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A Friday Visit with Jim Korkis: Turtle Talk with Crush



By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on yourfirstvisit.net.

TURTLE TALK WITH CRUSH AT EPCOT

By Jim Korkis

Turtle Talk with Crush is a popular theater show that is part of Disney’s Living Character Initiative program.

Bruce Vaughn, Vice President of Walt Disney Imagineering’s Research and Development Division said, “This is an incredibly compelling and powerful way to experience the characters. They are fully aware of the people in their presence and can call you by name. It is a 100 percent live experience.”

Crush is a laid-back green sea turtle over 150 years old who loves riding the ocean currents and talks with the stereotypical attitude and vocabulary of a California surfer. He first appeared in the Disney Pixar animated feature film Finding Nemo (2003) where he helped Dory and Marlin on their quest.

According to Crush himself, his father is named Mr. Turtle, so that would make Crush’s full name Crush Turtle, or C. Turtle (sea turtle) for short.

In the film, his voice is supplied by Nemo writer-director Andrew Stanton who recorded all of Crush’s dialog lying on his couch in his office.

The show is a mixture of technologies including computer graphic techniques, image projection, digital puppetry and improvisation. Some of the action is pre-created animated sequences that can be cued up when needed while some of the action is done in real time.

Crush is controlled onscreen in real time by a puppeteer who uses a telemetric input device similar to a keyboard so that it appears seamlessly in a virtual environment. The X-Y-Z axis movement of the input device causes the digital puppet to move correspondingly.

Basically, a talented performer behind the massive rear projection screen area that looks like a window in to the Pacific Ocean underwater environment speaks in an approximation of Crush’s familiar voice and it is transferred to the speakers in the small theater.

The avatar image is projected at 60 frames per second, so that the turtle’s mouth is perfectly sychronized with the performer’s words. The performance is a mixture of pre-scripted material and improvisational responses. Cameras mounted on either side of the screen, allows the performer to see the audience and to make specific references.

The same type of technology is used in the Monsters Laugh Floor attraction in Magic Kingdom.

Turtle Talk with Crush originally it opened on November 16, 2004 at The Living Seas pavilion at Epcot that was later renamed The Seas with Nemo and Friends. Another version opened at Disney California Adventure in July 2005. It was open briefly at Hong Kong Disneyland from May 24 to August 10, 2008. The attraction opened in Tokyo DisneySea on October 1, 2009.

A similar experience is also included in the Disney Cruise Line Animator’s Palate restaurants on the Disney Dream and Disney Fantasy ships. A Turtle Talk with Crush unit was donated by Walt Disney Imagineering to the Children’s Hospital of Orange County in early 2013 to entertain children and their siblings. It is operated twice a day by volunteering Disney cast members.

In May 2016 the theme park attraction added the characters of Dory, Destiny the whale shark, Bailey the beluga whale and Hank the “septopus” (a seven-legged octopus) along with Crush’s son Squirt.

It was reported that the addition of Turtle Talk with Crush to Disney TokyoSea cost a minimum of $13.1 million but does not include the “Dude speak” because the Imagineers felt that type of persona would not be completely understood by a Japanese audience. So, there Crush is just an overly friendly turtle.

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Thanks, Jim! And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his latest, Secret Stories of Disneyland, and his Secret Stories of Walt Disney World: Things You Never You Never Knew, which reprints much material first written for this site, all published by Theme Park Press.

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