Disney Imagineer Lanny Smoot. Copyright Disney.

Disney Imagineer Lanny Smoot to Be Inducted Into the National Inventors Hall of Fame

Fans of Disney might not know the name Lanny Smoot, but they should know his inventions. From Madame Leota’s floating head to an ultra-realistic extendable lightsaber, Smoot has been inventing masterpieces for the Walt Disney Company for over 25 years. As a reward for his impressive body of work, Smoot will be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame this year.

Smoot has patented over 100 of his inventions, 74 of which came during his time as an Imagineer. He’s one of the most prolific Black inventors in American history.

Somewhat surprisingly, Smoot is the first Imagineer to be inducted into the Hall. But he’s not the first person from Disney to be honored. Walt Disney was inducted posthumously in 2000 for his multiplane camera.

“I was honored and humbled at being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. With all of the inventing greats, however, I caught a true lump in my throat when I realized that I was only the second person at The Walt Disney Company being presented with this honor, and the first person was Walt Disney himself.”

Lanny Smoot

Lanny Smoot’s Inventions

In addition to Madame Leota and the lightsaber, Smoot is credited with inventing the Magic Playfloor interactive game for Disney Cruise Line; producing Tokyo DisneySea’s Fortress Explorations; and designing the interactive koi ponds at the Crystal Lotus Restaurant at Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel.

'Where's the Fire', an invention by Lanny Smoot. Copyright Disney.
“Where’s the Fire” inside EPCOT’s Innoventions. Copyright Disney.

One of Smoot’s EPCOT creations will be highlighted at the Hall’s induction ceremony on May 9, 2024. “Where’s the Fire?” was an interactive exhibit in Innoventions that educated guests on fire safety. Guests could shine Smoot’s flashlight at walls in a house and spot hidden fire dangers.

Recently, Lanny has been developing the HoloTile Floor. This amazing “treadmill” allows several people to independently move in a virtual reality environment. Uses for this floor are endless, from theme parks to VR gaming to theater productions. You can see it in action after Lanny takes viewers on a tour of his lab in the video below. His incredible lightsaber also makes an appearance.

Lanny Smoot received his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering from Columbia University. Before joining the Walt Disney Company, he worked at Bell Laboratories and Bell Communications Research, where he helped develop video-on-demand and video conferencing technology.

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