Friday, June 21, 2013

Science of Disney Imagineering: Levers & Pulleys


All good things must come to an end and that’s the case here with our last DVD in Disney’s educational series. 

Asa’s Invention:  Asa has built a 600 pound Audio-Animatronic Tiki statue for a contest.  And while there are probably plenty of levers inside, the focus is on how levers and pulleys can help move the heavy statue to the judging. (And as the adult in the room, I did get tired of hearing him say “Boola, boola.”

Terms Defined: simple machine, mechanical advantage, lever, fulcrum, resistance, effort, 3rd class lever, actuator, electric servo 

Rides and Attractions: 

Okay, I have a special place in my heart for the first ride, Dumbo because I wanted to go on it as a 5 year old but it was closed and I had to wait thirty years until I had my own kid to finally ride.  For those not so nostalgic, Dumbo is a perfect example of a 3rd class lever—where the fulcrum is at one end, the resistance at the other and the effort is in between.  This way the motors and gears are hidden in the center of the ride.

Of course, I’m an adult now and my new favorite ride is Soarin’.  You may have heard the story how imagineer Mark Sumner  came up with the idea after spending an afternoon with his childhood erector set.  There are some pretty powerful pulleys to get the three rows of seats up into the air and give you the feeling you’re hang gliding over California.

This is probably the most iconic example of Disney Imagineering in the whole series. You just can’t think of a theme park without the Audio-Animatronics—from the original Enchanted Tiki Room to the Country Bear Jamboree to the Haunted Mansion.  Of course Disney works hard to preserve the magic of these figures so the samples shown on the DVD have already shed their skin—in fact they never mention who the characters are, but one appears humanoid.


If you’ve visited Catastrophe Canyon at Hollywood Studios you surely remember the70,000 gallons of gushing water coming towards you and over the tram.  It’s all controlled by levers opening the gates to the large reservoirs over your head (with the pretty powerful pumps to get the water back in place before the next tram pulls up). 

Our last stop is the Wave Pool and Typhoon Lagoon.  There are twelve 1-ton doors, working as levers, that open in a sequence to create the waves.  Computers control whether the waves break to the right or left.


Quiz:  15 multiple choice and T/F questions

Try It Yourself:   Household chores are seldom considered “fun” but Asa does his best by helping the kids use pulleys to create a laundry picker upper.   (We didn’t build this contraption in our science co-op.  You can read about our two experiments in Science Co-op Week 4 )

If you’ve missed any titles in the series click below:

Designs & Models







Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion



Leslie said...

We just got back from Disney. I've never heard of these videos but am going to check them out now. THANK YOU!! And thanks for stopping by my blog. If you have any questions about CC, email me anytime. I, clearly, could talk about it all day. :)

Jimmie said...

I'm trying to reach you about a project related to homeschooling an only child. I could not find any contact information on your site. Could you email me at Thanks.

Jennifer aGlimpseOfOurLife said...

This does look like a fun series. I still think his job would be a fun one.

Raspberry Leaf said...

That looks like a fun series. In college my husband worked on a project for Disney. It was interesting to learn about the behind the scenes stuff. I might have to check out that series.

Michele said...

Beth, where did these videos come from? How many are there? These sound like something my boys would love to watch...we love all things Disney! Thanks bunches for sharing.

Angie McFarren said...

Oh, I miss our trip to Disney. Well, except for all that water at Catastrophe Canyon. LOL

The videos sound like a wonderful way to help visualize the concepts.

Missouri Mama said...

Michele, the videos are from the educational division of the Disney corporation (did you ever see Donald Duck in Mathmagic Land in school?) There are 10 titles with physics themes and I just learned about an 11th title called Animal Adaptations which is probably more about Biology. I got them through the library.

Marcy Crabtree said...

We are planning our first trip to Disney later this year. I was just thinking that I wanted to find a way to turn it into an educational field trip. Can't wait to check these out.

I better go pin this now before I forget!

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