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View Full Version : ACTORS V.S. ANIMATRONICS: The ultimate face off



Bobocyko
12-01-2004, 03:32 PM
Ladies and gentlemen the fight of the haunt age. Which is better. Scareactors or animatronics?

Jim Warfield
12-01-2004, 05:48 PM
"Actors or Animatronics?"
How about a third catagory/item?
The lonesome totally dark room with a live cricket in the corner?
A whole lot of people can't begin to handle being alone in the dark, it's the scariest thing! They might get molested!
"But you are alone!"
"Yes, I know, that just makes it more terrible! I can't trust anyone, not even myself!
"Cricket!? Was it you?"
"No, you're not my type, besides that I couldn't find a milk carton high enough for me to stand on."

Change all that, "A dark room with a live cricket and a tall milk carton."
Actors and robots can't hold a drippy candle to this!

Nicole
12-01-2004, 08:46 PM
Animatronics are good if they are used correctly and mixed with actors. My favorite are the interactive actor animatronics which are more like interactive props (like the chainsaw table by Distortions)...

Dan Faupel
12-02-2004, 09:40 AM
Bobocyko...you'll have to check out the next issue of Hauntworld magazine...I'm currently working on an article called "Animatronics Vs. Actors"...it's a study with some history, comments from some industry leaders, and opinions from haunt patrons.

It really all depends on the size and style of your attraction venue to determine the proper balance of actors and animations...generally speaking, the smaller the venue, the less need for animations, and vice versa, the larger the venue, the less need for actors.

Jim Warfield
12-03-2004, 07:29 AM
So "Big" haunt's customers don't have to be as well entertained? Just pushed-through? I have always wondered about this?
And enough customers return every season to perpetuate this type of a show?
A smaller , more actor-driven entertainment might not need to spend nearly as much money advertising itself as the "next-best thing since sliced bread" because word of mouth from happy customers do it for them.
I see a stimulating show as "job security".
AND:
"You never get a second chance to make a first impression."
(Unless you were an "Impressionist Painter."hahaha!)

I have had some very poor live-actors that a hydralic cylinder stuck up their behinds would have created a much more reliable , entertaining "Prop-Actor", especially with MY finger on the air button!
This would be so much fun . "Wut is this thing strapped to my butt fer?"
"Nevermind, just hide around your usual corner with your hands up, ready to scare someone."
"Duh, OK."
Followed by a real, terrified scream-reaction and bugged-out eyes all coming from my "actor" as the forces of compressed air hurl him a short, quick distance!
I just know the patrons would love this!

Nicole
12-03-2004, 10:12 AM
The big shows that I've seen that have a perfect mix (like Netherworld and Dungeon of Doom in Grayslake IL) really found a great balance - their actors/characters are so amazing and balanced out perfectly with the animatronics - you don't know what is coming at you or from where - when you think something is animatronic - you find out it's chasing you down a hallway. Being an actor I'll always be an advocate for us, but it's nice to have some well placed quality animatronics to confuse, amuse, and behoove our victims! That level of uncertainty (if something is "alive" or not)... is another way to get the customers feeling uneasy.

darkXmoon
12-03-2004, 10:19 AM
Animatronics are good if they are used correctly and mixed with actors.


Ditto!

Dan Faupel
12-03-2004, 10:32 AM
I totally agree Nicole...and not just because I work for a company who a big chunk of our business revolves around animations. For many years, I acted in many local haunts as well, so I know things well from that perspective too.

Jim, you don't have to look further for a good example than the granpappy of all dark attractions, Haunted Mansion. Without total animation they would never be able to cattle herd the zillions of people who have been entertained and still are to this date. Outside of dark amusement park venues, I have never been to a cattle herd style, completley or almost completely animated dark walkthrough that I felt delivered a reliable every time entertainment value. While possible, you just don't see people really trying to do a show like that very often because of the required expense and time involved in set-up, programming, and fine tuning. Interaction with a human being's wit, reflexes and timing are necessary at least here and there for a successful show recipe.

Jim Warfield
12-08-2004, 12:11 AM
Who has ever had anywhere near the amount of money that Disney has always had to do what they do?
Many start to think they might be able to sort of pull it off, but money carries the show.
It might be like Dan and I starting a racing team(Mr. Tuxedo financing it, of course) and our competition would be Ford, Chevy, Chrysler, but hey, me and Dan can take them on!!
I'll wash the car's windsheid while you research and build a new more powerfull racing engine, re-gear the transmission for the next track and wind tunnel test the new spoiler and drive it to the race in the semi while I'm talking to the racetrack cheerleaders and beauty queens, OK Dan?
"We", can do it!!
"Put-put, fizzle, pop!MMMrrr!

Dan Faupel
12-08-2004, 05:15 PM
Yes!!! Let's do it!...completely using parts from the Grin!...sure it may have the front end of a submarine, a bed for a cockpit, a hearse rear end and a nazi babe hood ornament, but that sucker will fly!...I can see it now..like a bad episode of the A-team, shots of Dan slaving away with cutaways of Jim flirting with the hotties...I'll be fine Jim, as long as I come in "sloppy second" place!

With the bed cockpit, maybe it would make a better spoof episode of Pimp My Ride!

Nightwolf
08-08-2005, 06:30 PM
I like a haunt with a mix of both...live actors are without a doubt unpredictable and can ad lib...but there are a few animations on the market that would be impossible to duplicate using a live actor....so I say 60% live 40% animations would be a good mix

deathcharger
09-17-2005, 03:20 PM
In all honesty being an actor myself, Animatronics are kinda like a slap in the face, yeah they are good here and there but I much prefer the customer to come face to face with me, than some rip off from "Its a small world after all" though that would be quite funny to put in a haunt... lol little dead zombie children singing its a dead world after all... :twisted:

Ben Fox
09-19-2005, 04:28 AM
I think it would be funnier if you could put in old Disney style animatronics that would "break" into freaky poses. Do you know how many children jump when something falls off an animatronic at a theme park?

SpFXChic
09-19-2005, 09:45 AM
I like to see a majority of actors in haunts, with a few really cool animatronics mixed in.

Infoamtek
09-19-2005, 02:19 PM
I think it would be funnier if you could put in old Disney style animatronics that would "break" into freaky poses. Do you know how many children jump when something falls off an animatronic at a theme park?

Do you mean like the time Mr. Lincoln sprayed out red hydraulic fluid from a broken hose? EWWWWWW.

PanicButton
09-19-2005, 06:37 PM
In all honesty being an actor myself, Animatronics are kinda like a slap in the face, yeah they are good here and there but I much prefer the customer to come face to face with me, than some rip off from "Its a small world after all" though that would be quite funny to put in a haunt... lol little dead zombie children singing its a dead world after all... :twisted:

Personally, I do not see animatronics as being a slap in the face. I see animatronics simply being another tool that a haunt can use to enhance or bolster themselves. Animatronics make for a nice enhancement to a solid base of actors. If you have too many animatronics then a haunt becomes static and stale. Otherwise, as I am sure it has been stated before you can have animatronics due things and look certain ways that you cannot achieve with an actor.

BTW, I too, am a haunt actor.

Ben Fox
09-20-2005, 03:57 AM
Do you mean like the time Mr. Lincoln sprayed out red hydraulic fluid from a broken hose? EWWWWWW.

Exactly....

deathcharger
09-20-2005, 01:04 PM
Alright fair enough but that was exactly what i was getting at... there are some haunts based soley on animatronics where actors hardly do any scaring... i think thats a bit lame.. is all i was trying to get across

NightMareManor
09-30-2005, 03:26 PM
both

RickRMortiz
01-08-2006, 01:28 PM
I am of the opinion that haunts should be actor driven, but theres no reason why in a few slower areas, for narrative purposes, or for doing something that would be a pain in the butt for an actor(like hanging from a noose all night), animatronics are ok, and fill a needed space.

I've seen animatroics doing entrance speils and narrative in themed shows, where an actor having done it 300 times a night would tire quickly of quoting it. I've also seen animatroics that have done really good startle scares in slow points in a show.

But I've also seen shows where Animatronics have been used as a status symbol (I have more expensive toys than you do) or a replacement for good acting talent and have heard customers go "Well that was cool.. but 'joe bobs' down the road scared the hell out of me lets go there!" and as it turns out the other haunt has no animatronics at all.

But that doesnt mean I dont have a hell of a good time myself playing with peoples expensive toys.. hehehehe

Snuggles
02-16-2006, 05:05 PM
Actors are definatly the better here.

However, I have found that Animatronics can be scary and useful in many ways. For instance, in my room, I had a lady laying on a gurney with a large hole in her chest. A snake popped out of this thing and "attacked" the people coming through. The air compressed machine made noises when activated my a motion sensor that allowed me to keep tabs on where people are in my house as to better scare and reset.

They are also useful when circumstances arise in which you have to leave your scene(s) for something, or you are not feeling well and have to go somewhat easier, or whatever. I have always found it useful to learn the sounds of your room and vantage points about the scene you can use to help you become a more efficient scaring machine.

gridbug
05-11-2006, 07:10 PM
Unless you have deepdeep pockets, actors are the backbone of a haunt. People are adaptible and can adapt their scare to better match their mark to make the scare better. An animatronic prop can't pick out the screamer in the bunch and focus on them.

Some animatronics make a good compliment to actors, but actors carry the show.

scarygyrl73
06-16-2006, 12:55 PM
I think live actors are the key, especially for our fans who love to come on return visits to the park. I work at Howl O Scream at Busch Gardens Tampa Bay Florida, ( an upcoming sixth year for me) and the actors really make the scares!!!!

Xeverity
09-13-2006, 05:47 AM
I like actors best!! I use animatronics as a diversion which then lets the actor sneak up on them. You have the flexibility to do much better tricks on the people. Whenever I get a group I will get an actor to infiltrate the group and see how long it takes for them to realise 'he is not one of us'.

Of course they need their atttention diverted. I also have actors prep people for the next scene such as a twisted nurse asking for patrons blood type and whether they have their organ donar card with them. This adds humour between scenes and make it interactive.

aghast
09-15-2006, 07:49 PM
IMHO...

Animatronics are good for a startle,

but actors are good for a scare.

(Generally speaking, of course)

Veneficus
10-09-2006, 08:42 PM
Well, I think they both can be good if used in the correct ways. That one video I saw of the skeleton at the beginning of Raycliff Manor was awesome! That's one of the scenarios when I think it is good to have an animatronic. The only real thing that annoys me about them is the amount of noise they make. But the skeleton at Raycliff Manor was virtually silent (except for the awesome dialogue of course) There was no sound coming from it.

TenFootReaper
11-14-2006, 09:50 PM
I like Jim warfield. Atmosphere first


First set the mood dark room, unnerving sets ect, A good actor then an animotronic only if it can come out of nowwhere. but don't depend on them

jack
12-08-2006, 12:13 PM
Both is optimum, but if you have to choose one or the other, then I'd go with actors. You can get a lot more variety out of actors than you can out of animatronics. They do what they're designed to do and no more.

Jim Warfield
12-13-2006, 12:43 AM
As we were watching an old movie on TV tonight, both I and my wife observed the same thing, the actor reciting his lines spoke and sounded and had even the same mannorisms as our one actor who has worked here for several years!
"Louse" IS Duece Bigalo!

Empressnightshade
01-24-2007, 09:04 AM
Before October 2006, I would have been completely in the actor's corner. An animatronic cannot calculate who is the best person to scare in the group and cannot deviate from the time it's been given to activate.

However........

I had sooooo many problems with actors not showing up this past season. It was a nightmare! One night, we had to completely close off our trail, leave the haunt portion open only and reduce the price to half due to actors not showing up. RIDICULOUS! AND for those who did show up, I'd had it up to eyeballs with their complaints about needing water and bathroom trips. Even when we had discussed in several meetings about bringing your own water with you and making that all important trip to the restroom before we opened, they just wouldn't comply. Good grief, we were only open four hours! To add insult to injury, they refused to stay in their designated scenes. I had one actor in particular who refused to stay in the haunt. He kept going out front where others could see him! Needless to say, he's not coming back.
We had one animatronic named Larry. He was great!

I'm not spouting off at the mouth like an uncaring haunt owner because I'm also an actor, too and have been off and on for over 30 years. I know what it's like to have a cubby hole for a boo box and repeatedly do the same scare over and over again until your voice is raw. I know what it's like to be bullied and even slapped by customers. So, what I ask of other actors isn't anything worse than what I've been through. In fact, conditions for my actors are better than any I've ever been involved in before. Which brings me to say this....

After dealing with the actors temperments in 2006, I came to these decisions for 2007:

1. MORE ANIMATRONICS! I have increased our one to five and may add a few more if the budget allows.

2. I'm designing the haunt in a way that one actor will have at least two opportunities to scare. Whether it's two scares in person, one in person plus animatronic activation or two animatronic activations.

This will cut down on my dependability for actors. Last year, I needed 25 actors to pull off the haunt successfully. With the new design and animatronics, I'm hoping to cut that in half. In this way, if an actor does not comply, they will be let go and replaced with someone else.

Jim Warfield
01-24-2007, 07:07 PM
From beginning with the local JC's haunted house to now, one of my biggest frustrations has been trying to create numerous scare opportunitys for my actors so they don't get bored, BUT when I did this many of them thought I was asking too much of them, couldn't understand what I was trying to tell them, had no sense of timing and generally didn't do multiple scares, they did one because they were too confused(scared or lazy?) to comprehend anything more than that?
This is not rocket science! Put yourself in a certain location, do a certain thing the way I tell you. Then after that move to the second location and now do the other thing I showed you how to do, now return to that first location, and while travelling between those locations if you see some customer vandalising the place or wandering lost scare them or escourt them out or call someone else to help you do the appropriate thing, whichever that may be.
It was actually easier to have my helpers learn over 30 minutes of leading and narrating the house tour than for them to do hit & run ambush scaring!?
Of course anything does require some time to get it right and some of those early people left long ago.
I actually have some very talented and creative tour guides here that crack me up!
They might use a line I use then modify it slightly or tell the line making me the butt of a joke, implied or actual.
Most people who have worked here found out right away that this is harder to do and do within acceptable standards and limits than they imagined it would be. I have been at fault sometimes forgetting this because I have been performing here basically non-stop over all these years.
An earlier comment about a real person gets tired making the same spiel all night long...(versus a machine doing it) I say different things all the time. This makes it more interesting for my customers and me.
Last October in one night I began by telling of a true supernatural experience here and as the night wore on and the crowd got drunker it morphed into my psychic ability to guess which person sitting on the couch was going to pass gas next?
It all played well, I had fun too!

Preblepug
02-01-2007, 09:04 PM
I think scare actors are better because we are able to hide in many places and we can react to the situation happening where a machine can't. Say if someone is more scared of us we can play off that fear but if someone is scared of a "prop" it can't do anything else then what is programmed to do

Jim Warfield
02-01-2007, 10:58 PM
Of course if a customer is scared of a prop-clown and you have enough money to own 12 identicle prop-clowns and have them throughout the entire house around every corner.......a live actor would be very hard-pressed to match this, especially being able to keep ahead of the customers physically (like I do) and keep setting up, catching a breath and scaring them over and over.
I have often toyed with the idea of having "Jim" masks made for all of my October helpers, sort of like when numerous people all showed up at Haunted Attraction's Costume Ball all wearing "Leonard" masks, made with the talents of a photo copier.
Very Funny.

geoffgbeck
03-21-2007, 11:41 PM
:D Looking at all of the posts here it seems to me that pretty much everyone agrees that there needs to be a balance of both for shows to be the most effective. I would also agree with the sentiment of Jim Warfied saying that "money drives the show". I am assuming he means that the more money you have, the more animatronics you can buy. So, I agree with Nicole who said that she is partial to some of the big shows (like Netherworld) that use equal amounts of both. I have been a quest actor for the past five years at Netherworld, and truly this is the "Walt Disney World" of haunted attractions. Ben Armstrong's approach of "the more you throw at the wall, something will stick" has proven to be successful. The customers who come back again year after year expect lots of "eye candy" with spectacle (big animatronics) and talented actors who display a variety of improvisational acting skills to interact with them. Especially the sliders outside who both startle and entertain the customers. In my opinion, if a haunt is new and does not have a lot of money, it is better to take what money you do have and invest it in your makeup crew and your actors by providing them with as much information and training that time and money will allow. You start their training in early september (or even august) by making them attend manditory weekly seminars (preferably both saturdays and sundays). You hire the best acting and makeup coordinators you can afford to put your actors through as many acting workshops (involvement is a must) and makeup classes as you can cram in 8 weeks. Shoot video of them to show them how they can learn what they did right and what they need to work on. Have them take photos of their makeup jobs so they can start to build up a bunch of different character looks and have them build and act around each of them. If you do all of this and more, I guarantee you will improve their potential and the quality of your show by 50% compared to if you didn't. As you have heard many times "people are what makes a company successful", I will end by saying "animatronics can't interact with customers making them resonate over the dialogue that was said to them hours or even days later".

Geoff Beck
Performer/Makeup Artist

drfrightner
03-23-2007, 01:23 AM
This would be a cool television show...

Actors vs. Animations

All the actor has to do to win is unhook the air! LOL

I think the actors would win!

Larry

Warren Vanderdark
03-23-2007, 05:28 AM
Being "old school", getting my start as a haunt actor back when the height of technology was a floor-mounted switch that allowed an actor to blackout a room, I think that animatronics DO have their good points, when it comes to effects or characters that would be extremely difficult/expensive or downright impossible for a human actor to pull-off. (i.e., the leaping corpses and giant creatures sold by companies like Scare Factory.)


However, animatronics, regardless of how good, have a limited range of movement and are incapable (at least for NOW) of reacting spontaneously with haunt patrons. It's that degree of uncertainty that adds to the atmosphere of a haunt, not knowing what the actor in a scene is going to do next...

Infraredkelp
04-22-2007, 05:29 PM
Animations and Actors shouldn't "battle" each other, they should work together in harmony :D

Jim Warfield
04-25-2007, 11:19 PM
"Work together in harmony?"
And be made to share the SAME restroom I suppose?
Nobody must be in that stall, I can't see any legs as I look under the edge of the door..."Gotcha!" "Yikez! Dammit! You darn no-legged pnuematics can pop up in the darndest places, now pull yourself out of that toilet and dry yourself off before returning to work."

DR.kalise
09-14-2007, 10:54 AM
i feel that animatronics are good for scares that are unexpected actors are even better cuz lets face it if was not for actors you would not get the same kind of scares with a animatronic then with an actor so like a number of people have said before if mixed the right way .....you get picture

WeAreTheUnion
09-16-2007, 06:51 PM
Before October 2006, I would have been completely in the actor's corner. An animatronic cannot calculate who is the best person to scare in the group and cannot deviate from the time it's been given to activate.

However........

I had sooooo many problems with actors not showing up this past season. It was a nightmare! One night, we had to completely close off our trail, leave the haunt portion open only and reduce the price to half due to actors not showing up. RIDICULOUS! AND for those who did show up, I'd had it up to eyeballs with their complaints about needing water and bathroom trips. Even when we had discussed in several meetings about bringing your own water with you and making that all important trip to the restroom before we opened, they just wouldn't comply. Good grief, we were only open four hours! To add insult to injury, they refused to stay in their designated scenes. I had one actor in particular who refused to stay in the haunt. He kept going out front where others could see him! Needless to say, he's not coming back.
We had one animatronic named Larry. He was great!

I definitely know how that goes. I act at a multi-attraction haunt in Michigan called Night Terrors and we have well over a hundred actors in total so it gets REALLY hectic sometimes.

Back to the original topic, I absolutely cannot stand any more than a few animatronics in a haunt.
I drove from Ypsilanti, MI (where I live) to Niles, MI - a 5 hour round trip - to go to Niles Scream Park's opening night. I'd heard really great things about it and was assured it was worth the very long drive.
Boy was I disappointed.
Nearly every "scare," save three lackluster performances from costumeless actors weilding chainsaws outside the exit of the main haunted house, was animatronic. I was bored to tears.
I'd never felt like I wasted an evening on a haunt before, but at the end of the day I just wanted to have my 20 bucks plus gas and 6 hours of my life back...


The bottom line is that animatronics just can't interact with a group the way that a good actor can, and at least for me that IS the reason that haunts are so much fun. It's the interaction and the unknown element. Wondering if that scary looking thing was a piece of the wall or if you're going to turn around and find the bastard in the middle of your group!
You can have all the fancy animations and decorations you want and you might startle the occasional teenage girl, but when's the last time your electric chair gag made a grown man run screaming out the exit?
There's just nothing like a good actor in a haunt. The ability to ad-lib and assess the crowd is something that an animatronic can never, and will never be able to do.
I say by-pass the animations and invest your time and money on setting up your actors to get the job done.

William
09-17-2007, 09:19 AM
Haunted attractions should have both actors and animatronics.
Typically, actors provide better scares than animatronics, however, if you want the monster scaring your patrons not to resemble the form of a human (eg. giant insect or dragon) you should resort to an animatronic. Animatronics provide great "eye candy" and entertainment, but the realism and unpredictable actions of a live human will scare them more than any animatronic. Haunts should have a mixture of both, and shouldn't replace actors over animatronics or vice versa.

minetruly
09-19-2007, 07:18 PM
An animatronic holds nothing back when it comes to imaginative construction and gory capabilities. However, an animatronic will not respond to the crowd. An animatronic will not throw creepy retorts to childrens' insults. An animatronic will not warn and evict rowdy groups. An animatronic will not escort crying children out. An animatronic will not recite halloween songs and poetry while waiting for the parent that walked to the exit with their child to return. An animatronic will not learn and whisper group members' names. An animatronic will not personalize scares based on what it heard from the group. An animatronic will not tone down or hike up its scariness to suit the kind of people in its group. An animatronic never sneaks into the lobby for one final scare. An animatronic never dashes to the crosswalk outside for one final scare. At the end of a tour, an animatronic is never thanked.

My name is Scary, and I am NOT an animatronic.

Veneficus
09-21-2007, 02:28 PM
Wow.....that was oddly inspirational...

*applauds*

Jim Warfield
09-21-2007, 05:49 PM
"Animatronics really never scare anybody."
I heard this first at Transworld many years ago from the featured speaker at the semiar.
I disagree.
Mine have scared many people (and not just little girls!)
One time one scared a big girl so much that her reactive move made her punch a man and knock him to the floor, landing flat on his back! "OOPS!"
Most of my critters are made from all common hardware store items (and we have small old fashioned hardware stores locally.)
A garage door opener, hinges, steel cable, bolts, plywood, sheet metal scraps, fabric, fake furr, plastic doll eyes, little ball-bearing wheels from a patio door.