too had my focus and direction changed forever thanks to my first visit to Disneyland. I was so captivated by the effects and the animatronics in all the attractions that, like you, I had to know how it was done and how I could recreate it all. My cousins and I used to set up haunted houses too every year. I had full intentions of becoming an imagineer and virtually no one in my high school understood why my heroes were people like Marc Davis and John Hench instead of football players or rock stars. To me these guys and the rest of the talent at WED were rock stars. Where I differ from you is that my life took a turn in another direction in the summer of 1977 when I went to see Star Wars. Staring up at the screen in the first few moments of the film I decided then and there that I needed to do that for a living.
Inspired by George Lucas' saga and the incredible artists & technicians at ILM who brought George's vision to life, I set out to become a visual effects artist and animator. I eventually got my break and ended up spending six years at LucasArts helping design and create games followed by four years at ILM working on the effects for the Star Wars prequels and many other films. I'm currently a VFX & animation consultant for feature films, television, commercials, and games as well as a teacher and lecturer and I sit on the Board of Directors of the Visual Effects Society. None of it would have happened had it not been for that first visit to Disneyland (and all the subsequent visits) which was like a creative and artistic awakening for me. So the entire time I was reading your article I was geeking out at how cool your experiences have been. Wathel Rogers in your living room!!! That's amazing! I've sat in dailies with George Lucas and conversed with him about efects. I've worked directly with VFX legend Dennis Muren. And I've even spent time with John Lasseter. But none of them ever stood right in my own living room! Wow!
Sorry, didn't mean to talk so much about myself. I'm merely trying to express how much I connected with your article. (I've never been an official Disney employee either, but I've consulted on projects for them.) I love hearing success stories like yours - stories of tenacity and determination - and passing them along to students and audiences I have the privilege of speaking to. I'm going to steer several people I know to this article because they need to read your story.
Thank you for your inspirational tale. I hope you will continue to share your experiences here. Blessings to you. (My apologies to everyone else for being so long-winded.)
Thanks for this amazing column. It's always interesting to hear such things from someone inside the companies.
I loved reading that--thank you for sharing that with us!
I hope to read parts 2 through 20! One question, what do you think about Honda's running and stair-walking Asimo robot?
Thank you for the article Mr. Holt, it was both very well written and interesting. It is really nice to see someone who followed their passion to the limits.
I'd be interesting to hear more about the future of AA's. I, like many, was captivated with AAs in Disneyland, like in the Country Bear Jamboree and was stunned to watch a television program describe how an air-pressurized system was used to control the figures. I just assumed that electrical motors were somehow involved.
With the development of linear actuators, it seems that this would both make AAs more reliable, cheaper to build, and perhaps more life-like, though I am no industry expert. Also, as others have noted, increases in computing power surely would make programing a AAs show cheaper on the computer hardware end.
With all of these possible cost saving technologies, I wonder why Disney doesn't seem interested in producing shows with a large number of AAs. Yes, shows like Bug's life have some AAs, but it seems like a step backwards as screens are utilized for most of the show.
Obviously, maintenance becomes more an issue with an increased number of AAs, but I wonder if in the future it might be possible to build a figure with redundant linear actuators, such that if one fails a technician is automatically flagged, but the figure can also operate as needed for the show, if this isn't already done. It would be great to see a musical show with a large number of AAs of the quality of the Ariel AA.
Great article Garner and thank you so much for helping with our craving for theme park technologies and how they came to be. In addition to my interest in every word you plan to share with us in the future, I wondered if you might be able to speak to the progress in hardware/software technology that runs shows/AA figures over the years? I have seen pictures of the music box metal disc systems when Walt first started with AA's, up to the reel to reel systems of the 70's & 80's. I assume we do this on an Iphone now? I look forward to your every column! Thank you for sharing.
I agree with danyoung ^!!!! Tell us what you've built for Disney!
I loved the story! It was great hearing how you got to see your dreams come true.
I do indeed own a copy of that 1963 National Geographic - it's one of my prized possessions! I'd love to know what figures in the Disney parks are yours.
Great stuff. Keep it coming!!!!
Wow! You achieved the dream that every Disney fans wants but without ever having to deal with the corporate junk that goes on! Best of both worlds!
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