Behind the Scenes at The American Adventure

Filed in: Epcot, Walt Disney Imagineering

• The stage measures 130 by 50 feet, about half the size of a football field.

• The “actors” in the show are Audio-Animatronics®, life-like figures designed and built by Walt Disney Imagineering.

• The figures are made of the latest in micro-processors and other electronics, new plastics, and breakthrough materials. The production, five years in development, involves some of the most technically demanding staging techniques ever used.

• All characters appear and sound life-like — down to such details as garment styles and colors, and regional accents in speech. Mark Twain carries a smoking cigar; Benjamin Franklin actually climbs stairs and walks across the stage.

• For the first time, each Audio-Animatronics character is equipped with an individual voice and speaker system instead of a theater system.

• A silent 175-ton scene changer is housed under the electronic wiring, electrical connections, air, hydraulic fluid and water lines which give life-like movement to the figures and help create special effects such as rain.

• The scene changer — a 65-by-35-by-14-foot steel framework — is as long as a boxcar and twice as wide.

• Operated by computer, the scene changer moves the sets into place horizontally. The sets then rise into audience view on telescoping hydraulic supports. There are also seven lifts which bring sets into view from either side and above.

• More than two dozen computers control the entire operation. Once the button is pushed, Audio-Animatronics actors move and speak, music plays, lights brighten and dim, curtains open, sets rise, and motion picture projectors roll.

• Behind the 13 three-dimensional settings and performers, the rear projection screen adds dimension to the settings and transition between decade spanning scenes.

• The rear projection screen — 28 feet high by 155 feet long — is the largest ever used. The American Adventure uses more than 3,000 feet of 70 mm film.