Walt Disney Imagineering recruits advanced robotics expert to work on future animatronic figures

Apr 29, 2015 in "The Walt Disney Company"

Posted: Wednesday April 29, 2015 12:18pm EDT by WDWMAGIC Staff

Walt Disney Imagineering has recruited Martin Buehler, a well known expert in the field of advanced robotics.

Buehler is most well known for his work on the Boston Dynamics 'BigDog' project, which you can see in action in the video below. BigDog runs at 4 mph, climbs slopes up to 35 degrees, walks across rubble, climbs muddy hiking trails, walks in snow and water, and carries 340 lb load.

Martin was also director of research at iRobot and a VP at Vecna Technologies.


Buehler joins WDI at a critical time for Audio-Animatronics, as Disney looks to separate itself from the wider adoption of animated figures at other parks around the world.

The upcoming AVATAR project at Disney's Animal Kingdom is expected to debut some next generation Audio-Animatronic figures to bring the AVATAR story to life.

Martin will lead WDI R&D's Advanced Robotics and will take on the role of executive R&D Imagineer.

Discuss on the Forums
View all comments →

larathydoApr 30, 2015

As long as their ideas of new interactive animatronics don't involve changing guests down with a contraption like this: :jawdrop:

Nubs70Apr 30, 2015

I see him as the liason between Disney and the organization they outsource too. A grand R&D project manager

rickdratApr 30, 2015

Cheesy 80's soundtrack notwithstanding, this is the really creepy stuff Boston Dynamics is working on... Lot's of theme park potential but with a very steep price tag I'm sure.

the.dreamfinderApr 30, 2015

They build what Disney asks them to. It's not their fault Disney isn't dreaming big enough.

gmajewApr 30, 2015

This is a very interesting and potential awesome hire for Disney. I hope they do some great R&D and create some new and amazing stuff. Don't care if they farm it out to be produced just glad they are investing in the technology that made them stand above everyone else in the past.

Cmdr_CrimsonApr 30, 2015

Heck even the Walking with Dinosaurs Live Tour has some impressive driveable AA puppets..

wdwgreekApr 30, 2015

I would love to see my AA development in the parks. I adore them! The mobile muppet lab was such a cool thing!

MerlinTheGoatApr 30, 2015

Agreed. That suit was such an utter failure, I hope they learned their lesson there and never bring it back out again. The even sadder thing is that i've seen infinitely superior dinosaur costumes built by just regular and likely not immensely wealthy (yet talented and creative) people- Granted you can still see the person's legs underneath, but the level of detail on the skin, movement and other external features are orders of magnitude above Disney's quite frankly embarrassing pathetic dino suits. And on a more professional level (though still from people infinitely less wealthy than Disney), there are some extremely impressive mechanical dino suits out there that fix the issues of seeing the wearer's legs entirely- There are a lot of quite impressive dino costumes out there, examples are all over youtube of ones that were properly executed even by regular people. I've already got a pretty low opinion of Disney World lately, but I was still taken aback at how poor those dino costumes were.

ProgApr 30, 2015

Artist's conception:

PiroulineApr 30, 2015

Garners pretty good but is not really innovating.

GeorgeApr 30, 2015

They could have an awesome animatronic dinosaur interact with guests for a few months and walk around and the like and then disappear. They could then build a "Muppet Mobile Laboratory" and if you are at WDW during a 3 or 4 day window in the future you could talk about how awesome it was to see Honeydew and Beaker out and about. They may even have moving mouths and eyes and such on the non-face characters and 5 years after they debut that tech it will still be exciting and new since it will exist on one character from time to time. They could also build elaborate AAs for the rides and then cover them with cheap plastic and vinyl so that you could see the hydraulic pump moving it around after the cheap skin tore. The possibilities are indeed endless.

ScuttleApr 30, 2015

That looks terrible. To me if I'm a first time guest and I saw that I'd think to myself this is supposedly the best theme park business in the world? Stuff like that diminishes the brand, at least to the average guest IMO.

Prince-1Apr 29, 2015

One word...Westworld.

ScuttleApr 29, 2015

Can we please get this guy to clean up the mess at EE?!?