The largest and most complex animatronic WDI has ever developed can be found inside Expedition Everest, at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. The Everest Yeti stands 25 feet tall, and required 19 actuators for its incredibly lifelike and intense movements.
While the exact timing of the Yeti’s malfunction remains a debate, sometime in the first 3 years of its operation the framing on which the Yeti is attached became compromised. The damage to the structure ultimately lead to the Yeti having to be put into what is known as “B-Mode.” In this mode, all movements are effectively turned off, with a strobe effect used to simulate its movements instead. This effect has earned the current Yeti the nickname “Disco Yeti.”
Despite a desire to return the Yeti to its A-Mode functions, much has gotten in the way of this happening. It is speculated that the framing on which the Yeti sits shares structural supports with the ride itself, and thus a major refurbishment, and lengthy shutdown, would be required.
Joe Rohde, the ride’s principal designer, has never shied away from speaking on Yeti. At the 2013 D23 convention he shared: “You have to understand, it’s a giant complicated machine sitting on top of, like, a 46-foot tall tower in the middle of a finished building. So, it’s really hard to fix but we are working on it, and we continue to work on it. We have tried several things. None of them quite get to the key turning of the 40-foot tower inside of a finished building, but we are working on it. I will fix the Yeti someday, I swear.”
Later, in June 2020, Joe responded to a post that seemed to imply the issue was an inability to access the Yeti to repair him. He said: “It’s not an issue of maintenance access, they were part of the design team and set the standard. In fact, it was seen as a model collaborative process. It’s an unexpected and unforeseen set of issues, very complex, with no easy or timely solutions as of yet.” He went on: “These guys did not ignore something or botch it. Innovation is like physical exploration of unknown spaces. There is stuff out there that you didn’t know, and you only encounter it by exploration. But then….there it is.”
In November 2020, Joe Rohde announced he would be retiring from the Walt Disney Company and, with that announcement, the Disney community at large accepted the Yeti would not return to its original form.