Animatronic Skeleton Upgrade

Sam and I have an animatronic skeletal butler Halloween decoration. We call him Jeeves. He has a motion sensor and when he is touched his eyes light up, his jaw moves, and he says creepy Halloween themed things.

We’ve had him a little over a year now, and we’ve decided it’s time for a little upgrade. He’s brought us so much amusement that we think with a little tweaking he can be a perfect year round animatronic companion.

We want to make him more seasonally varied, so we’ve decided that in addition to making some new outfit modifications that can be changed from time to time, we’d like to find a way to make him say seasonally appropriate things.

So, for instance, for thanksgiving, we’d like to make him say, “Happy Thanksgiving - you should be thankful to be alive. For now. Muahahaha”

This is in keeping with his current demeanor. We don’t want to change his personality. We just want him to keep current with the seasons. All of the things he currently says are bad and slightly macabre puns. We like this about him.

So we’ve disassembled him and unhooked the micro-controller/speaker component that is responsible for his speech and the programming that makes his eyes and jaw move.

Our goal is to find a way to figure out how he is programmed and how we can maintain his eye lighting and jaw movement while adding recorded speech for the other holidays we want him to celebrate with us. We were thinking we might be able to move everything over to a raspberry pi or an arduino (not sure which would be best for our goals) so that we can also make him wifi enabled, which would allow us to make modifications as needed and keep his speech up to date. We’d like him to be able to automatically detect the current holiday season and change to the appropriate set of recordings.

So here are the problems:

Sam is a programmer, but we don’t know how to hook up the current micro-controller so that we can see what is on it. If anyone has any ideas, that’d be great.

We have to find a person with a suitably deep and creepy voice to record the new speech we’re in the process of writing.

We need more lines of speech for each holiday than we’ve already come up with - suggestions would be appreciated.

In general, neither of us have ever done anything like this, and I know there are people at the Hive who A) love this sort of thing and B) know way more about how to go about it than we do. We’d love some input.

Help us make Jeeves more well-rounded!

For reference, this is a video of a similar animatronic - it’s literally the same product except that they’ve changed his appearance. Our Jeeves is a skeleton and the one in the video has skin. Everything else about him his identical, right down to the cheesy audio.

Kaleigh, Sam,

I hope Jeeves is okay with your desire to increase his responsibilities under his current contract.

Being able to dissect his programming requires knowing what kind of controller he currently has. A picture is worth a thousand words. But, don’t be surprised if it’s custom…

And, don’t be surprised if it wouldn’t be easier just to write the programming from scratch. (or borrow somebody else’s attempt to do the same thing).

Any small computer or controller will work - a Raspberry Pi (or other Linux host) will probably give you maximum flexibility for increased duties with the least amount of effort.



We’ve been good to Jeeves over the last year and two months. We keep him dusted, keep his batteries fresh, and we’ve never stored him in a closet or other dark place. To be honest, I think he’s sort of frustrated with the limitations of his current programming. After all, when the household is celebrating Festivus, it would be great for him to be able to join in the fun, but currently he is trapped in the same repetitive cycle of Halloween humor. Surely, at this point, even he is sick of his own jokes.

Programming from scratch is fine, and we were actually thinking we’d transcribe all of his current speech so that we can re-record everything in the same voice once we’ve figured out all of the holidays (I’m hoping I can get Lorin in on that fun), but how do we keep his motion sensing, jaw movement, and eye flickering without knowing how they were programmed originally?

Thanks so much for the advice!
I don’t know if you could change the name from Alexa but something setup like this would be really cool. You could have it set up to do the the creepy phrases but also have it do weather time Etc maybe even birthday greetings for people.
“Happy birthday, enjoy it while you can. It’s all downhill from here, muahahah”

A person could be recorded to give all of the voice elements like they do for Siri and Alexa and Google which then it could synthesize together from from text files.


It would be quite amusing to integrate the Alexa API
A quick google search turned up some home automation features that can be built into that as well… Jeeves could be an ongoing project and could ultimately even become an actual animatronic butler of sorts.

But the voice and the name are definitely critical hurdles we’d have to overcome.

I suggest Dark Ian for voice work, you can always do some pitchbending and add effects to make it creepier. there may already be voice libraries out there you could use… they have them for GPSs and stuff…

Apparently Alexa the Big Mouth Bass was hacked together with an arduino. I’ve been doing homework on the whole concept this afternoon. I think the idea of Jeeves actually being able to turn our lights on and off or tell us how to make a drink is actually just about as amusing as year round holiday themed creepiness. The possibilities are endless. Sam is excited too.