View Full Version : Motorized Whoville figures

01-18-2017, 07:13 PM
Hello to all. Hope you had a great successful decorating season this past year. Already planning or next year.

Need some suggestions as to a new motorized scene. We want to put a 10 foot artificial Christmas tree in the center of a display and have 8 Whoville characters rotating around the tree. I designed a snowskater scene with a wiper motor and a direct drive to a piece of 1/2 threaded pipe and those work fine.

My issue is how to mount the tree to keep it out of the way of the rotating arms connected to each of the figures. Been wrestling with this for a while. Any ideas would be appreciated.



01-18-2017, 08:27 PM
If I am picturing this correctly, just build a platform and have all the moving components under that out of sight.

01-18-2017, 10:22 PM
If I can express this the right way, it may work for you. Tree in the middle, your round platform with characters mounted on it, riding on rollers, with a rubberized drive wheel/tire under it. Think carnival ride. Make sense?

Totally misread your concept, sorry.

01-19-2017, 09:55 PM
Thanks for your ideas.


01-19-2017, 09:56 PM
Thanks for your thoughts.


01-20-2017, 03:40 AM
For another thought...i like the wow that having the characters float around the tree would bring. Two ideas, rotate the whole display or build rotating /nonrotating sections. Most trees i have owned are made out of metal pipe- often in sections. Build rotating sections to fit in between the tree sections. You would need an offset piece to drive the rotating pieces and if it were more than one section would probably be a separate motor with wiring run through the tree pipe. Tree might look a little different but with careful bending of the branches and the right angle of the supports you could disguise it.

01-20-2017, 09:44 AM
I haven't built this yet as this is one of my "to do" 2018 props. It's a rotating platform that will carry presents instead of whoville characters but the idea is the same.


The base is a round plywood platform supported by metal and the presents will be attached to the top surface. There are eight wheels and are free-spinning solid rubber tires from Harbor Freight, item#42427, which have bearings front and back thus can be held in place with an appropriate length and diameter bolt. I've made yard carts and equipment with these in the past and what I've done is weld the bolt's head to the frame I've made, slip the wheel on, then install a matching nut. I use bolts that have a smooth shank except for the end where the nut goes which ensures there aren't any threads to gall the inside of the ultra-cheap chinese made bearings in the wheels. They're not rebuildable.

The platform's frame has a center collar that will slip over my mega-tree pole, and while it looks huge in diameter it's not to scale. It's a black pipe F-F coupling 4" diameter that I machined on my lathe to get rid of the threads. It slips over 3" black pipe with a little clearance that I'll have to grease the heck out of to reduce galling.

The mega tree pipe will have to be sunk into the ground for support and the usual guy lines to hold it in place. The span of the guy lines obvious has to be further out than the diameter of the rotating base including the height of the presents, or, whoville characters in your case.

The motor I intend to use is like a wiper motor but more of an industrial version. I was afraid a wiper motor wouldn't have the torque to drive a big circular platform and I still have concerns about this motor. It's a 24V 8A motor, gives 9 RPM at the output of the built in 100:1 worm gear drive, and if the rating sheet is honest it provides 21 ft-lbs of torque. I was going to machine a hub and attach a 12T bicycle gear and drive a 53T bicycle gear using a chain giving me about a 30 second platform rotation time with (in theory) 80-ish foot-lbs of torque to spin the weight.

Feeding power will be easy because I'll be building two platforms, one to rotate as described and one on the bottom for the wheels to run on. The extension cord and the cat5 will go underneath the bottom platform and the wheels won't chew it up or chew up what I pretend is a "lawn".

Where I am totally stuck (but will figure out once I ponder it long enough) is how to pin the mega tree pole so it can't rotate instead of the platform rotating. I've thought of all sorts of ways of making it stable, one as simple as welding a horizontal metal pole to it with a ring on the end to hammer a stake through. Another option is for me to attach the platform the wheels roll on to the center pole so the rotational force is contained and not involving the ground. As I said, haven't quite figured that out yet.

01-20-2017, 10:38 AM
You know.. funny thing... I have been putting together ideas about a very similar thing. I have plans for some animatronics this year if all pans out OK.. I don't want to kill large areas of my lawn which is what happens here with stuff that sits directly on the grass. I have two good sized trees in my front yard that are spaced just about evenly from the center. My original idea back in Dec was to my a "round the tree" platform sectioned off so I could run two different scenes.... remember the "Carousel of Progress" at Disneyland? That was my inspiration for that. Still not sure if I want to go that direction, but you have a start it seems.. Good luck