Disney Folklore: Naming Animatronics

Transcription: “All the animatronics in Disneyland have a name. For example, the snake in Indiana Jones is named Fluffy. The Yeti in the Matterhorn is named Harold. Cast members aren’t supposed to pose with the animatronics, but we do and post them in our Facebook groups.”

The naming of the animatronics signifies a way to give life to the mechanisms. Similar to the way we use human names, the rides become more personalized when an individual knows the names of the machines contributing to the ride’s atmosphere.

By giving each machine a unique and specific name, the cast members can create a dichotomy. Those who know the names are on inside the group, while those who do not know the names are outside the group. Overall, knowledge of the animatronic’s names evokes a sense of group identity. The cast members can exemplify their group identity by name dropping the machine’s name.

As Van Gennup said, transitional or unsettling moments in one’s life often become paired with jokes. The ironic nature of the names function as a joke shared between cast members. For example, the snake on the Indiana Jones ride is supposed to jump out and scare people. However, with a name like Fluffy, the snake can hardly be considered daunting. The joke counteracts the tension created at the moment the snake appears.

During times when the ride is powered down, cast members pose and take pictures of each other with the animatronics. The behavior qualifies as breaking the rules, but the cast members are not deterred since it has become apart of their group culture. Not only are their pictures a form of rebellion, they are shared over social media. The Facebook groups on which these photos are shared facilitate the multiplicity and variation of the folklore.