Black Excellence: Disney Imagineer Lanny Smoot Breaks Record After Receiving 102 Patents

by Duke Magazine

On the heels of commemorating Black History Month, Disney announced it’ll be highlighting its Black cast members and “celebrating the ways they bring their unique perspectives” to the company.

Among them is Lanny Smoot, a seasoned Research Fellow at Walt Disney Imagineering (WDI) Research & Development who recently wrote his name in the company’s history books after earning his 100th patent from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

With 102 patents in total, Smoot currently holds the bragging rights for the most patents a Disney employee has ever earned. Smoot mentioned his father as the driving force behind his passion for creating and inventing.

“Growing up, our family did not have a lot of money,” Smoot said. “My dad was a bit of a jack-of-all-trades and taught himself how to make many mechanical gadgets, including several of my early toys. One of my earliest childhood memories was him bringing home an electric bell, a light bulb, some batte,ries, and wire. He set up the bell to ring and the bulb to light, and that light lit my career!”

Smoot’s passion for creating and inventing eventually afforded him a career with Disney. As a Research Fellow for the company, Disney says Smoot’s role “represents the highest level of technical research achievement at WDI.”

Smoot’s inventions include his creation of a mechanism that allows the disembodied head of Madame Leota to take off and fly in the Haunted Mansion attraction.

Outside work, Smoot is also a stern advocate for diversity in STEAM as he encourages students of color to delve into the field. Smoot has also served as a judge for an innovation challenge Disney organized for students at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCU).

Smoot said such initiatives are indispensable for Black students and people of color. “We need to give young students – especially Black students and people of color – experience in these fields. The Walt Disney Company is digging deeply into this by making sure that we mentor diverse young people, and I’ve done that many times myself,” he said.

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