Meeting a worldwide celebrity

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A trip to Disneyland or Universal Studios would be an enjoyable part of a vacation for any of us. But to see attractions at these parks from the inside truly is one of the highlights of my editorial career. Writing articles based on these visits is always a real challenge — in part because I have to leave out so much fascinating information that goes beyond the scope of the articles. Probably as much information is not written about as what is.
It's amazing how quickly some of these monumental projects come to fruition and a real testimony to engineering experience in finding solutions through precise, systematic techniques. For example, years ago I met with R. Duncan Mackenzie, whose company, Hoffend & Sons, Inc., Honeoye, N.Y., won a contract to design and install an attraction at Universal Studios Hollywood. Duncan explained that after receiving the contract to design and install hydraulic and control systems for the attraction, he and his associates started drawings in January and completed the project, including testing, in time for its opening in June the same year.
Another major attraction at Universal had a total turnaround time of only four months, according to its builder. Circumstances kept me from examining the fluid power in this major attraction, but it contains numerous special effects using hydraulics as well as pneumatics, not to mention fiery explosions, crashes, and chases.
On another front, ride simulators continue to gain popularity in parks not only with the public, but with park management as well. The simulators give the illusion of motion with an audio-visual presentation synchronized with multi-axial movement from a hydraulically articulated base. For a believable simulation, the hydraulics not only have to be in precise synchronization with audio-visual effects, but must also produce sharp, distinct motion. Charles Robertson, an electrohydraulics consultant I met with, illustrated this by explaining how a simulator his company helped build used quick-response servovalves to produce sharp movement of a motion base to simulate impact from hard objects. Later, a similar motion base was built using proportional valves instead of servovalves. As a result, the simulated impacts were not sharp and felt as if the vehicle was under attack by an army of hostile marshmallows.
Oh, yes, the picture. When I arrived at Disneyland at 6:30 a.m., my host, Jack Shippy, was already at work on Splash Mountain. We finished our business some time after 2 o’clock that afternoon, which gave me a few hours to take in the pleasures of Disneyland from out front with the other guests. I ran into Mickey Mouse, Disneyland’s “Big Cheese”, and just had to get my picture taken with him. Mr. Mouse is the one on the left.

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Alan Hitchcox

Alan joined Hydraulics & Pneumatics in 1987 with experience as a technical magazine editor and in industrial sales. He graduated with a BS in engineering technology from Franklin University and...
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