Doris the Robotic Bowler Hat from Disney’s Meet the Robinsons

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The coolest robot I’ve ever built was made of pixels. Here’s Doris, the robotic bowler hat from Disney’s Meet the Robinsons. As a character technical director at Walt Disney Animation Studios at the time, my job was to create all of the rigging and controls the animators needed to pose and animate this creepy, evil robot.

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Building the Doris rig was a really fun challenge — the script called for her to fly, crawl like a hexapod, hide all parts and appear as an ordinary bowler hat, extend her lens, poke a top-mounted arm holding a toothbrush, screwdriver, or flashlight through a retractable hatch, shoot a grappling hook, and deploy multiple spinning claw hands on infinitely long flexible metal arms.

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I created her rig in Autodesk Maya, first by placing skeletal joint pivots for all of the articulated parts, and then through a series of MEL scripts I wrote to create deformations, animator-friendly controllers, forward/inverse and spline kinematics, constraints, and semi-automated parts, such as the iris and the retractable ports from which the various arms, grappling hooks, goggles and so on would emerge. I collaborated with incredibly talented people, including modeler Joe Bowers and animator Jay Davis, to bring her to life.

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How to Make a Baymax-o’-lantern

Here’s how I made a quick Baymax-o’-lantern from a squat, white pumpkin.

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I’m not Baymax. I’m not in focus, either.

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Hi there. This doesn’t hurt.

 

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Sorry pumpkin. It’s hand brace and auger bit time.

 

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Don’t come near me with that thing!

 

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Pretty curls. And orange guts!

 

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I saw that.

 

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All clean. Wish I’d kept the line a bit thinner.

 

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Hairy baby.

 

Disney Research

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I’m thrilled to announce my new position as a Producer at Disney Research! Starting in December, I’ll be working to share the research scientists’ innovations in areas including robotics, computer graphics, human-computer interaction, and computational materials with the other divisions of Disney. It’ll draw upon both my maker and CG animation experiences. Should this somehow lead to airborne swarms of tiny Imagineering spider drones assisting us all with our luggage at Shanghai Disneyland, my dreams will have been realized.