Garner Holt Productions Inc., specialists in the design and manufacture of outstanding animatronics, show action equipment and special effects, is celebrating its 35th anniversary. With a client list that includes Disney theme parks, Universal Studios, Coca-Cola, NASA, Pacific Science Center, Chuck E. Cheese, Cedar Fair, and Lockheed Martin, Garner Holt Productions is now the world’s largest designer and builder of animatronic figures.
Garner L. Holt was inspired to start experimenting with animated figures and effects after a trip to Disneyland. By the age of 15, he was operating haunted houses in malls, and at just 16 years old he founded Garner Holt Productions, Inc. (GHP) on July 16, 1977.
Holt says, “Since I founded the company, we’ve built almost 3, 500 animatronic figures, ” “I started out building simple little skulls that talked. We’re building a velociraptor right now with almost a hundred functions. What we do every day here now would have been unimaginable when I started out.”
35 years on GHP has worked in 30 countries on five continents; produced almost 500 animatronic shows for Chuck E. Cheese restaurants; made over 400 animatronic figures for Disney theme parks worldwide; is a record holder for both the largest and the smallest animatronic figures ever created and has created the largest ever float for a Disney theme park. GHP is now a complete attraction design services organization paired with a 60, 000 square foot world-class design and production facility creating proven products that are in demand by most of the world’s top theme parks.
“We were the very first outside vendor to build a compliant animatronic figure for a classic Disney attraction—Jack Skellington in Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion Holiday. That was a tremendous honor for GHP, ” says Holt. “We’ve built things for sultans and kings, major theme parks and little roadside attractions. We have work in some of the world’s most famous museums, too. Our scope is truly global.”
And GHP continues to grow with more projects on the horizon for the next eighteen months than at almost any period in the last 35 years.
“I started out in the garage with one card table as a workbench, ” says Holt. “I moved to a storefront workshop with about twice the space as the garage, then another one twice as big as that. When I moved to our current 40, 000 square foot building in 1998, I never thought I’d be able to fill it. I’ve had to buy two additional buildings since then, and we’re still growing. I have hundreds of card tables now!”
When Holt was experimenting with animatronics at high school, the technology was still young and Disney was the only major animatronics producer. Over the last three decades Holt and GHP have seen, and often pioneered, the most exciting animatronics breakthroughs.
Holt explains, “My first control systems were the size of refrigerators. Now we have more computing power in something the size of a tuna sandwich. New technologies make our figures look smoother and more lifelike. GHP is always innovating. I’m always looking out for what will make our animatronics seem more like living characters than mechanical creations.”
Today GHP not only create animatronic figures, but also parade floats, special effects, show action equipment (the hidden magic behind the magic), sets and scenery, props, puppets, costumes, video media, and also plans for anything from an exhibit to an entire theme park.
Holt says, “We do so many different things. GHP is such a whirlwind. One day we’re building the world’s largest parade float, the next day we’re doing little songbirds for the Tiki Room. And then we’re doing 40 foot-tall dragons and animatronics for the Navy to help train combatants going into war zones.”