Animatronic Projects

This section has links to various animatronic projects I have found that show information and build details that may help you with making your own.

Animatronic Skulls

A common animatronics project is a 3 axis skull (3 axis simply meaning it can rotate, nod and tilt). Many years ago I stumbled onto a thread at Halloween forum (started by Halloween Bob) describing his skull project. This thread has went on for a good 10 years and has a huge amount of information for anyone interested in making one:

https://www.halloweenforum.com/threads/my-3-axis-skull-in-progress.62161/

This is a PDF summary of a fair bit of the thread:

http://rewindshow.com/skull/3_axis_skull.pdf

Here is a build document from DavisGraveYard for a Bucky skull version:

http://www.davisgraveyard.com/Building%20a%203-axis%20Bucky%20Skull.pdf

Of course the first thing you need is a skull. The most common skulls used for these projects is a Bucky Skull (which is an anatomical correct model used for medical studies) or a Lindberg Pirate Skull model (which are no longer made). Both these skull have a removable skull cap which makes it easier to install the mechanisms but doesn’t look all that great. Here is a site that sells various skulls that may work:

http://skeletonsandmore.com/securecart/index.php?main_page=product_info&products_id=1435

I always check out the various props available around Halloween as some are suitable for adding servos.

There are also commercial offerings but the can be quiet pricey, though many companies have come and gone over the years so I don’t imagine there is much money in the animatronic skull market. Least not for the thrifty hobbyist… There used to be a few companies that sold various parts kits for the mechanisms but I not aware of any still in business.

You will find that most of the DIY mechanism designs have the 3 servos pushing against a central pivot. While this does allow for movement you will find that the servos tend to fight each other and affects each others range. The commercial offerings use a more complicated rack and pinion style mechanisms that are more expensive to produce but give a much better range of movement. Check the Halloween Skulls build videos for a view of the guts.

Halloween Skulls – https://halloweenskulls.com/

This is company started by Halloween Bob (Bob Robertson). He designed a complete kit from the ground up. You can get a basic DIY kit (just containing the 3d printed parts) for $399 or a complete kit for $680. He has posted a series complete build videos on YouTube that are worth watching:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLZdCIZv81EvtdVUnPve6TjuQwof72q32m

Skulltronix – http://skulltronix.com/

This company has probably been around the longest and their skulls start at $1699

FrightProps – https://www.frightprops.com/

These skull start at $999

Monster Guts    https://www.monsterguts.com/

They have discontinued the kits they used to sell but plan on releasing a new design (though no date is set)

DIY Related Links

Nelson Bairos (who wrote the Trackskull and Helmsman applications for VSA) put together a great how to on modifying the skull of the Home Depot 12 foot skeleton. He has even included the files for making the 3D printed parts. 

https://hackaday.io/project/181103-3-axis-skull-mod-for-12ft-skeleton

 

This is a Instructable that has some good general information on skull building:

https://www.instructables.com/Automated-Talking-Skull/

 

Files for a 3D printed skull:

https://www.thingiverse.com/thing:3658843

 

Cat Alford has a ton of videos on building animatronics and is doing occasion live stream seminars. She also has her own design for controlling skull movement:

https://www.youtube.com/c/CatsMenagerie

 

A good thread showing a pan & tilt style mechanism and more details of Halloween Bob’s rack and pinion design:

https://www.halloweenforum.com/threads/3-axis-skull-build.140771/

 

A design by Bat Buddy that uses more easily obtainable hardware:

https://www.hauntforum.com/threads/new-design-for-a-3-axis-skull.39931/

http://batbuddy.org/resources/Halloweenstuff/ThreeAxisSkull.php

 

 

Animatronic Birds

This is a MAKE article on making a Raven. The pictures and videos show how the mechanisms all go together:

https://makezine.com/2020/09/19/build-an-animatronic-raven-kit/

https://youtu.be/y0R8-F4TmPI

You can even get a kit for this project at:

https://www.chickenprops.com/p/raven.html

This article shows how Steve Koci made a parrot animatronic:

https://www.servomagazine.com/magazine/article/june2015_Koci

 

Other Animatronics

This is a very detailed build (with plenty of pictures) of a vampire head with arms including an Arduino based controller:

https://github.com/ghgemmer/Halloween