New resort features iconic characters from four Pixar films
When the Walt Disney Company wanted to create a resort that could bring families into the world of the animated films they love, it turned to Entech Creative Industries and composites to bring those movies to life.
Opened in May 2012, the Art of Animation Resort at Walt Disney World in Lake Buena Vista, Fla., is a value-priced vacation destination that features nearly 2,000 rooms, three swimming pools and four themed areas reflecting the Disney and Pixar films Cars, Finding Nemo, The Lion King and The Little Mermaid.
“This resort was an opportunity for their guests to experience a magical animated world,” says Cathryn Canelas, executive administrator for Entech Creative, an Orlando, Fla.-based company that specializes in custom concept design, engineering and fabrication services.
Disney chose Entech Creative to fabricate many of the large-scale composite renderings of iconic characters from the four films, including a 33 x 24-foot adaptation of Mr. Ray, the stingray teacher, and a 35 x 40-foot version of Crush, the surfer dude sea turtle, two characters from Finding Nemo. The firm had worked with Disney before, building elements including a giant Big Wheel tricycle for the nearby Pop Century Resort, which opened in 2003. It won the Art of Animation contract because the company consistently meets Disney’s stringent specifications, Canelas says.
The project began with scale models of the characters. Digitized surface files of the scale models were formatted into cut files for a 5-axis router. Then same-size versions of the characters were created from foam so Entech could verify that the routed shapes matched the sculpted shapes. Once the smaller parts were approved, the company translated the files to full-sized dimensions and again cut out foam replicas for the client to review.
“They are Pixar figures, and Pixar is extremely sensitive to exact replicas of their characters, so no latitude was allowed,” says George Moore, vice president of operations at Entech Creative. “We had to ensure that what we would build would be exactly the shape their artists had intended it to be.”
The stingray consisted of just two body parts, whereas the turtle had to be disassembled into six pieces – shell body, head and four individual fins – to create the body parts. Each figure was created with a smooth surface texture, as detail could be added after the molding process. Molds were created for all turtle body parts.
Due to the size of the stingray body, the 5-axis router was used to cut the negative mold instead of molding the full-size model in a typical manner. “We overcut into the foam three-quarters of an inch and surfaced that foam again with putty,” Moore says. “Then, we machined that putty surface, waxed it and pulled the part directly from it.”