Want to know more?
Here in our GHP FAQ, we provide answers to some of our most frequently asked questions. How do animatronics work? How do I get a job here? Who's Garner and who's Holt?

Find these answers (and many more) right here.


Animatronics FAQ

What kind of animatronic figures do we create?

We design and fabricate animated figures of any size, scope and level of sophistication. No job is too large or too small. We have created single, small characters for display in homes and/or retail locations. We have created figures to educate, entertain, inform, scare, assist and serve people of all ages. We can give a personality to any character and animate any thing: a lamp, a rock, a product, a tree, a house, a car—literally anything. Their sizes can range from a simple butterfly, up to and including the world’s largest animated figures for the world’s greatest theme parks. We create humans, animals, cartoon characters, dinosaurs, birds, robots, and just about everything else.

How much do animatronics cost?

Animatronics are unique works of technology and art. They are labor intensive, and, depending on their complexity and level of detail, can be very expensive. We have more experience in designing and building animatronics than any other company in the world. Our figures are built with exceptional quality and unmatched experience with the very best methods and components.  Our figures (and all our other creations) are built for durability and ease of maintenance. We strive to provide the best value for your dollar. We know that there are smaller, cheaper, and less experienced companies out there, but we are often asked to replace their equipment! Benjamin Franklin once said, "The bitterness of poor quality remains long after the sweetness of low price is forgotten." We know how much this quote applies to animatronics, too.

Although most of our figures are custom, one-of-a-kind creations, we do have some "off the shelf" animatronics, like our TropiTronics animatronic parrots from GHP Products, LLC. These theme park-quality animatronic parrots have 8 or 12 functions and pricing starts at $11,999.00.

We have created custom animatronics from tiny songbirds small enough to fit in the palm of a hand to giant animated creatures nearly sixty feet tall. Figures have ranged from around $10,000.00 to well over $1,000,000.00 for just one figure. Detail, scale, fluidity of motion, and many other factors contribute to how much the unique design and fabrication of world-class animatronics will cost. Here are some more factors to keep in mind that will help determine price:

1) We like to relate the cost of our animatronics to the cost of a car. How much does a car cost? The answer is a very wide spectrum, and animatronics are similiar. Cars all have an engine, four wheels, doors, and they can move forward and backward and steer left and right. But there's a world of difference between a basic Chevrolet, and the highest end Mercedes. There's even a big spread between the Mercedes and the newest Ferrari model. In the same way, animatronics can have a single basic function with very little detail, or have more than a hundred functions and exceptionally detailed finishing.

So, the first question for potential animatronics customers is: what kind of car do you want?!

2) What type (human, animal, creature, etc.), size, level of detail is the figure? Have we done it before?

3) How many functions will the figure have, and how are they powered? Are they analog or digital, pneumatic or hydraulic or electric?

4) Will it require special controls, or compliance? Are there special safety considerations (like overhead safety)?

5) Will the client require the ability to program the figure? Will we need to provide a programming console?

6) Is there speciality engineering or safety analysis required?

7) Will the figure be indoors or outside, or under water?

8) Will the figure have a costume, or will it be furred?

9) How much skin will be visible? Will it be silicone or a hard fiberglass shell?

10) Is it a standard shape like a human, or is it an original and unique design? Do we need to sculpt it?

11) Do we provide anything else: props, stage, scripting, music, audio recording, air compressor, hydraulic pump?

If you have a specific inquiry for us, please fill in an inquiry form.

How do animatronic figures work?

Animatronic figures are most often powered by pneumatics (compressed air), and, in special instances, hydraulics (pressurized oil), or by electrical means. The figures are custom precision machines—robotic devices—built to the dimensions and proportions of living creatures. They incorporate mechanical frames that are precision machined of stainless steel and aluminum alloys, with joints placed in natural joint positions, determined by careful study of biomechanics. Motion actuators, similar to "muscles” are placed within this frame to create motion in limbs and joints. The machinery is covered with body shell and flexible skins made of hard and soft plastic materials. The figure is then finished to add coloring, hair, feathers, and other touches that add detail and finalize the work. Costuming is next completed, and the figure’s animation control computer is programmed by an animator, enabling it to perform in a realistic, lifelike manner, synchronized with sound and other effects. Find out more about how we create animatronic characters by taking the virtual tour.

Do we do likenesses?

Yes, we have created many likenesses of celebrities, presidents, historic personalities, athletes, and other influential individuals. We also create animals based on real or famous creatures. In some cases, if the person to be created is living, we will take a laser scan of their body (see Design & Production FAQ) and if needed and allowed, a life mask is taken of the individual’s face. In any case, we can create exact likenesses for either static or animatronic recreations.

What makes your animals better than taxidermy mounts?

Every creature made by Garner Holt Productions is a faithful recreation of its counterpart found in nature. Unlike the realism of taxidermy mounts, however, we use only synthetic materials for our animal creations: fur, eyes, teeth, claws, and most feathers. The only items taken from real creatures include feathers from domestic commercial fowl, which does not harm the creatures. Additionally, our animals have a much longer "lifespan” than taxidermy animals, which tend to deteriorate with time.

How long do they take to build?

Most figures we build are unique and custom creations, unless created in a series. Depending on the complexity, size of the figure, and how customized the creation is, the lead-time can vary greatly from a matter of weeks to several months. We are very experienced in our craft, and can produce animatronics very quickly. But with a greater allowance of time, our product will naturally reflect a greater level of involvement. Although tight timeframes can often be accomplished, such constraints are always costlier for the buyer.

Are animatronic figures reliable? How often do they need maintenance?

Our animated figures are built with the finest, time-proven components available. We pride ourselves in our designs and workmanship, with more than three decades’ experience designing and building animatronic figures. Figures are mechanical, and any complex machine needs maintenance. Wear parts such as bearings, cylinders, costumes and others need to be maintained, and replaced when they reach their life expectancy. It is best to inspect animatronics at least once per week in order to keep them running at optimal performance. It is always better to be aware of a potential problem than to trace a malfunction when it appears.

Can I repair or maintain the animatronics myself?

Animatronic figures can be maintained by the buyer, if one has reasonable mechanical skills and tools available. Our figures and products include maintenance and parts manuals. The manuals provide instructions on component replacement, troubleshooting, and general maintenance. Assistance is always available by phone from technicians at Garner Holt Productions.

What about changing the programming?

The buyer can reprogram a figure, but it is best left to the experts. Assistance from Garner Holt Productions is available to reprogram when needed. Changing a figure’s program can be a very involved process. Our mechanical and electrical systems are straight forward, and any computer-literate person willing to learn the skills to operate a programming console and the software can accomplish the programming task. The aesthetic results will be subject to the individual's experience, skill and ability to "act” via an animatronic character.


Animal Creations FAQ

What animals do you make?
The extent of our animal creations knows no bounds. We can build literally any animal that crawls, slithers, walks, swims, or flies. Here is a list of the animals we have created to date - check out our animal and bird gallery:

•Alligator, American
•Anteater, Giant
•Bat, Pallid
•Bear, Baby
•Bear, Black
•Bear, Brown
•Bear, Grizzly
•Bear, Polar (adult & cub)
•Boar, Wild
•Cat, House
•Cobra, King
•Cow, Dairy
•Crab, Spider
•Deer, White Tail
•Dogs (various)
•Elephant, African
•Fox, Artic
•Fish, various tropical
•Frog, Bull
•Gila monster
•Giraffe, juvenile
•Goat, Mountain
•Gorilla, Silver Back Mountain
•Horse, Quarter
•Iguana, Green
•Insects (giant size)
•Kangaroo w/ babies
•Lion, African
•Lion, Mountain
•Malayan Tapir
•Otter, Sea
•Panda, Giant
•Seal, Leopard
•Seal pup
•Shark, Lemon
•Sheep, Big Horn (Ram)
•Snake, Tree Boa Constrictor
•Snake, King Cobra
•Spider (various to 5’ long)
•Stingray, Blunt Nose
•Turtle, Leatherback
•Turtle, Sea
•Wolves, Timber


What makes your animals better than taxidermy mounts?
Every creature made by Garner Holt Productions is a faithful recreation of its counterpart found in nature. Unlike the realism of taxidermy mounts, however, we use only synthetic materials for our animal creations: fur, eyes, teeth, claws, and most feathers. The only items taken from real creatures include feathers from domestic commercial fowl, which does not harm the creatures. Additionally, our animals have a much longer "lifespan” than taxidermy animals, which tend to deteriorate with time.


Bird Creations FAQ

What kinds of birds do you make?
We can match nature for variety and appeal of our bird creations. Animatronic, static, realistic or caricatured, living or extinct, we can create any bird required. Here is a list of birds we've created already:

•Crane, Sand Hill
•Duck, mallard
•Eagle, Bald
•Macaw (many types)
•Military Parrot
•Penguin, Emperor
•Tiki Room Songbird
•Vulture, Lapid Face
•Vulture, Lamagier


Show Action Systems Capabilities

Show action systems and animated props create an environment of action, excitement and danger, thrilling young and old alike. These realistic mechanical effects can be as simple as a floating spaceship, parting waterfalls, a traveling ore car, a giant rocking boat, or as complex as a falling Jeep or a collapsing bridge. They are generally used as elements that support the show atmosphere and environment. In many cases, these systems simulate dangerous situations that put the audience in what seems to be real peril. But in reality, what they are experiencing is a result of highly sophisticated machinery, most often, carefully hidden from the guests’ view. They are exquisitely engineered, continuous duty "safe” events that create a show or ride atmosphere happening over and over, hundreds of times a day, safely and reliably. With safety our number one concern, all systems are carefully engineered, analyzed, and are rigorously tested to ensure that safety is never compromised.

Whatever the requirement, Garner Holt Productions leads the way as one of the foremost manufacturers of show action systems, animated props, and special effects. Our fantastic, breathtaking effects consistently amaze and surprise audiences in all venues. We are proud that our systems are trusted and respected by the world’s largest entertainment companies. Some of our systems include:

* Revolving Turntables - Slides
* Scenery Movers -Automatic Doors
* Track Mounted Carriages -Shaker Tables
* Pneumatic & Hydraulic Machinery
* Simulators
* Multi-ton Lifts and Turntables
* Rotating Rooms
* Hydraulic Platforms
* Collapsing Systems
* Animated Props
* Interactive Systems and Exhibits


Live Event Productions (Parades, stage shows, seasonal events) Capabilties

In addition to full-size, powered parade floats we have produced a number of atmospheric entertainment items, mini-floats, carts, and wagons. These elements are most often used to support an entertainment program, usually based on a specific theme. Performers use these units as a base to pull, drive, or pedal on-stage to perform on or around. They usually contain audio systems, lighting, and other show elements and effects to enhance the show. Our experience at Garner Holt Productions includes:

* Float Chassis / Drive Units
* Special Effects
* Animatronic Figures and Puppets
* Puppeteer Controlled Characters
* Performer Costumes
* Show Action Elements
* Scenic Elements
* Audio Systems (onboard & transmission)
* Performer Restraints
* Lighting / FX Lighting
* Electrical Parade Effects
* Float Tow Bar Units
* Inflatables

We also create support equipment such as:
* People Powered Vehicles
* Dance Props & Musical Instruments
* Performance Art Elements
* Walk-Around Puppets & Characters
* Inflatable Walk-Around Characters


Special Effects Capabilities

Garner Holt Productions has created dozens of incredible special effects for venues throughout the world. Our work in adding a "wow” to attractions has included:

• Water FX / Waterfalls / Floods
• Lasers (Real & Simulated)
• Levitation
• Water Cannons / Water Blasts
• Air Cannons / Wind
• Lighting FX
• Projections / Optical Effects
• Atmosphere – (Lightning, Rain, Snow)
• Flame / Fire / Explosion
• Peppers Ghost
• Fiber Optics
• High Voltage Effects
• Audio FX
• Mechanical FX
• Unique Electronic Devices
• Scent Cannons
• Mist / Fog
• Neon (Real & Simulated)
• Fountains / Dancing Water
• Liquid Effects
• Black Light / UV Effects
• Flame FX / Cannon

Design and Production Services & Capabilities


Our line of amazing products is complimented by our ability to help flesh-out the initial sparks of a concept into something ready to be built. Our designers and artists can add life to your idea and prepare it for production. Additionally, our production facility is capable of creating many things completely unrelated to our normal line of work. Contact us for help in milling, Waterjet cutting, paint, and fiberglass work.

• Our artists are proficient in all manner of graphic interpretations of ideas, as well as sculpture and model-making. We are also well-versed in computer-generated (CG) character design and previsualization of characters as well as complete attractions. This includes ride-through, individual scene, and guest/character interaction.

• With some of the most useful scenic tools available today - multiple vacuum formers, roto-molders, a Mitsubishi Waterjet, seven-axis Kuka Industrial Robot, plural hard-coat systems, as well as laser scanners and others, GHP Real Dimension is one of the most modern and complete scenic shops in the industry.

• Our Finishing Department is capable of finely hand and airbrushed painted finishes, on all substrates, using Nova colors, enamels, polyurethane and acrylics. We also specialize in harsh environment and outdoor finishes, as well as difficult materials like silicones, urethanes and vinyl. All of our paint booths are AQMD rated.

• Our Scenic Painting Department is highly skilled in the most complex finishes and effects for both visible white and ultraviolet light.

Garner Holt Productions, Inc.’s mechanical and creative design capabilities include: FMEA, COSMOS software, Solidworks Premium V10 which includes, but is not limited to: Solidworks Simulation (previously COSMOS), Solidworks Motion, AutoCAD LT V, Mechanical Desktop V6, RISA-3D Ver.8, ScanStudio HD, Roland 3D Editor, Delcam Tribyrd Model Suite 10, SketchUp Pro 7 3D Modeler, Adobe CS5, Spotlight 2010 Renderworks, 3D Studio Max, Z Brush Auto CAD, Solidworks, and Maya softwares.

Our Electronic Department is capable of surface mount board-level design and construction, as well as software creation and integration with all other show equipment. The facility is a UL-508 rated shop.

The design and engineering staff currently at Garner Holt Productions, Inc. has more than 30 years of experience in Computer Aided Design, 20 years of that spent working primarily in Solidworks. Given that the primary CAD tool here is Solidworks, much of the design analysis process is performed concurrently with the creation of the figure as a digital 3-D model in Solidworks. In particular, the appropriate form, fit, function and in large part, method of construction follows as a natural process when modeling in three dimensional systems like Solidworks. The adherence to client requirements for items such as material specification, fastener type, size, use, etc. are all developed in parallel during the preliminary design phase. As the model becomes more complex, we develop and examine motion requirements, clearances, initial load path determination as well as, life expectancy and maintainability.

At the end of the preliminary design phase, the design is circulated among and/or presented to a staff of engineers and craftspeople with accumulated tenure in the theme park industry of over 300 years. That review and critique generally continues through the production.

When required, static and motion studies and simulations are developed in Solidworks and Solidworks Motion. The data from static loading, resultant forces, failure mode forces (FMEA), dynamic and cyclic loading is gathered and used in several FEA studies in Solidworks Simulation (COSMOS) as required by contract specifications. In many cases, we follow stringent guidelines for overhead safety and hazard analysis (HA).

Results are compared to allowable forces determined by Safety Factors (SF) as established by client specifications.


GHP Careers FAQ

How do I get work in this industry?
This industry, the manufacturing of animatronics and other themed entertainment and education-centered products, requires many different skills and disciplines. Management and project managers, those who deal with the overall scope of the projects, have a great deal of experience in our line of work, designing and creating these unique products. Individuals skilled and talented in specific disciplines and trades like machinists, plastics and mold technicians, illustrators, sculptors, and trained crafts persons may find opportunities in animatronic or entertainment systems firms when available. Be imaginative, positive, and focused, and our industry will recognize a talent when one appears.

How Do I Get Started in Animatronics?
Students and animatronics enthusiasts write us regularly asking how to prepare for or obtain employment in the field of animatronics. There is no school for animatronics technology either actually or in spirit. Some colleges now offer courses in robotics, and some of these dabble in "animatronic” figures as projects. Some robot clubs also work and experiment with animatronic-like creations.

Our recommendation is to focus on a field of work that applies to animatronics that you are most interested in, and develop your skills in that discipline. These might include:

* Mechanical Design / CAD
* Machinist Technology
* Plastics and Tooling Technology
* Electronics / Control Systems / Software Engineering
* Theater Arts / Lighting / Scenery

If you are artistic, you might want to work in design, illustration, sculpting, or similar areas. Our facility is divided into multiple design and manufacturing departments, with modern production equipment and a diverse range of skilled artisans and technicians. The following list of our departments indicates the disciplines involved in this type of manufacturing:

* Character Design / Creative Development
* CAD Development
* Technical Design and Engineering
* Sculpting
* Plastic Fabrication
* Animatronics Mechanical Fabrication
* Figure Finishing
* Costuming
* Special Effects
* Woodworking
* Hydraulic / Pneumatic System Electronics / Computer Science
* Audio / Lighting
* Show Integration and Programming
* Ride Systems Engineering
* CNC Manufacturing
* Rockwork
* 3-D Design Models
* Audio-Visual Production
* Show Sets and Scenery
* Character Paint

The Animatronic Industry appeals to many, because animatronic figures are extremely cool. Who wouldn’t love to play with a "real” fire breathing dragon, pirate, robot, or get to work behind the scenes in the world’s biggest theme park attractions, or even assist in building them? We get letters constantly saying, "I want to learn to build figures,” or asking "How do I get a job in this industry?”

Unfortunately, job opportunities are very limited. This is a very small industry. Outside of the Walt Disney Company, there are only a dozen or so organizations worldwide that produce animatronic figures. Within those, only a few build theme park-quality figures on a regular basis.

If you are persistent, enthusiastic, and talented in areas that relate to this line of work, you might find openings when the timing and industry conditions are right. Send a resume to the manufacturers to keep on file for future reference and job openings. Refer to our Careers page for openings at Garner Holt Productions. Many approach the animatronics industry by obtaining work maintaining figures in theme parks, or from internships at companies within the industry.

Best wishes and good luck in your search for opportunities! If you really want it, you’ll get there.

Some reading background:

There are very few books written on the subject of animatronics. The following are books we would recommend on industry-related subjects (many of the books listed are now out of print and may be a bit difficult to find):

The Robot Revolution by Tom Logsdon
Inside the Robot Kingdom Japan, Mechatronics and the Coming Robotopia by Frederik L. Schodt
Robots: Machines in Man’s Image by Isaac Asimov and Karen A. Krenkel
Robot: Your High Tech World by Gloria Skurzynski
Robo Sapiens: Evolution of a New Species by Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio
Walt Disney Imagineering: A Behind the Dreams Look at Making the Magic Real by The Imagineers
The Illusion of Life by Dr. Gene Poor



Do we do design work, or work from other’s designs?
Both. If you have a concept, dream or idea in mind (even a drawing on a napkin), we can take it from there. Our artists will interpret your concepts and put them on paper. If required, we then create scripts, storyboards, illustrations, and even 3 D models. When the design is approved, we engineer it and create manufacturing drawings and blueprints. If you’re not sure what you want, or how to do something, we can help. If you know exactly what you want already, or need us to "build to print” we can do that too, with or without your direction.

Do we sell parts or plans?
Replacement parts are available for all our creations. Sorry, we do not have plans available, or sell parts for "do it yourself” projects.

Do we give tours of our facility?
The Garner Holt Productions plant is a very active 120,000 sq. ft. design & manufacturing plant. To discourage interruption of work, and due to safety, confidentiality and security reasons, tours are generally not available, but you can enjoy a virtual tour at any time!

Who's Garner and who's Holt?
Our company was founded by Garner L. Holt, just one guy! You can learn more about him by reading Garner's Story.