Found this pair of videos of the Mr. Potato Head (voiced by Don Rickles) audio-animatronic at the entrance to “Toy Story Midway Mania” at California Adventure. This audio-animatronic is an example of two great Imagineering technologies merging to make some magic.
Audio-animatronics harkens back to Walt’s desires to make a high-quality show that could be repeated exactly the same way for every guest. The “Dancing Man” demo Walt had built was based on Chinese mechanical birds. So it was fitting that The “Enchanted Tiki Room” was the first attraction feature audio-animatronics. They’ve come a long way since then, some with surprising realism.
The other technology is Disney’s Living Character Initiative and it’s the latest fad inside WDI. It’s essentially digital puppetry with some guidance from computers as well. “Turtle Talk with Crush” and “Laugh Floor Comedy Club” are two examples, but the closest example to Mr. Potato Head is probably Lucky The Dinosaur or the Muppet Mobile Lab with Dr. Bunsen Honeydew.
Keep in mind that Mr. Potato Head is still in testing. But I think these two videos are great. The first one involves a song and some great facial expressions and the second shows what is sure to be a highlight of the show when Mr. Potato Head removes his own ear.
Update: Here’s one more video. It’s a bit longer, and from further away. It’s funny how people just walk by like they see Giant talking Potato Heads everyday.