Those who’ve been to a Disney theme park know that animatronics have been a key part of many attractions for decades. The realism of these robotic actors has grown significantly in recent years: Take Hando Ohnaka as a recent example — the pirate on the Galaxy’s Edge Millennium Falcon ride, Smugglers Run, is so lifelike that you might have to take a second look to realize it’s a robot and not a human actor wearing an elaborate costume.
Disney Imagineering — the creative engine behind pretty much everything in the company's theme parks — is continuing to push the animatronics envelope. While what the Imagineering team is working on is usually top secret, the group recently released a video detailing an effort called Project Kiwi, which includes building a rumbling, stumbling, dancing, and perhaps crane-kicking Baby Groot robot.
Want to see Baby Groot in action? Check out how the Imagineers worked for years to create the little sapling in the video below:
“Project KIWI started about three years ago to figure out how we can bring our smaller characters to life at their actual scale in authentic ways,” R&D Imagineer Principal Scott LaValley told TechCrunch. “It’s an exciting time for bipedal robotics and with an incredible team and our combination of technology, artistry, and magic, we are bringing characters to life that could not have happened anywhere but Disney.”
The prototype the team has been working on is none other than everyone’s favorite Guardian of the Galaxy. Baby Groot, as we all know, is not only very cute, but also very short. The robot reflects this, coming in at 2.5 feet and an infinite amount of cuddliness.
As the video shows, getting Baby Groot to speak “I am Groot” level was no easy task. (Baby Groot had to learn to walk, after all, before he could dance.) And while the Baby Groot we see at the end of the video looks pretty darn cool, it will likely still be awhile before we see Groot or other free-roaming robots at the parks. According to TechCrunch, the Imagineers still need to add on a sensory package to allow Groot (or any other robot made in Project Kiwi) to identify people and consequently stare lovingly at their faces.
Until Project Kiwi is ready for theme park action, however, we can lovingly stare back at Baby Groot in Disney Imagineering’s video about Project Kiwi.