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Inexpensive Animation
By Michael Lawrence Bruner


We all love those animatronics we see at Disney World and at the Halloween conventions, but who can afford them? I want to put on a good show for my patrons, but the average off the shelf animatronic can cost thousands of dollars. If you are like me, a small time haunter with a budget of only a few hundred dollars per Halloween, you may be wondering "How can I afford to have such cool things?" I have found that with a little creativity and a little sweat, I can get good results using some household appliances to immolate the motion found on expensive animatronics.

Here are two different applications of the same simple animation you can create using a simple household appliance, the Oscillating Fan. (Oscillating: Going from side to side.) If you don not have any old fans lying around, shop at your local thrift store, flea market or garage sale. As fall approaches, there is never a need to pay full price. Something else to keep in mind: most animatronics, in of themselves, are more entertaining than scary. I usually wind up placing the animatronic in an easy to see, well lit area. When the 'victim' checks out the animatronic, I have an actor in costume pop out from behind (from a dark/hidden place), surprising the 'victim'. I have found that this approach usually works very well.

Oscillating Fan Monster
Start with an oscillating fan. The type with a tall stand is best, as it creates a taller monster. Un-clamp and removed the front half of the fan cage. Remove fan blade cap, which allows you to remove the fan blade itself. Unscrew the cap for back half of the fan cage and remove it as well. Then cut off the fan blade shaft with a hacksaw. To prevent the remaining stub of the axle from catching on anything, glue the cap from a medicine bottle over the stub of the shaft. Make sure that the axle stub doesn't rub against the cap and that none of the glue gets into the fan motor. Turn the fan on and make sure that there is nothing rubbing together. Now that you have this base to work from, many variations are possible.

Using scrap lumber, screw it together into a roughly human shape. Any screws that poked through the wood were ground off with a Dremel sander. I secured the fan (a table model this time)to a cross beam in the wooden body. The werewolf costume is a one piece outfit and loosely draped. I find that this type of outfit tends to hide sloppy craftsmanship better than anything else.

A piece of foam was added to the head to give the mask a "fuller" look. (Again, be watchful of motor ventilation). The werewolf mask and gloves were purchased after Halloween last year, at over 1/2 off! (Do not impulse buy for this year, shop smart, stock up for next year!)The werewolf body is HOLLOW, which allowed me to place a cassette player inside with a loop tape playing wolf howling and lion roars,(sound effects courtesy of local library-audio section.) Patrons hear the sounds emanating from the animatronic but don't see any obvious speakers. This entire animation cost less than $30. (The mask and gloves being over 2/3 of the cost.)

Barrel Alien
I removed the lid from a 55 gallon drum, and after a thorough washing using soap and water, I painted the barrel black. A lucky find of an "AREA 51" sticker from an old arcade game completed the look. The alien head was also purchased at a party store after Halloween, for over 1/2 off. With 2x4s and 1Ú2" plywood, I built a table that fit inside of the drum to set the fan on. Be sure to attach the fan to the shelf so that the base does not move. I then place the alien mask over the fan motor, and inserted extra foam padding as needed. This animation cost less than $80 with the alien mask being the bulk of the cost the cost.


Michael Lawrence Bruner is owner/operator of Monster Maze, a home haunt in Mechanicsburg, PA. He can be reached at wnydpooh@aol.com

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