The Crusader Newspaper Group

Black Disney Imagineer first since Walt to receive phenomenal honor

LANNY SMOOT AND his special effects behind the “Madame Leota” float inside the Disneyland Resort Haunted Mansion attraction (top photo) and “Where’s the Fire?” at Innoventions, formerly at EPCOT. These inventions garnered him the prestigious honor of being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Lanny Smoot inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, another Black History nugget

Lanny Smoot, the Disney Research Fellow and Imagineer behind mind-blowing special effects like making the Madame Leota float inside the Haunted Mansion and the state-of-the art Star Wars lightsabers, has been inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Smoot is the first Disney Imagineer to receive this prestigious recognition and only the second individual from The Walt Disney Company to be inducted—the first being Walt Disney, honored posthumously for the multiplane camera.

For over 45 years, 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. Seventy-four of his patents were created during his 25 years at The Walt Disney Company.

“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, Disney Experiences. “As Disney’s most prolific inventor, Lanny continues to amaze all of us with his artistic ingenuity, technical expertise and endless imagination.”

Smoot has been instrumental in crafting iconic special effects and technical achievements at Disney theme parks and experiences around the world. Among these special effects include Madame Leota’s ability to float in the Séance Room at the Haunted Mansion of Disneyland, the state-of-the-art extendable lightsaber used by Disney Live Entertainment, the Magic Playfloor interactive game experience on the Disney Cruise Line and the immersive Fortress Explorations adventure at Tokyo DisneySea — Smoot’s groundbreaking inventions have been a source of boundless joy for Disney guests.

When deciding which of his patents to list for his National Inventors Hall of Fame induction, he chose to highlight “Where’s the Fire?” at Innoventions, previously featured at EPCOT.

This interactive exhibit aimed to educate guests on fire safety and the importance of fire prevention through engaging challenges. Guests were able to “shine” a special flashlight device on the walls of a house and through the magic of Smoot’s technology, they were able to spot fire dangers and learn to prevent these from happening in the future.

“As a life-long inventor, I am excited, delighted and humbled to be inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame,” Smoot shared. “To be included alongside my childhood hero, Thomas Edison, and my lifelong role model, Jim West—the inventor of the electret microphone—is both exciting and humbling. And as someone who’s had the privilege of working at The Walt Disney Company, it’s especially meaningful to know that Walt Disney himself is also an inductee.”

Prior to joining Disney, Smoot completed his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in electrical engineering at Columbia University. He then worked at Bell Labs and later at Bell Communications Research, where he was a pioneering force in the early development of video-on-demand technology, video conferencing and specialized television systems for remote locations, among other notable patents.

Smoot’s forward-thinking inventions have not only shaped Disney’s entertainment landscape but have also empowered the broader theatrical community to create new magic, illusions and entertainment.

+ posts

Recent News

Scroll to Top