Disney Imagineer becomes 2nd Disney employee in history to be inducted in the Inventors Hall of Fame

In this Aug. 7, 2017, file photo, The Walt Disney Co. logo appears on a screen above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange.
In this Aug. 7, 2017, file photo, The Walt Disney Co. logo appears on a screen above the floor of the New York Stock Exchange. | Richard Drew, Associated Press
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Lanny Smoot is set to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and is the second Disney employee, after Walt Disney himself, to receive the honor.

The Walt Disney Company announced that Smoot, along with “his fellow Class of 2024 inductees,” will be honored officially in Washington, D.C., on May 9.

Smoot told the Walt Disney company upon learning of his upcoming induction, “I was honored and humbled at being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. With all 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.”

Who is Lanny Smoot?

Black Voice News reported that Smoot has worked as “a theatrical technology creator, inventor, electrical engineer, scientist and researcher, resulting in an impressive collection of over 100 patents, a milestone not often achieved by many inventors.”

Prior to Smoot’s involvement with Disney, he reportedly invented some of the first fiber-optic transmission technologies that would go on to be widely used in the Bell Telephone system; the first video teleconferencing system, the “Video Window”; and the “Electronic Panning Camera” prototype.

It was that camera prototype that put Smoot on Disney’s radar and led representatives of the company to approach Smoot in 1998 with an offer to manage “the company’s research arm on Long Island, New York,” according to the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Afro News reported that among Smoot’s many accomplishments at Disney, he has been credited with:

  • “Giving Madame Leota her ability to ‘float’ in the Séance Room at the Haunted Mansion at Disneyland Park.”

  • “Crafting the state-of-the-art extendable lightsaber used by Disney Live Entertainment.”

  • “Inventing the Magic Playfloor interactive game experience on the Disney Cruise Line.”

  • “Producing the immersive Fortress Explorations adventure at Tokyo DisneySea.”

  • “Designing the virtual and interactive koi ponds at the Crystal Lotus Restaurant at Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel.”

The patent Smoot reportedly selected to spotlight as part of his induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame was the “Where’s the Fire?” exhibit at “Innoventions,” which was previously featured at EPCOT.

Disney Parks reported that this “interactive exhibit aimed to educate guests on fire safety and the importance of fire prevention through engaging challenges.”

Smoot said at an exclusive ceremony at the Walt Disney Imagineering building in Glendale, California, “When people ask, ‘Do you enjoy your job?’ Are you kidding? I get to create the things that I’d love to see myself.’”

Smoot continued in his speech, “And it is always in service of making people happy and enjoying themselves. So thank you National Inventors Hall of Fame. This is a great honor.”

Reactions to Lanny Smoot’s induction

Frank Reifsnyder, the senior publicist and communications manager at Walt Disney, said, “We’re excited to share that Lanny Smoot, the Disney Research Fellow and Imagineer behind mind-blowing special effects like making Madame Leota float inside the Haunted mansion and our state-of-the-art Star Wars lightsabers, is being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame!”

Chairman of Disney Experiences Josh D’Amaro shared his congratulations to the inventor following the news of his induction, calling him “Disney’s most prolific inventor.”

“At Disney Experiences, we’re committed to world-class storytelling, creativity, and innovation in everything we do, and Lanny Smoot embodies every one of those ideals,” D’Amaro said. “As Disney’s most prolific inventor, Lanny continues to amaze all of us with his artistic ingenuity, technical expertise, and endless imagination.”