Disney is known for creating some state-of-the-art, seriously impressive animatronics for its attractions over the last few years. The Shaman of Song that serenades riders in Na’vi River Journey and Hondo Ohnaka that greets future pilots, engineers, and gunners on Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run are both shockingly realistic.
However, not all animatronics are created equal. Sometimes, they’re just downright creepy. Plus, they can even have bad days, just like the rest of us. The Yeti of the Forbidden Mountain on Expedition Everest has been riding the struggle bus for years, and even Elsa had a rough patch a few months ago. Well, today, we’re talking about some of the strangest and scariest animatronics created by Disney, and even taking a look at some of their mishaps!
Disney’s audio-animatronics have certainly come a long way since they were introduced in Disneyland’s, The Enchanted Tiki Room, in 1963. Walt Disney even had a hand in the project himself! Since then, we’ve seen the good, the bad, and the ugly — and some that are just plain weird!
Let’s take a look at all the bizarre and spooky animatronics in Disney Parks!
Shaman of Song from Na’vi River Journey
We know we just talked about how impressive this animatronic was, but we’re gonna take a minute to talk about just how abnormal it looks…without its skin. The Shaman looks a whole lot different without its mystical movements, blue skin, and long hair.
Check out this thing in action and some behind the scenes work shared by Disney Imagineers!
Timekeeper from The Timekeeper
This now-closed show that once took place in Disneyland Paris, Magic Kingdom, and Tokyo Disneyland featured a CircleVision 360 Film hosted by an alarming-looking animatronic. It showcased a journey through history featuring the meetings of significant historical figures and even brought guests into the future.
The Timekeeper was voiced by Robin Williams which is pretty cool, but we just can’t get past the way the animatronic looked. This show was a fairly simple journey through time, but its host was just…creepy. Did his “hair” freak out anyone else??
Maelstrom Trolls from The Maelstrom
The Maelstrom was an attraction that was housed in EPCOT’s Norway Pavilion and was replaced by Frozen Ever After in 2016. This boat ride took you through various Nordic scenes, passing by polar bears, living trees, and some trolls. And these trolls were unsurprisingly pretty hair-raising. Just look at those eyes!
Not only were these trolls creepy, but they were pretty menacing, too. The three-headed trolls that screamed at you to “Disappear, disappear!” were particularly nightmare-inducting. 🙂 They weren’t happy about visitors boating through their territory, so they cast a spell on riders making their boats go backward!
Alien from ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter
This attraction in Magic Kingdom’s Tomorrowland was so frightening that it had to be re-themed to a (slightly) less scary version, ultimately being replaced by the (now closed) Stitch’s Great Escape! The Alien animatronic featured in this attraction was gruesome and terrifying, mostly obscured by the glass it lived in inside its containment tube. However, what was even more terrifying was what happened when you COULDN’T see the alien.
Guests were tormented with non-visual effects, like touch and sound. Speakers were installed in each individual seat so guests felt like the alien was actually right behind them! You could also feel the creature’s breath and drool, simulated through air and water droplets, and when it “jumped” on top of you, your harness would press down into you quickly! This attraction was too scary for most guests to enjoy, and we don’t blame ’em. It scared the pants off of us too!
The Horned King From The Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour
Tokyo Disneyland used to offer a walk-through attraction in Cinderella Castle, but it wasn’t to see any princesses. In The Cinderella Castle Mystery Tour, guests trekked beneath the castle to be greeted by some of Disney’s scariest villains, including Chernabog, some of Maleficent’s minions, and finally, the Horned King from The Black Cauldron.
This animatronic was set behind a smoking cauldron, surrounded by bones and skulls. With glowing eyes and skeletal limbs, guests had to escape the castle by making it past this terrifying animatronic. This show closed in 2006.
Q’aráq From Roaring Rapids
Roaring Rapids in Shanghai Disneyland is a water raft ride, similar to Kali River Rapids in Disney’s Animal Kingdom. Riders journey down the river until they’re met by Q’aráq, the Guardian of the Water, an enormous crocodilian beast. This animatronic is GIGANTIC and riders definitely get very up close and personal with it. Just look at the concept art!
Kids will probably find this beastly animatronic very scary, and we think adults might, too! If you’re scared by the crocodile animatronic outside Rainforest Café (aren’t we all 😂)…
…you probably don’t stand a chance against Q’aráq.
Evil Queen From Snow White’s Scary Adventures
Snow White’s Scary Adventures is a dark-ride that can be found in Disneyland Paris, Disneyland, and Tokyo Disneyland. It used to be in Disney World as well, and was where Princess Fairytale Hall stands today! Today, we’re talking about the version of this ride that operated in Magic Kingdom from 1971 to 1994 and definitely took the “scary” part of the ride’s title to heart. The Evil Queen animatronic could be found all throughout the attraction, and she looked super wicked.
The Evil Queen’s crooked nose and long bony fingers were certainly sinister enough to give riders a fright. She’s literally pop up at you all throughout the ride! It was surprisingly terrifying, especially for children expecting a fun slow ride with Snow White and co! We still have nightmares of the Evil Queen trying to lure us in with her poison apple… .
Beating Heart Bride from Haunted Mansion
The Haunted Mansion is a fun place to hang out with our favorite 999 happy haunts. Although this is technically a “scary” ride, many aspects are jovial. We now have Constance Hatachaway as the murderous bride, but we once had the Beating Heart Bride who was just SO. CREEPY. This photo below was with a flash so she’s WAY lit up instead of pitch black (it was the 80s — our parents didn’t know any better!) but you can still get a sense of just how creeptastic she was!
This animatronic creepy in how simple it was. She had a wedding dress, veil, a pitch-black face with glowing eyes, and a bright red beating heart. No punny one-liners like we get from Constance nowadays, she just stood there peering into your soul as you heard a loud heart beating sound! There were a few variations of her over the years, but this one was super creepy!
When Animatronics Look A Little Too Familiar…
Sometimes, Disney decides to recycle or reuse older animatronics and repurpose them to fit a new attraction. It’s cool to see this kind of creativity being used, but it can be a little uncanny seeing old familiar faces.
Teddy Roosevelt…is that you?
Many of the predisents from Magic Kingdom’s Hall of Presidents were rehired to fill other positions over in EPCOT’s Spaceship Earth. Certain presidents became Roman senators, Egyptian priests, and printers!
This is actually quite common that Disney would repurposed face skins between rides. With a different paint job, who can tell? (We can!) Take a closer peek the next time you ride Spaceship Earth to see if you notice any presidential-looking faces. You might find yourself doing a few double-takes!
Star Tours opened in Disneyland in 1987 and the attraction was totally immersive, including its queue! Well, around the time that this attraction was opening, another attraction, America Sings, was on its way out. This attraction featured lots of animal animatronics, many of which made Splash Mountain their new home. However, a couple of geese made their way over to Star Tours as droids G2-9T and G2-4T!
These geese were stripped down to their mechanical skeletons, and honestly, they totally pass as droids! You can still even see their webbed feet! You can spy these guys in the queue before you get your glasses and go to a boarding area.
Animatronics Have Bad Days, Too
We’ve noticed a few mishaps with some of the animatronics in Disney World recently, reminding us all that even animatronics go through hard times.
This is so 2020. Poor Elsa not singing “Let It Go” on Frozen Ever After. pic.twitter.com/2Wz4T165oS
— AJ Wolfe (@DisneyFoodBlog) October 12, 2020
Similar to her sister, Anna also had a bit of a bad day. Something pretty important was missing…her face!
You okay, Anna?!
📷: nicoleuttaro on Instagram pic.twitter.com/L3X6OnXWeJ
— AJ Wolfe (@DisneyFoodBlog) December 11, 2020
We kinda think a faceless singing Disney Princess is a thing of nightmares. Thankfully, Anna has been seeing better days recently!
Carousel of Progress
Our beloved narrator, John, from Disney World’s Carousel of Progress seemed to crack under the Christmas Day pressure of preparing the turkey — the poor fella lost a hand.
John seemed to maintain his positive, progress-friendly attitude throughout this mishap and fortunately reclaimed his missing hand. He’s all of us cooking Christmas Dinner. 😂
Animatronics are definitely a really unique part of Disney attractions that can help bring a story to life, but sometimes they can just be straight-up creepy. We’re intrigued when Imagineers share photos of the work that goes into making these interesting creatures, but at the same time, we would definitely prefer to see them with some skin. And when animatronics are having a bad day, well, we just have to laugh it off.
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Which is your favorite Disney animatronics?? Let us know in the comments!