Disney is developing innovative costume technology that will allow tall characters like the Incredible Hulk and Baymax and smaller characters like Baby Yoda and Winnie the Pooh to interact with visitors to Disneyland and Disney California Adventure.
Walt Disney Imagineering recently lifted the curtain on a pair of secret projects named Exo and Kiwi that have been under wraps for years. Disney’s secret research and development arm has presented the progress of the tandem projects to the New York Times and CNBC.
The Imagineers demonstrated a giant hinged Hulk-like green hand with a metal gauntlet mechanism that allowed the operator to move the massive fingers, according to CNBC. An Imagineer walking on stilts was walking around with calves and thighs the size of the Hulk.
The giant Hulk-like character is part of Project Exo, which has been in development for about two years at Imagineering, CNBC reported.
Project Exo’s goal: to create a complete exoskeleton system that allows tall characters from the Star Wars, Marvel, and Pixar universes to walk around Disney theme parks and interact with visitors.
Full-body exoskeletons made of lightweight materials transfer the 40-pound weight of the oversized costumes from the artist’s shoulders to the ground, according to the New York Times.
Imagineering also designed a set of furry feet based on the ice creature Wampa from “The Empire Strikes Back,” according to CNBC.
The gigantic Project Exo characters would greet visitors to the theme park “from afar,” an Imagineer told CNBC.
The massive Exo characters could include Thanos from the Marvel Cinematic Universe and Baymax from “Big Hero Six,” according to CNBC.
Project Exo is only in the early stages of its undated development of introducing oversized characters to Disney theme parks.
Imagineering also demonstrated a young, robotic version of Groot, the alien tree-like creature from the Guardians of the Galaxy movies.
The 3-foot-tall Groot animatronic that waddles and coos like a toddler has cameras and sensors to help the robot move freely and interact with people, according to CNBC.
Custom software allows the Groot robot to perform specific behaviors and transmit emotions, according to the New York Times. The goal: to make theme park visitors believe that they are meeting Groot rather than a sophisticated robot brimming with cutting-edge technology.
The free-walking Groot audio-animatronic was revealed in April as part of Project Kiwi. Disney previously teased the audio-animatronic walking Groot during a virtual press event to announce the opening of the Avengers campus at Disney California Adventure.
According to the New York Times, Project Kiwi is now heading into the “play test” phase at Disney theme parks where Imagineers will have robot characters interact with visitors.
The most logical place to test the Groot robot: Next to the Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: Breakout in DCA’s Avengers campus. The Guardians of the Galaxy: Cosmic Rewind indoor roller coaster remains under construction at Epcot Theme Park in Florida.
Project Kiwi robots represent a new class of audio-animatronics that could be used for smaller roaming characters, according to the New York Times.
The tiny Kiwi characters could include Winnie the Pooh, Baby Yoda and Rocket Raccoon, according to CNBC.