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  • Writer's pictureJohn Strope

How the Eye Mechanism made it on TV

Updated: Jul 24, 2022

This is something I did not expect to write. I got to see my work on TV! ABC's new sitcom Home Economics, to be precise. In fact, the entire episode is built around the titular optics - Season 2 Episode 19: Animatronic Gorilla.

How did this happen?

It all started with the animatronic eye mechanism I developed in December 2020 as an educational kit for after school STEAM programs. The project benefited Big Brothers Big Sisters, ultimately raising ~$4,000 in a little over 3 weeks before exceeding my capacities and going fully digital, where it continues today. At the beginning of the year, I was working on a project in Los Angeles when I received a message through this website about help with beefing up the eye mechanism for a film project. Mr. James Ochoa, a veteran of the FX industry and amicable maker, had seen the design online and wished to use it on-screen.

In the episode, one of the main characters wishes to avoid celebrating their birthday, all due to a past childhood trauma involving a horrifying Chuck E. Cheese-type animatronic gorilla. Closure is felt when the character is surprised at the end of the episode with a party of all their loved ones, even making peace with the original gorilla that terrified him years before. Although a latent malfunction suddenly elicits shrieks of fear, and children are shepherded to safety to cries of "Don't look it in the eyes!"

To pull it off, an actor wore an elongated gorilla skull with a cavity above his head to squeeze the electronics and radio equipment inside. It turned out suitably...eerie.

Was this pure, blind luck? Absolutely. But is it one of the coolest things I've ever made? You bet!

So, thank you to James for making this happen, and for the Home Economics crew at ABC for making a cool show!

P.S. After a few discussions with James, we even realized we were connected from the same area. It truly is a small world!

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