Throughout the Disney theme parks around the world, guests will find countless Audio-Animatronic figures of all shapes, sizes and characters. From a small rat in Epcot to a towering fire-breathing dragon in Disneyland, these figures entertain, inform, frighten and amuse guests every day as they enjoy the show that is the parks. All of these figures are a result of inspiration Walt drew from a small gilded birdcage he bought from an antiques dealer while on a trip to New Orleans. Inside the birdcage was a tiny bird which moved and sang as though alive through the creative use of tiny gears and bellows. Seeing this bird perform, Walt wondered if he could invent an even more advanced technology which would allow him to use larger figures in his parks, and thus the idea for Audio-Animatronics was born.
Here’s an obscure bit of Disney history you’ve probably never seen before. On the underside of the birdcage, always out of view, is a label affixed in 1850 by its manufacturer, B. Bontems of Paris, reading “Dispatched from B. Bontems – 72, Rue de Clery. Paris - Manufacturer of Birds and Butterflies Machine Heads.” While not the actual label, here’s a photo of the label B. Bontems used on its singing automatons in Paris over 165 years ago!