Is Disney Really Building an Army of Sentient Robots?

August 19, 2021, 5:28 PM · The "Westworld" jokes pretty much write themselves when The New York Times drops a headline like, Are You Ready for Sentient Disney Robots?

But robots who can perceive and feel things are not really the subject of Brooks Barnes' story. (Here is the link, should you need it.) Barnes instead recaps Walt Disney Imagineering's recent advances with robot tech, including the flying Spider-Man now entertaining guests at Disney California Adventure's new Avengers Campus.

But even free-flying - and especially free-walking - robots can strike some observers as a bit too creepy, especially when people have been conditioned to expect theme park robots to be bolted to the ground, repeating the same moves and speech on a mindlessly repetitive loop. Barnes notes that one of WDI's roboticists came from Boston Dynamics, "where he contributed to an early version of Atlas, a running and jumping machine that inspires 'how did they do that' amazement — followed by dystopian dread."

Fun fact that Barnes reported: about 6,000 animatronics are in use at Disney parks worldwide. He also spends time with the walking teenage Groot robot that WDI revealed several months ago.

The fun reveal comes at the end of the story, where Barnes reports on Disney's "Project Exo" - another robotics initiative, this time focused on creating large-scale characters for use in the parks. Disney would not confirm which characters its tech could emulate - of course - but Barnes surmised Incredible Hulk and Star Wars' wampas.

So, no, Disney's Imagineers are not showing reporters robots with the capability to run amok and turn Disneyland into a dystopian killing field. Well, at least they are not yet showing off anything like that. Hey, who really knows what they have going on in those warehouses in Glendale?

* * *
We wanted you to read this article before we make our newsletter pitch, unlike so many other websites. If you appreciate that - and our approach to covering theme park, travel, and entertainment news - please sign up for our free, three-times-a-week email newsletter. Thank you.

Replies (6)

August 20, 2021 at 7:13 AM

A) Doesn’t look like anything to me…..


B) “Welcome to Itchy & Scratchy Land, where nothing could ever possi-Bligh go wrong. Hmm, that’s the first thing that’s ever gone wrong…”

… And I’m spent. Thanks folks make sure and try the meatloaf!

August 20, 2021 at 7:53 AM

Make sure you buy plenty of boxes of flash cubes on ebay that can attach to the shoe on the top of your SLR.

August 20, 2021 at 8:04 AM


Well-played good sir

August 20, 2021 at 11:10 AM

"Smithers, release the Robotic Richard Simmons!"

August 20, 2021 at 12:30 PM

Darn it, now I want Universal to build a real Itchy & Scratchy Land.

August 22, 2021 at 2:37 PM

Brought to you by Skynet.

This article has been archived and is no longer accepting comments.

Park tickets

Weekly newsletter

New attraction reviews

News archive