Disney celebrates innovation with Hall of Fame announcement

January 18, 2024, 12:54 PM · Join me for a celebration of creative innovation, hosted by Walt Disney Imagineering.

Last night, WDI invited me over for the announcement of the 2024 class of the National Inventors Hall of Fame at its headquarters in Glendale, California. (Let me pause for a moment to cheer that WDI is staying here in California!) Disney hosted the announcement because one of its own - longtime Imagineer and Disney Research Fellow Lanny Smoot - was among the inductees. Smoot becomes only the second person at Disney to be inducted in the Hall, following Walt Disney himself.

Smoot holds 106 patents, the most of any Disney cast member. His work specializes in theatrical technologies and special effects, including the live theatrical lightsaber and interactive guest lightsaber experience at Walt Disney World's Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser. He also helped developed my beloved Fortress Explorations at Tokyo DisneySea [see Where to eat? Dinner at Magellan's at Tokyo DisneySea for my account of that experience] as well as interactive floor displays on the Disney Cruise Line and "koi ponds" at the Crystal Lotus Restaurant at the Hong Kong Disneyland Hotel.

The NIHF honored Smoot for his "Where’s the Fire?" attraction at EPCOT's Innoventions, which ran from 2004 through 2014 and featured "X-ray flashlights" that guests could aim at walls of life-sized model rooms to reveal safety hazards within.

Here is Smoot's acceptance speech, followed by a short film about his achievements, courtesy the NIHF.

Other National Inventors Hall of Fame inductees this year include:

This year's posthumous inductees are:

After the announcement, WDI took us on a tour of its Research and Development Lab, where Imagineers, including Smoot, showed off some of their recent tech projects. We were not allowed to take photos or video during our tour, but WDI provided video for me to share with you.

The video includes up-close looks at Disney's HoloTile, which is basically an omnidirectional treadmill that can be used to create a wonderful "Force user" effect. We also got to spend some time with Disney's adorable BD droids, which are even better now that they were in their debut in Star Wars Galaxy's Edge last year. Finally, we got a close look at the Duke Weaselton animatronic that first appeared last month at Shanghai Disneyland.

The 2024 National Inventors Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony will be held in Washington, DC on May 9. For more information on the National Inventors Hall of Fame, including learning resources for children, see its website at invent.org.

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Replies (1)

January 18, 2024 at 2:50 PM

That was really amazing stuff. Give that man a window on Main Street!

As for the BD Droids, they are so cute, but I wish the real-world design would've inspired the design in Jedi Survivor instead of the other way around. The torso is gigantic and doesn't really match the scale of BD-1.

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