Disney Debuts Robot to Replace Costumed Characters in the Parks

Credit: Click Orlando

For the first time ever, Disney has debuted a robot to replace costumed characters in the parks, or so it seems.

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Credit: SXSW

During a presentation on the first day of the SXSW (South By Southwest) event in Austin on Friday, Disney Imagineers debuted a new type of robot that can complete complex moves like humans and is designed to create an emotional connection with Guests while performing its “stunts.” Oh, and she looks just like Judy Hopps from Disney’s Zootopia.

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judy hopps robot disney zootopia

Credit: Scott Gustin/Nexstar Media/Walt Disney Animation

South By Southwest, abbreviated as SXSW, is an annual event held in Austin, Texas, that serves as the culmination of different film, media, and music festivals and conferences. This year’s event began on Friday and runs through Sunday, March 19. 

Disney says that the amazing robot “incorporates motion-capture data to create performances that evoke emotion, giving Disney Imagineers a new way to bring out a character’s personality.”

And all this talk about robots and artificial intelligence with the capacity to create an emotional connection with Guests and engage in an experience with them lends itself to further conversations about Disney’s possible plans to eliminate costumed characters in the parks during Guest meet-and-greets. There are a few reasons this could be the way of the future in the parks, and they make pretty good sense.

First, there would no longer be the concern about human Cast Members getting overheated in the costumes while meeting with Guests. While there would surely still be intermissions between meet-and-greet times in the parks, robots don’t have to have long breaks to cool off from the hot summer sun. The robots would need “handlers” in the parks to keep them from being touched, vandalized, or even accidentally broken, though.

guests meet mickey mouse

Credit: Becky Burkett

Also, Imagineering’s new technology is designed to allow the AI to interact in a special way with each Guest. This would ultimately add to the magical Guest experience. On the downside, however, there’s something about meeting the iconic costumed Mickey Mouse at Disney World and Disneyland, and to many fans, it seems clear that there simply is no technology innovative enough to have us abandon a tradition that’s been in the parks since Walt welcomed the very first Guests to Disneyland in 1955.

About Becky Burkett

Becky's from the Lone Star State and has been writing since she was 10 and encountered her first Disney Park when she was 11. It was love at first Main Street Electrical Parade. Joy is blank lined journals, 0.7 mm pens, and all things Walt, Woody and Buzz, PIXAR, Imagineering, Sleeping Beauty (make it blue!), Disney Parks history and EPCOT. At Disney World, you'll find her croonin' with the birdies at the Enchanted Tiki Room or hangin' with Woody and the gang at Toy Story Land. If you can dream, you really can do it!