Animatronic wonders of John Nolan

John Nolan is a special effects roboticist who creates stunning animatronic effects for film and elsewhere. His showreel, above, is a mesmerizing tour of the uncanny valley where he dwells.

Amazing Animatronics by John Nolan (Thanks, Quinn!)


  1. When I saw some of those things, my first thought was “That would look awesome in Hellboy III”, then I looked at his IMDB page and saw he worked on Hellboy II, which makes perfect sense.

    I hope he has more stuff he’s working on. I could see him and Weta Workshop doing amazing stuff with The Hobbit, but it doesn’t look like he’s working with that.

    Very amazing stuff.

  2. It’s all so mechanical! I like the way that a just a few actuators cause the entire facial expression to change.

    Reminds me of the guts of a Selectric typewriter.

  3. Ah, I wanted to be an animatronics specialist. Almost ended up on work experience at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop when I was at secondary school. Never happened due to work commitments.

    Fast forward some fifteen years later and I started working for a Soho based visual effects in London which constantly replaces animatronic characters for all-singing, all-dancing CG characters. Around the same time Jim Henson’s Creature Shop closes in London – presumably because it couldn’t compete with the countless Soho VFX shops who can undercut the expense of animatronic characters.

    Still think animatronics are a worthy combination of art and science – such a pity it’s not used so much these days :(

  4. awesome stuff, but this reel is like 4 minutes too long. You’d get the same idea with a shorter, punchier piece. and the music could be better…

  5. I would love to know how to make some hand extensions like those shown in the video. Surely some hardcore cosplayer or LARPer could point me in the right direction?

  6. The cow at 1:52 had me Google “fringe cow” to see if the one used in Fringe was real. Apparently it is. Neat stuff.

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