Magic is the tool of choice for Imagineering. And perhaps no trick is as astounding as when they somehow used alien technology to teleport a lovable little alien fuzzball across an entire preshow room, in full view of guests.
The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter was the first attraction to showcase the teleportation effect. Alien Encounter performed the feat all the way back in 1994. It was Star Trek level stuff. The robotic operator, S.I.R. (who makes an awesome action figure), controlled everything with the touch of a button. The only downside was that the alien (known as Skippy) suffered some minor roasting in the process.
Stitch’s Great Escape replaced Alien Encounter several years later. A goofy prison guard named 90210 took over for S.I.R. But the teleportation effect remained.
How did they do it? We know that Disney is capable of making entire Tomorrowland attractions disappear. Classics like the Skyway, Timekeeper, even the ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter itself.
Did XS-Tech (or the Walt Disney Company) actually invent an interspatial molecular transport?
Let’s slow down a tick. This is the same company that can’t seem to come up with a viable plan for expanding the monorail. Probably there’s a bit of trickery involved.
The First Level of the Teleport Effect
One second the tube is empty, the next second a full-blown Audio Animatronic figure is snorting at us from behind the glass. Where did it come from?
Your first instinct is correct. The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter used the oldest magic trick in the book: Body doubles.
It starts with Raw Skippy in the tube on the right. The glass smokes up. Raw Skippy drops down the trap door, disappearing. Burnt Skippy reemerges in the other tube.
The alien’s disintegration not only provides a great intro to the real XS-Tech demonstration in the next room, but also forever changes our perception of where peanut butter comes from.
But wait. There is no trap door! I’m standing only eight feet away from the teleport tubes. I can see right underneath it. There’s no room for a Raw Skippy to drop down. No room for a Burnt Skippy to pop up.
Ah, so he must come down from the ceiling. Except that I can see the top of the teleport tube also. It doesn’t look big enough to hold an animatronic, let alone the elevator platform that lowers him into the chamber. So how exactly are they doing it?
The Second Level of the Teleport Effect
The answer is a brilliant but simple solution. It’s the second oldest magic trick in the book.
You’re not seeing “under” the tube at all. You’re simply looking at a couple of angled mirrors, which reflect the walls on either side of the chamber.
The Third Level of the Teleport Effect
The teleportation effect only works if the wall is planned exactly right. It must be distinctive enough to fool you into thinking that you are seeing the wall behind the chamber, but simple enough that it will reflect without looking “off.” Hence the vertical striped wallpaper. This is the same reason why they say vertical stripes are slimming in fashion. And there’s also a nifty use of this in the Haunted Mansion stretch room.
Now there’s only one more mystery to solve. What are the odds that there would be two Magic Kingdom characters named after peanut butter?