One of my all-time favorite Disney attractions is the Enchanted Tiki Room. The audio-animatronic attraction first opened in 1963, and featured 77 birds, 136 flowers and 12 tiki drummers. There’s something about the singing birds and a room that comes alive that always brings a smile to my face. The birds have been updated over time, but some of the original birds are out there and need to be restored.
Enter Kevin Kidney, who recently restored two of the original birds, and documented his work on his website.
Recently I restored two original 1963 robins, one after the other, that had been retired from the show decades ago. They both had the fiberglass bodies used in the early California and Florida shows. Both robins arrived at our studio in pretty bad shape, with soiled fur, overly-handled feathers, and fiberglass parts gritty from too many coats of paint and hardened glue. The photos below were shot after a weeklong deep cleaning inside and out, priming and painting. I built display perches and replaced the birds’ missing feet. I removed their back panels and thoroughly cleaned the inner-workings.
I’ve always been fascinated by how the animatronic creatures work, and it turns out a lot of it has to do with air hoses and magnets.
It’s amazing how much is packed into the interior of a tiny bird. Two rubber hoses, each roughly the thickness of a spaghetti noodle, carry air pressure through the bird’s legs into the two cylindrical chambers in his body. The left cylinder operates the tail, and the right cylinder turns the head side to side .
It’s a really interesting read, and if you are a fan of the Tiki Room, you should check out more about the process.