Walt Disney and his Imagineers were technological wizards when it came to their animatronic characters. From the crew of scurvy buccaneers at the Pirates of the Caribbean to the 999 Happy Haunts of the Haunted Mansion, Disney's audio-animatronics help bring scenes and sequences to life.
Some of the more modern versions of these animated figures are marvels of technology, but we'd be lying if we said some didn't look a bit eerie nowadays. It's not that they're intentionally frightening or unsettling, but not even Disney is immune to the Uncanny Valley. Here are ten such animated automatons that really freak us out.
We'll be honest, at one point this was a pretty funny gag. Crotchety old Uncle Orville kicking back in the tub with a cigar and a magazine is a pretty recognizable image. Nowadays, though, a robot of an old man in a bathtub wearing an Uncle Sam hat sounds a bit shady in our opinion.
We're not knocking Orville's relaxation techniques, but the animatronic hasn't exactly aged well. Despite the performance from legendary voice actor, Mel Blanc, we can't help but wish Orville had the privacy he was asking for. Maybe Disney needs to throw him a towel?
There are two types of Disney fans in this world: those who love It's a Small World, and those who hate the attraction with a passion. It might be the pacing of the ride, the infectious theme song, or, if you truly dislike the attraction, it might be due to the legion of animatronic children surrounding you.
Though puppets representing children of the world singing together in harmony might seem like a pleasant image in concept, for some Disney Park guests... it's a trifle unsettling. The 200+ animatronic children have been referenced and parodied time and time again for their uncanny strangeness, and we'd be lying if we said we didn't understand why.
"Dear, sweet Leota, beloved by all. In regions beyond now, but having a ball." These are the words inscribed on Madame Leota's tombstone in the queue for Disney World's Haunted Mansion. If one stands near her stone long enough, it comes to life with the magic of Disney animatronic technology.
After looking upon her stone too long, the face of Leota will open her eyes and gaze outwardly at the viewers, looking about before closing her eyes again. Not the most dynamic range of movement, but there's still an eerie effect going on here. Even in YouTube videos of the effect, she gets a jump out of a few queue members.
Since Universal Studios rounded up all the local T-Rexes, Disney had to get the perfect predator's only competition, the Carnotaurus. The Carnotaurus was essentially like a stumpy-armed raptor, similar in size to the T-Rex, but could jump and outsmart its more-famous counterpart. So, why not have three of them in a ride?
This dino is one tough customer, chasing the passengers of the Time-Rover vehicles and jump-scaring them at least three times in the ride. An animatronic that has even some adults jumping, there was no way we weren't going to include this guy on our list.
Our next animatronic takes us to Disneyland Paris, to visit their interpretation of the Haunted Mansion. Where the U.S. version mixes horror with humor, the scales tip a little more towards the dark side at Paris's Phantom Manor. Where the U.S. Haunted Mansion's graveyard has a host of happy haunts, Phantom Manor has a zombie horde.
The Phantom Manor has legions of zombies scattered throughout its graveyard, and we're not talking your typical undead creatures here. Skeletal, Walking Dead-esque fiends lurk in the cracks and graves of the titular manor. You definitely won't find them in the U.S. counterpart.
Before the ride's official closure in 2017, Disney's Great Movie Ride was once the park icon for Disney's Hollywood Studios. In the attraction, guests would board a guided tour of some of the greatest motion pictures in film history. Everything from Footlight Parade to Fantasia was covered, but so was one infamous sci-fi horror flick.
Ridley Scott's Alien is not a film one considers for a Disney attraction, but we had the appearance of the Xenomorph in an entire sequence dedicated to the Nostromo. With fog, flashing lights, and a jumpscare from the titular monster, we can't believe this frightening fiend made it into the ride.
Speaking of aliens, how about an animatronic on a ride that was considered too scary for Disney? In ExtraTERRORestrial: Alien Encounter, guests of this attraction were brought face to face with a terror that would make the Xenomorph look like E.T. Hard to believe, isn't it?
The attraction featured an enormous, horrifying sci-fi nightmare. The star of the attraction was a mass of wings, teeth, and claws that wanted nothing more than to tear the audience apart. Sounds like the perfect thing to put across from the People-Mover, doesn't it?
With the titular Phantom of Phantom Manor, it's not just the animatronic that gives us the willies, but the backstory as well. A haunted house, a ghostly bride, and a murderous phantom are just three of the elements that bring Phantom Manor to life. The most terrifying of all is the attraction's main manifestation, Phantom Ravenswood.
We see this guy hang a man to death, stalk a weeping bride, and try to bury riders in a casket, all while being voiced by the master of terror, Vincent Price. The animatronic is a skeletal ghost with Price's fiendish cackle, and will definitely chill the boldest of riders.
One of the largest Disney animatronics ever built is certainly one of the most frightening we've ever seen come from the studio. Even with the strobe light simulating its malfunctioned movement, this guy is one hairy, scary dude. The Yeti is Disney-forged nightmare fuel if ever there was one.
Forty feet of fur, fangs, and hydraulic mechanics bring this monster to life, and he is scary with a capital S. Though the full animation hasn't functioned since the ride's opening season, the Yeti is still the most intimidating thing we've seen in any of the Disney parks.
This nightmare in steel is what the insides of our favorite genetic alien experiment look like. After the ride closed permanently in 2018, the animatronics were dismantled and most likely stored or repurposed. This is what remains of our beloved blue troublemaker.
Though Stitch himself was never malicious or sinister, this mass of malevolent metal could fool you otherwise. It looks like Disney's attempt at a Five Nights at Freddy's knockoff and shocked loads of dedicated fans when it first appeared. Even though the ride has been replaced by a friendly meet and greet with the cuddly alien himself, we still get a little unnerved at this image.