This page last updated Jan 15, 2023

This section has link to various sites that have information related to DIY animatronic projects. I have tried to keep it to sites that provide free and detailed information so that you can build them yourself but also included some commercial 3 axis skull sites.

General Animatronics Information


You can find other animatronic and general electronics information on my Resources page.


Animatronics covers a huge ranged of skill from electronics to metalwork to mechanics. Here is a wonderful series of YouTube videos from Tim Hunkin that cover a wide range of related topics:

https://www.youtube.com/playlist?list=PLtaR0lZhSyANYB0Xxb9OSp47pHuQmj3Ol


This site has quite a few examples of various mechanisms and a list of resources:

https://www.poormansguidetoanimatronics.com/


This Aussie Xmas lighting site has a good section on animatronics:

https://auschristmaslighting.com/wiki/Animatronics


Animatronics lets you create a character that you bring to life. Here are some hints from Adafruit on making a connection with your audience:

https://learn.adafruit.com/bringing-characters-to-life


Some more information on character and voice development for your animatronic creation:

https://www.backstage.com/magazine/article/steps-creating-original-character-voices-11024/


The Animatronic Workshop site has a good overview of the various aspects of making an animatronic character with some examples:

http://animatronicsworkshop.com/

The Adafruit Learning site has a lot of animatronic projects that you may find informational:

https://learn.adafruit.com/search?q=animatronic


A gentleman named Brian Lincoln (also known as Lightman 500) has made lots of videos of his various animatronic projects. He has an amazing number of ideas that are great for inspiring projects of your own:

https://vimeo.com/lightman500

https://www.youtube.com/user/lightman500/


Steve Kochi (who unfortunately passed away far too soon) was a prolific maker of animatronics and wrote a fabulous book called The Ultimate Guide To Do It Yourself Animatronics. You can find more information on his website:

https://www.diyanimatronics.net/

And he has a pile of Youtube videos dedicated to all sorts of animatronic projects:

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


DIY 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


And some information on installing servos in a Bucky skull:

http://www.scary-terry.com/buckyservo/buckyservo.htm


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


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


Here is another example of how someone setup animatronic control of a Home Depot 12 foot skeleton:

https://youtu.be/vx0rZ4HhRrM


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 Jawduino based design by Bat Buddy that includes a MP3 player:

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

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

https://www.hauntforum.com/threads/batbuddys-arduino-3-axis-skull-controller.46370/


This is a pretty in-depth build video on using servos and brackets to give 3 axis control to a store bought skull :

https://youtu.be/xagMjcDtVXY


A new video from Eric and Andy that shows how to make a 3-axis gimbal mount for a skull:

https://youtu.be/YyPDg06hX0U

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.


A Raspberry Pi based talking skull  project that includes 3D printer files for the skull and eyeballs:

https://www.electromaker.io/project/view/halloween-animatronic-skull


Not a talking skull but a Raspberry PI based CV (computer vision) project to have a servo controlled head track people walking past it:

https://www.instructables.com/Motion-Tracking-Michael-Meyers/


Another tracking project this time with a mask using a thermal camera module:

https://youtu.be/4ESjNbYZQHg


An Arduino based talking skull school project:

https://github.com/LetsCodeBlacksburg/arduino-talking-skull


DIY Animatronic Eyes & Teeth


LOOK MUM NO COMPUTER has several videos on building a very inexpensive set of servo controlled eyes and teeth:

https://youtu.be/fufVeOHFu5Q

https://youtu.be/mDe6q6RMUtY

You can find more info and the 3D print files on his web site here:

https://www.lookmumnocomputer.com/projects#/kosmos-face


This is an article on making a set of Arduino based servo controlled eyes and includes links to the 3D printer files:

https://circuitdigest.com/microcontroller-projects/diy-3d-printed-animatronic-eye-with-arduino


Rather than a servo controlled mechanical actuated eyeball, another option is to use a OLED screen that displays a video of an eyeball. The original design using a Teensy can be found here:

https://learn.adafruit.com/animated-electronic-eyes/overview

Some other ways using cheaper controllers and displays can be found here:

https://sudomod.com/spooky-arduino-halloween-eyes/

https://youtu.be/VG7mEtcX0hQ

DIY 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


A video and some detailed build pictures for an Animatronic owl:

https://www.dizary.nl/owl-animatronic-finished-pololu-example/


 

Other DIY Animatronic Projects


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


And here is a mask with the OLED eyes that uses a IR camera sensor controlled servo to track people:

https://youtu.be/4ESjNbYZQHg


Commercial 3 Axis Skulls


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