By Sarah Miller
IN FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida, a 40-foot
shark with dagger-like choppers looms over
visitors at the Museum of Discovery and
Science. Its hauntingly realistic three rows of
teeth elicit fear and awe from museum guests.
That means the shark has done its job—and
so has the imaginative team of LifeFormations.
Gene Poor, Costco member and
LifeFormations founder, fuses art and technology into animatronics (the technology
behind the creation of robotic, moving figures, as well as the figures themselves).
You’ve likely seen the company’s animatronics and lifelike static figures
inside theme parks such as Walt
Disney World and Universal Studios,
or in world-class museums, resorts
and restaurants. Magician David
Copperfield has even commissioned animatronic pieces for his private island.
LifeFormation’s creations span the globe,
A career in movement
from domestic attractions like Dollywood in
Tennessee, where visitors battle animatronic
gophers with water guns in the River Battle
flume ride, to Universal Studios Singapore,
with Sesame Street’s Burt and Ernie.
LifeFormations is one of just a handful of
companies in the animatronics industry; only
about a half dozen exist in the United States,
according to Poor.
LifeFormations has two locations: one in
Bowling Green, Ohio, and a second in
Cincinnati, Ohio—not where you’d expect to
find an animatronics company, Poor admits.
But Poor, a professor of entrepreneurship
with a Ph.D. in higher education, started a
new visual communications technology program in 1972 at Bowling Green State
University. He wanted his new company to be
located within yards of the campus.
Creativity and technology are two things
Poor’s always excelled at. As a child, he built
his own self-setting bowling alley in his aunt’s
basement, so it was no surprise that these
traits would spur his animatronics business.
His journey started while he was building
industrial trade show exhibits for Good
Displays, a Toledo, Ohio, company, in 1984.
“Every time I’d go to these trade shows,
it always occurred to me how people could
easily walk past exhibits and never even see
them,” Poor says. “I call it exhibit fatigue.”
Above: Gene Poor (center) with some
of LifeFormation’s whimsical and
realistic creations, showcasing the
company’s attention to detail. Below:
Sesame Street’s Ernie.
PHOTOS COURTES Y OF LIFEFORMATIONS