The Hitcher

Above is a full-motion preview (.mpg)

As with our FCG, you have to see this effect in action to believe it. The mechanism is simple and direct - and reliable, using the well-tested construction methods found in the Flying Crank motor platform. It uses two motors and two lever-and-rack drives to produce a hitch-hiking effect, similar to one found in a very famous haunt. The three sisters move together in a synchronous routine, leaning from side to side and thumbing for a ride with their arms at the same time.

If you can assemble a barbecue grill, a bicycle or a set of shelves from Office Depot, you can build this mechanism. It's a true introduction to developing serious imagineering skills, and you will learn much from it.

The parts diagram shows what to cut and how to drill the raw aluminum stock Click here to view it. (Clich on your browser's back button when you are done to return here.)

Here is the entire assembly manual in .pdf form - it's a bit large, but it 'holds you by the hand' as you go through the assembly process with color illustrations throughout. And, of course, it's free. :-)

The following is an exerpt from the introduction to the manual:

The UPM system is a true what-if kit for the experimental imagineer. The version you have purchased also includes a specific application kit, called the Hitcher (HK-1) which causes three auxiliary levers to produce an oscillating movement. These combined kits can be built as shown in these instructions to produce a frame to hold three hitch-hiking figures, or used in any number of other ways the builder's imagination can come up with. It is intended for moving light props, usually under a three-pound load - but if used in imaginative ways, it can equal the impact of costly animatronics.

The real aim of the UPM is to be a time-saver for Haunt prop builders who can use it for a new effect each season - and for Halloween and Christmas home decorators, who can share it with both seasons. It opens up new opportunities for variety in kinetic decoration and is very easy and quick to set up. Instead of measuring, cutting, and drilling anew each season, you just move parts around. Some of you may remember the Gilbert Erector Set (with the motor). If you ever had one, you know the kind of fun that's possible with the UPM.

Numerous standard mover configurations are possible. The shifting parallelogram, the scissor jack, and reciprocating levers (both synchronous and opposing - think of windshield wiper oscillation) are three of the main ones you can create. Most basic display mover systems use some variant of one of these three.

With the addition of add-ons like the HK-1 (referred to as secondary movers in Phanmech lingo) you can have complimentary action that adds complexity - and show value - to the moving display. Most of today's truly interesting display animatronics have more than one reciprocal movement, and you're about to find out how this can make a simple prop much more effective as you build this kit.

The hitch-hiking figures shown in these instructions are just one example of how you can use the combined kits to tell a one panel story - in other words, like a single-panel comic. The story: three female spirits are hitching a ride to Florida to spend Halloween at a well-known Orlando haunt. It's a reference to figures in that haunt, and thus the humor (the spooks in that haunt want to hitch a ride home with guests.) Since so many people have been there ? or have seen the film based on it - recognition should be immediate. It is obviously a conscious tribute to that haunt, without the stealing of its copyrighted images. Obviously, anyone could build figures suggesting the originals, but we won't. Besides, some of the humor is lost if you merely copy the proprietary ones - and the copyright police are everywhere. Be an originator - it's far more fun! In the future, there will be instructions on the Phanmech website for suggested uses, both from us and other builders. This is where more fun comes in - you can participate and let everyone benefit from your experiences.

Yes - you can use the pieces of the Hitcher subassembly in any way you can imagine to construct such props as a guitar-playing or arm-waving Santa Claus, for instance. The possibilities are nearly limitless, and that's what all those extra holes in the levers are there for. All you have to do is take care to make sure your mechanism won't bind up or overload the motor - and we'll help you with that later in these instructions. Want an extra arm or lever to complete your design? Call us and we'll build it for you, or simply visit the hardware store and add it all on your own! Get your hands dirty and experiment. If completing this project doesn't addict you to imagineering, we'll be very surprised!

Also, the finished prop handles like a suitcase, by grasping the top structural member, so it's easy to carry it indoors to prevent theft.

Above, here's how you can get three different characters out of a 'Mystic Mask' from Michael's Crafts. I used stiff insulated wire with soldered exposures wrapped around tiny holes in the plastic. The wires pull the mask edges together and significantly distort the face. Below are the characters this technique produced:

Below, reality impinges on fantasy as the hitchers hang out in the daylight.

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