12in action figure converted to animatronic

I just started a new project to take a 12in action figure and make it animatronic. I plan on using the head, hands, feet, clothing from the figure and making the rest from scatch. I just made a proof of concept arm with 5DOF see video below. It uses pull cables as there is no way to fit all the servos in the figure. I just looked at some photos of Stan Winstons Small Soldiers and they seam to use sheaths over the cables. I will have to test this out and see if can improve performance. Any suggestions or tips are appeciated.



Ok, Received my action figure Friday and the first thing I did was take his clothes off :slight_smile: Here are some pics of what I got done Sat and Sun.




Some more







Made some more progress. He is now moving! Here is a quick rough video. vimeo.com/13868201

You can follow my progress here: theeffectslab.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=14449



Thats awesome, great work. I’m very impressed of how many wires you managed to hide. What software are you using for controlling all the servos? Visual Sequencer?

Thanks! Yes I am using VSA for now to work out bugs and position values. I will be using an Arc-32 so I can use various inputs and select appropriate movement subroutines.


very cool project. i will admit when i first saw your first post, my immediate thoughts were “its kinda cool” but a bit “seems fairly short lived”.

i have followed your progress and WOW. you have done a fantastic job so far. I love animatronic work and its always nice to see something like this.
Keep up the good work. very inspiring… “son go grab ya Action Man”!

Thanks for the kind words. Im very happy I am inspiring someone, It is the main reason I am posting my progress. I was inspired to do the project by reading, looking at pictures, and watching videos of other peoples work. I am very excited about the project and I am enjoying every minute of the build. Wait till you see whats in store for our friend Indiana…


I think this project is awesome! Incredible video of the movements. Hard to believe you fit all the linkages and cables into that space…

Speaking of which, could you share some details of how you control the limbs? For example, how do you lift the forearm, through the upper arm and the rotating shoulder joint?

Thanks for sharing !

Yes. all the cables run through the brass tubing skeleton. The forearm cables are terminated at the end of the upper arm and runs through the upper arm, then turns and goes through the rotating shoulder. Then out the front and back into the spine. You can see in more detail where I am posting all my progress here:theeffectslab.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=14449


I am amazed how you are able to move the joints using just cables. When you move one joint I would expect the other cables would become tight causing the other axis to become difficult to move, sort of like a tug of war but it all seems to move freely independent from each other. Very nicely done.

The cables dont bind because they are routed through spring guides or “tubes”. Like bicycle cables they are only terminated at the ends.

I have made some progress on the project if anyone is interested.


Hi Smitty,

I just watched some of your videos. Very interesting build!! Keep up the good work, I defiantly keep following this build!


If anyone knows where else this work here is posted, let me know please! The forum is down at The Effects Lab from hackers.

Some incredible work, I’d love to see the updates and if he’s still doing anything in this capacity.


Hi it won’t let me watch your videos it says error when the page loads, I am wondering how you got on with this from what I have seen in the pictures it looks really great I wouldn’t mind starting a project similar, was just wondering what material you use for the arms?