If you were ever wondering how the Automaton in The Invention of Hugo Cabret works, have a look at this site. The Franklin’s Institute in Philadelphia owns Maillardet’s automaton, and there is a fascinating video of Brian Selznick and a curator demonstrating how the automaton works.
Automaton in The Invention of Hugo Cabret October 16, 2009
Hugo is an orphan. His father has died in an explosion, and he goes to live with his uncle in an apartment at the large Paris train station. His uncle’s job is to repair the many clocks at the station. His uncle, however, is an alcoholic, and one day doesn’t return. Hugo realizes that if anyone finds out that he is on his own, he will likely get hauled off to an orphanage, and he decides to try to keep the clocks running himself. If you are wondering how a kid can accomplish this, Hugo’s father was a watchmaker, and Hugo has inherited his father’s affinity for small machines. He has also inherited his father’s automaton, a mechanical man which if wound, can draw a picture such as a landscape, portrait, or map. Hugo’s automaton is broken, and he feels passionately that, if he could fix it, it may hold a clue or message to him from his beloved father. He begins stealing mechanical parts from the toymaker’s shop in the train station, and before too long, his secret is out.