Animatronic Mummy: Universal Studios Orlando

Universal Studios was planning to create a new $80M attraction for its theme park in Orlando, Florida based on the popular film The Mummy. One of the key elements of the attraction was the appearance of the Mummy, lunging out and taunting the guests. The Universal team wanted to use animatronics to bring the Mummy to life, but felt the current state-of-the-art wouldn’t deliver the dynamic experience they desired.

Edge Innovations was brought in by Universal with the specific challenge of improving on state-of-the-art humanoid animatronics and delivering a Mummy that had significantly greater articulation and dynamic movement than any other figure operating in the world. The figure would have to operate 12 hrs./day, 365 days per year, for a minimum of 10 years.

In order to achieve the desired level of performance and articulation, the Mummy was designed with 46 degrees of freedom. Incorporating this level of articulation into the fixed volume of the Mummy required a highly integrated and optimized design. All structural elements were made from high performance 17-4Ph stainless steel and rigorously optimized for stiffness and weight using Finite Element Analysis. Since no commercially available actuators could deliver the power density required to meet performance goals, the Edge team designed a family of proprietary linear and rotary 5,000 psi hydraulic servo-actuators. The actuators incorporated integral feedback and custom hydraulic fittings that helped achieve power densities 3-4 times greater than commercially available units. These actuators were instrumental in achieving the high level of dynamic performance of the figure. The Mummy is still the only hydraulic theme park figure in the world operating above 2500 psi.

The animatronic figure is controlled by a custom-built system that uses a programmable logic controller and Textron servo-cards to drive the 46 servo-valves. To help achieve smooth motion, the system incorporates compliant control via pressure transducers located in each axis’ valve manifold. An additional challenge was the routing of all electrical and hydraulic feeds in a way that allows the entire figure to travel five feet as it jumps forward. The Mummy’s motion was programmed using custom animation software developed by Edge.

The Edge Mummy team numbered 45 at its peak and consisted of mechanical, electrical, hydraulic, and software engineers, as well as artists, fabricators, and technicians. Following 18 months of design, fabrication, and assembly at Edge’s facility, a team of Edge engineers and artists supervised the installation and final programming of the figure at Universal Studios Orlando.

The Mummy has been in continuous operation since the attraction opened in May 2004, and has logged over 50 million cycles.