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Disney Imagineer Is a Top Inventor

As an imagineer, Lanny Smoot helps make Disney’s parks and attractions awesome.

Lanny Smoot stands on a platform in front of a sign reading Disney Research.
© Disney
Disney imagineer Lanny Smoot stands on the HoloTile Floor, which he invented.

When Lanny Smoot was about 5 years old, his dad brought home a light bulb, a bell, batteries, and wire. Smoot watched, amazed, as his dad put those things together in a way that made the bulb light up and the bell ring. He decided he wanted to see what he could make. Today, Smoot is a Disney imagineer—an inventor who has created some of Disney’s most incredible attractions.

Smoot’s journey to becoming an imagineer started soon after he saw that bulb light up. At school, he loved science class, and he entered every science fair there was. At home, he started taking things apart to see how they worked. He also started building new things from whatever materials he could find. He even put together a unicycle using a bike seat and part of a tricycle. (He can still ride a unicycle!) Eventually, Smoot went to college and studied engineering. An engineer is a person who designs complicated products, machines, systems, or structures. He became a Disney imagineer in 1998.

Lanny Smoot leans down and manipulates a device while surrounded by many computers and other types of technology.
© Disney
Lanny Smoot shows some of the equipment he uses in his work.

Disney imagineers are responsible for designing and building features for Disney’s theme parks, merchandise, and games. Smoot’s list of inventions is long. He created the technology that makes it possible for Madame Leota to “float” at Disneyland’s Haunted Mansion. His “water harp,” located at Epcot Center in Florida, is a series of water “strings” that play musical notes when people run their hands through it.  Smoot also invented the lightsabers that were used in Disney’s Star Wars: Galactic Starcruiser attraction.

“I love to create,” Smoot told CNN. “I love to come up with inventions…[I just want] to make good things that will amaze and enchant people.” 

In May, Smoot will be inducted to the National Inventors Hall of Fame. He said he hopes this inspires young people to become scientists and engineers.

“I believe that every person has a special talent, sometimes multiple talents,” he said in an article on the National Hall of Fame website. “I would love to see a world that exposes more life choices to all people so that their natural talents can bloom.”

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Did You Know?

Speech bubbles pop up on a photo of Disney World, saying it smells like popcorn, candy, and royalty.
© Viavaltours/Dreamstime.com; Animation Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.

Disney theme parks use machines called “Smellitizers” to pump different scents all over the parks. Visitors might smell the ocean on a ride that takes them on a long voyage. Near the candy shop, they might catch the scent of vanilla. Disney says the Smellitizers help make the Disney experience more complete.

The Top Ten…

Great Ideas

A collage shows various inventors from the past and present.

North Wind Picture Archives, © PictureLux—The Hollywood Archive/Alamy, Addison N. Scurlock—Michael Ochs Archives, Bettmann/Getty Images, UPI/Bettmann Archive, NASA, Library of Congress (LC-USZ62-65195), National Portrait Gallery (NPG.87.43), Wellcome Collection, London; Photo composite Encyclopædai Britannica, Inc.

Think of an object in the room where you are right now. What would life be like if that object had never been invented?

You can read about inventions and inventors at Britannica!

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Word of the Day

devise

Part of speech:

verb

Definition:
: to invent or plan (something that is difficult or complicated)
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