2011 - Volume #35, Issue #4, Page #08[ Sample Stories From This Issue | List of All Stories In This Issue | Print this story | Read this issue]
Custom-Made Robotic Characters
Characters Unlimited is in the business of making an impression with hundreds of moving, talking characters to choose from.
"We specialize in electro mechanical animatronics," says owner Olaf Stanton. "They run on electricity, are affordable, and you can change the message. Or you can speak live to children through them."
He made his first characters with his stepfather, who sold them out of a truck to gift shops and other tourist businesses. Stanton combined that skill with a business administration degree to start Characters Unlimited in Boulder City, Nev., in 1986.
The company prides itself on creating lifelike characters and selling them at a reasonable price. Prices start at $500 for inanimate characters, but 80 percent of sales are for moving and/or talking characters, Stanton says. For around $4,900 they can create a character that talks when it detects motion, moves its eyes, head and arms, and comes with a two-way mike.
Stanton's website includes hundreds of faces and characters available in a variety of themes: farming, Halloween, animals, people, dinosaurs, etc.
"Our most popular face is No. 69, the old timer Ernie," Stanton says. "He has a grey beard and is dressed up in a variety of ways."
Favorite critter characters include buffalo and moose heads û and the ever-popular talking chicken. Talking trees work well for orchards and nurseries.
Customers can record their own messages or Characters Unlimited can make pre-recordings for them.
"We do a lot of fortune teller machines like in the movie æBig'," Stanton adds. "People put in money for a card, or a business can have coupons or advertising or sell tickets." The animated machines sell for $4,500 to $7,500.
If you can't find what you are looking for on the website, Stanton says his workers are up to the challenge of making custom characters to fit any operation, whether it's a nut for a pecan orchard or a strange character for a Halloween spook house.
Contact: FARM SHOW Followup, Characters Unlimited, 709 Foothill Court, Boulder City, Nev. 89005 (ph 800 489-1686; www.charactersunlimitedinc.com).
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