Animated Display Project Design and Build Overview

Animated Display Project Design and Build Overview

Published by Jim Boulden on 18th Feb 2017

Realistic Animated Display Project


In just six weeks time, these 18 chicken figures were designed and fabricated.  The tallest figure is this 10' tall animatronic rooster.  It features 8 digital movements powered by compressed air.  The entire display involves 20 chicken figures in varying scales.  Two of the figures are hatchlings in their shells and are animated using powerful digital titanium gear servo motors.

Animal Makers also designed and created an animatronic rooster figure for the Bellagio Las Vegas twelve years ago.  That figure was powered by UAV super servos and is completely electric.

Here we see the 2017 animatronic ten foot tall rooster character performing above the floor of the Bellagio Conservatory in Las Vegas.

This picture shows the grouping of 18 individual chicken display characters creating an amusing display for Chinese New Year 2017!

Program Controls and Audio

Here's the "brain box" that keeps this show going 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Housed inside a water proof, snap down control box is the Gilderfluke control and audio equipment.

This is a typical animation set up using Gilderfluke equipment.  A minibrick 8 controlling the individual animation valves, plus an SD-25, which is a cue-able digital repeater.  Great equipment combination to breathe life into this amazing hotel display!

Brushing up on the equipment updates for the Mini-Brick 8 control and SD-25 digital audio playback system on the Gilderfluke YouTube channel. The controls are mounted on a shelf above the 24 vdc power supply. Had to beef up the power supply to deliver the amperage to that powerful SD-25 amplifier! That little blue box fills the huge Conservatory space with the rooster's signature "crowing"!

Figure Finishing

Thanks to our readers for asking for more information on the soft sculpting and figure finishing work on this project!  Here's some more info:

Chicken and Pheasant feathers imported from Chinese farms are picked through, sorted, and custom dyed.  Thanks to Moonlight Feathers in Ventura, California!

The Animal Makers crew trimming and gluing down feathers in carefully laid out flows.  The feathers were made to seem larger by trimming them higher on the shaft, leaving the normal points of flight feathers out.  The black feathers and fake "pin" feathers stuck in the tail were there as design elements to add realism to the oversized hen figure.

Here is a shot of the design process on feather layout.

Here are the small dye bins used to add "fire" to the tips of some of the feathers.  In picture above, look for the feathers that go from yellow to red.  The tips were dyed in these little bins.  That was as firey as a feather can get, without actually burning!

Mechanical Animatronics

The main figure is a ten foot tall rooster and this is powered by SMC and Bimba pneumatic actuators.

The "high tech" design method we've used for 15 years. Project the figure onto a paper sketch, then align the mechanical design. The steel loops are hand rolled, tacked, sized, re-tacked, positioned, and then final welded. The aluminum framework meets up with the steel framework at the figure's CG (center of gravity).

One of the project requirements we had to design in, is the ability to easily lift the entire figure into the air and place into position 15' above the ground.

This is company principal, Jim Boulden, working on the rooster's neck off of scaffolds.  The pneumatic air lines can be seen rising up into the head area.  Also, there are gas shocks installed at the base of the neck to smooth the movements, and give the rooster's head and neck support when in transit.

Here's a work in progress shot of the rooster's head mechanism.  Nice clean welds on the aluminum tubing.  The top of the figure is aluminum, the base is heavy steel tubing.

Project machinist and certified welder discussing the build in the mechanical department at Animal Makers.

Here's the steel base with built in forklift tines designed by Dennis Murphy.  The base alone weighs over 100 pounds! Below the base are handled, threaded base lifts for leveling, plus heavy duty casters for moving it around.

Base struts get machined for the casters, leveling screw bases, and threaded screw mounting holes.

Art Department

The final look is based on the look of the face and those legs and feet.  If those aren't right on, the whold project suffers.  Here's a look at the work from the art department team.

This is the mid range rooster face.  This figure stands approximately 5' tall.  The face is actually two separate sculpts and mold sets.  The face is layed up in a silicone jacket mold with 6 pound fiberglas cloth and polyester resin.  The comb and wattles (reddish areas) are created with a latex skin over a 4 pound urethane foam backing.  The eye hole will be cut out and a gorgeous, hand painted and fired, crystal eye will be placed.  The eyes were painted and fired by Antonio at Tohickon.

The comb/wattles panels create the mask to set this gorgeous eye.  This material also allows hair punching of individual fibers.  The final paint job really adds realism to this face.

Every feather was sprayed with a light seal coating infused with mica.  Dyed feathers lose their oil, and makes the coloring look flat.  By adding mica, the sheen returns, without affecting the hue or the value of the color.  The intensity seems to punch up as well.

The chicks are urethane foam bodies done with a thin coat of TC-284 from BJB Enterprises.  The chick figures were  original sculptures done here, then molded using TC-1604 and TC-1570 epoxy surface coat and laminating resin with 6 pound fiberglass cloth.

Jack Zhang is shown working on the original sculpture.  In the background can be seen the first color fur dying tests.  The gentle yellow of a real chick was a difficult color to match!

The Final Display

After just six weeks of preparation, the Fire Rooster display gets installed!  Here are a few videos visitor-created videos showing the final display taken by visitors.  If you have a virtual reality set up, check out the last of these three we picked from the 10,000 videos posted in February 2017 alone.

Here's a 360 degree, virtual reality version:

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