DIY Animatronic Props Monster In A Box

The Complete DIY Motors for Halloween Props Guide

Have you ever wanted to make your own DIY motorized Halloween props?

I have too.

It’s overwhelming if you’re just starting out because it seems like you need to be an engineer, a computer programmer or have some deep knowledge of robotics to build your own animatronics.

The beautiful thing is, you don’t have to be an expert to make cool animated props.

In this simple guide, I’ll show you everything you need to get started with motorized props of your own. 

Types of Motors

Animatronic prop motors are basically split into two main categories – electric and pneumatic (air pressurized.) 

Electric motors offer the lowest barrier to entry and are relatively easy to integrate into your own props. 

For more complex animated movements you’ll need to pair your motorized prop with a controller to program movements. It sounds intimidating, but don’t worry. You can buy controllers today that make it much easier than it once was 5 or even 10 years ago. 

And best of all, you don’t have to be a computer wizard to figure it out.

Let’s start by reviewing the different types of motors you can use.

Electric Motors

Electric motors are generally available as fixed speed, multi-speed and vibrating.

Fixed Speed (aka Deer) Motor

The simplest and easiest animatronic motor you can buy (or install) is a fixed speed motor. 

Some people call this a deer motor. 

These are the same motors you’ve seen inside the outdoor wire frame Christmas reindeer lawn decorations everyone had in the late 90’s and early 2000’s. 

These motors operate at one speed and have built in power, so all you need to do is plug it in.

You can add your own fittings and gears onto these motors to create more than just back and forth movements. 

I have a few examples below to show you exactly what I mean.

What’s needed to operate:

  • Deer Motor, with built-in power supply

Use cases:

  • Basic movements
  • Lifting, turning, up and down

Examples of fixed speed motor props:

  • Deer Motor Tombstone Popper
Source YouTube
  • Deer Motor Floating Candle
Source Youtube

Where to buy fixed speed motors:

You can search the HallowLane Supplier Directory for a complete list of vendors who offer fixed speed electric motors.

Here are a couple of options to consider…

Source Youtube

Multi-Speed Electric Motors

These motors can operate at high and low speeds or a range of speeds.

This gives you a lot of versatility and control over your prop’s movements.

You’ll need a separate external power source and controller to run these motors.

You can pick up power supplies and controllers separately or part of a kit with a few different vendors mentioned below.

What’s needed to operate:

  • Electric motor
  • Controller
  • Power supply

Use cases:

  • Complex movements
  • Can be combined with motion sensors, step pads, beam sensors or hand triggers

Examples of multi-speed motor props:

  • Zombie creature with left and right movements
Source Youtube

Where to buy multi-speed motors:

You can search the HallowLane Supplier Directory for multi-speed electric motors.

Here are a few options to consider…

Vibrating Electric Motors

This motor is super easy to install. Simply strap it onto any static prop and get a seriously disturbing shake effect.

The built-in power makes installation a breeze.

And if your props have any latex or silicon elements, it gives your shivers a realistic effect that will make anyone’s skin crawl.

Check out this shaking effect…

Source Fright Props / YouTube

What’s needed to operate:

  • Electric motor (usually with built-in power supply)
  • Power supply (if needed)

Use cases:

  • Shivering and shaking movements

Where to buy vibrating motors:

You can search the HallowLane Supplier Directory for vibrating electric motors.

Here are a few options to consider…

Electric Servo Motors

RobotShop Servo Prop Motor
Source RobotShop

You probably know about servos because they power your favorite RC cars, planes, and boats.

What’s great about servos is that you can get them in a variety of different torques, speeds, and sizes.

Plus, tons of parts and accessories in the robotics market are already designed for similar applications. So there’s plenty of support online too.

What’s needed to operate:

  • Servo motor
  • Controller
  • Power supply

Use cases:

  • Complex programmable movements

Examples of servo motors:

  • 3-Axis Moving Skull Head Servo Motor Prop
Source Youtube

Where to buy servo motors:

You can search the HallowLane Supplier Directory for vibrating electric motors.

Here are a few options to consider…

Pneumatic Props

Everyone’s been stunned by a pneumatic prop before.

These types of props use a large charge of air followed by hissing and “pop” sound that leave your heart pounding.

Pneumatic animated props are powered by a combination of air pressure and hydraulic cylinders to create startling effects. 

These mechanisms require a bit more expertise to make them work correctly. Especially compared to electric motors and parts. Here, you’re dealing with compressed air that needs to maintain a certain pressure in the lines that feed your actuators (the parts that move.)

I’ve included a few links below to some great tutorials to get you started.

What’s needed to operate:

  • Air compressor
  • Air hose and fittings
  • Pneumatic actuators (moving mechanisms)

Use cases:

  • Startle, lunge and pop movements
  • Up and down, lifting
  • Complex movements

Examples of pneumatic props:

  • Werewolf life-sized pneumatic prop
Source Youtube
  • Eaten alive zombie table pneumatic prop
Source Youtube

Where to buy pneumatic animatronic parts:

You can search the HallowLane Supplier Directory for vibrating electric motors.

Here are a few options to consider…

Motor Controllers

With most animated prop kits you’ll need controllers and power supplies to make the motors spin, regulate speed, or control the air pressure inside your setup.

Here are a few of the different types of components you need to be aware of…

Simple Controllers & Triggers

These are simple on/off controllers that are triggered by beams, motion sensors, step pads, manual hand triggers.

Programmable Controllers

Create movement patterns that can also include lighting and audio effects.

You can program them all on the same controller or keep it simple and only focus on movements.

Just because this is “programmable” doesn’t mean you have to be a programmer to use it.

Some controllers make it really easy to program with the push of a button. You can press record, make your motor move in desired motions, then save it to a loop or trigger.

Power Supplies

Your controllers and motors will need power to work. Since only the simpler wiper and deer motors have built-in power supplies, you’ll need to select the right 12V or 100V power supply for your setup.

DIY Kits

You can find DIY motor kits ready to go with everything you need to get started.

Some kits are available with very specific purposes, such as these…

Electric DIY Kits

Servo DIY Kits

Pneumatic DIY Kits

Tutorials

There are some great places to find help with building your own animatronics.

Here are some great videos, books and forums to help you get started…

Videos

Books

Free Downloadable Plans

Forums

  • RobotShop’s online tutorial forum has searchable discussions related to all aspects of animatronics and robotics
  • In the EFX-TEK support forum you can get help with programming your Prop 1 & Prop 2 controllers by EFX-TEK
  • Monster Guts has a small forum with a select few tutorial threads that you can check for updates
  • HalloweenForum.com has a growing tutorial database of all kinds, with animatronics mixed in. Recently, the forum was purchased by an outside company and many of the links are broken. But it’s still worth a look to find new tutorials as they’re added

Conclusion

Maybe you’ve been wanting to make your own animated Halloween props for a long time, but didn’t know where to start. Or, you thought it might be too difficult. 

I think you should give it a try. 

With this guide and resource list, you can start experimenting with your own designs right away.

And I think the best way to learn is by actually doing.

If you get stuck and need more direction, please post a comment below or in the Halloween Forum Facebook Group where I’ll help you get free assistance with any Halloween project you’re working on.

Do you have an animatronic project in mind? Have you started building one yet?

*Cover via Cereal Killer

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top