Dustin Stephan

Dustin Stephan

Give Kids The World - Animatronic

Role: Creative Director, Producer, Designer, & Writer
Team Size: 7 (Josh Danzig, Rajat Gupta, Niharika Jain, Raisa Chowdhury, Alexandra Gobeler, Atul Goel)
Duration: 30 Weeks
Platform: Animatronic Figure [MR]
Client: Give Kids The World Village - Orlando, FL

GKTW concept Art

Miracle Workshop was a partnership between Carnegie Mellon's Entertainment Technology Center and Give Kids The World, a nonprofit resort located in central Florida that provides children with life-threatening illnesses and their families week-long vacations at no expense to them. GKTW tasked our team of seven to take an existing puppet, "Tom Foolery," and retrofit him to become an audio-animatronic figure that performs in experiences such as storytime.

GKTW Tom Foolery Puppet

As Creative Director & Producer, I was charged with developing the creative content, overall vision, and production process of the project. I utilized my expertise in live entertainment to create captivating content for the guests at Give Kids The World Village: developing a character profile, writing the scripts, casting the voice talent, directing & recording the audio session, setting the audio cues, and directing the show experience.

GKTW Tom Close up

When the team hit a roadblock with determining what kind of functions our animatronic was to have, I worked with the engineering team to define the functions based on Tom's character profile. I worked with the client to make sure that our experience would hit all of the metrics desired and make sure the mythology would be consistent with other entertainment offerings.

GKTW Grand Opening

In addition to maintaining the overall vision for the show, I worked with the design team on the mechanics for the animatronic. I facilitated engineering work with our various vendors and utilized my expertise in biomechanics to pinpoint the appropriate range of motion for each of the animatronic figure's five functions. By recording humans performing similar actions, I calculated the ROM for each movement and then passed that data on to our lead designer for implementation in the mechanical design.

GKTW ROM study

I worked with each of our team members to make sure that Tom would be robust and withstand the rigors of daily operation. Since Give Kids The World is a volunteer-based organization, having the staff generate content in real-time is not feasible. I took their operational demands and distilled them into content that would be appropriate for various times of the day. From jokes in the afternoon, a good night show that runs in tandem with an existing animatronic, to a show that thanks the various sponsors of GKTW, and more; I synthesized and anticipated the client's current and future needs. I also produced seasonal content to give Tom even more implied awareness and keep the content fresh throughout various times of the year.

GKTW Touch Screen Interface

The content then runs off of a large touch screen monitor in the back of the house. To create the illusion that Tom is interacting with the children and guests in real-time, staff facilitates the "performance" of Tom in the front of the house. They have the option of using cue cards to read their lines so the barrier to running the sophisticated animatronic show is extremely low and requires little training. This was imperative for the success of the project as the client does not have the bandwidth for intensive training or maintenance.

miracle workshop timeline

New Block Diagram

I maintained the production timeline to keep the project & installation on time and within budget. I worked with the technical director to create technical documentation including a block diagram to facilitate communication between our team, client, and vendors.

This just scratches the surface of all of the work I helped the team with. I also designed his new scepter and reached out to industry professionals to help fabricate the finished product. His animation was developed utilizing new industry processes of using MAYA and 3D animation software to animate the figure and then convert the data into signals to be read by the show controller. I worked hand in hand with each team member, industry experts, our vendors, and the client to develop a successful installation for a very deserving demographic.

GKTW Installing Tom

To read more about our animatronic, please view our project websites:
Miracle Workshop Semester 1
Miracle Workshop Semester 2

VIDEO LINK (Composite)
VIDEO LINK (Content Sample)