One of Disney’s Imagineers has been selected as an inductee into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, setting a record as the first Imagineer to receive the honor–and only the second person with The Walt Disney Company to be inducted.
Lanny Smoot, a Disney Research Fellow and member of the Walt Disney Imagineering Research & Development department, has been selected as a 2024 inductee into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.
Smoot is the first of Disney’s Imagineers to earn such an honor, and he’s one of only two individuals from the Disney Company to be inducted. Walt Disney was the first to be recognized by the National Inventors Hall of Fame; however, Walt’s induction was posthumous in 2000 for his work on the development of the multiplane camera.
Smoot will be inducted in a formal ceremony on May 9, 2024, in Washington, D.C.
“I was honored and humbled at being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame,” Smoot said upon learning that he had been chosen as an inductee. “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.”
A Lifelong Career of Creating and Inventing
Throughout his exciting career, Lanny Smoot has worn many hats. He has worked as a theatrical technology creator, inventor, electrical engineer, scientist, and researcher. In all, Smoot has amassed more than 100 different patents, which is an extremely rare accomplishment for one inventor.
Of the more than 100 patents Smoot has received, 74 were created during his quarter-century with The Walt Disney Company.
Lanny Smoot has long used his talents to enhance storytelling in the attractions, restaurants, and other areas at Disney Parks across the globe.
Smoot was responsible for giving Madame Leota her “floating” ability at the Haunted Mansion attraction at Disneyland Park, and for creating the extendable lightsaber used by cast members who are part of Disney Live Entertainment.
Smoot also invented the Magic Playfloor game experience aboard Disney Cruise Line ships, and he designed the virtual koi ponds inside the Crystal Lotus Restaurant at the Disneyland Hotel at Hong Kong Disneyland Resort.
“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,” said Josh D’Amaro, Chairman of Disney Parks, Experiences, and Products. “As Disney’s most prolific inventor, Lanny continues to amaze all of us with his artistic ingenuity, technical expertise, and endless imagination.”
Smoot has received other awards and honors as well, including three Thea Awards from the Themed Entertainment Association (TEA) for his contributions to the attractions Finding Nemo Submarine Voyage and Kim Possible: World Showcase Adventure. He also received a Thea Award for his work on the Ghost Post limited-time experience inspired near the Haunted Mansion.
Then, in 2020, for his creativity, ingenuity, and expertise in theatrical technology, Smoot earned the prestigious TEA Master title.
His current projects include the HoloTile floor, which Disney describes as “the world’s first multi-person, omnidirectional, modular, expandable, treadmill floor” that “allows any number of people to have a shared virtual reality (VR) experience, walk an unlimited distance in any direction, and never collide or walk off its surface.”
According to Disney, the HoloTile floor “can also be an insert in a theatrical stage, allowing performers to move and dance in new ways, or stage props and structures to move around or appear to set themselves up.”
Congratulations to Lanny Smoot on this once-in-a-lifetime achievement!