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WDW Radio # 767 – Inventing the Impossible: Imagineer Lanny Smoot

This week, I invite you to sit down with me and Imagineer Lanny Smoot, a visionary who has helped revolutionize the Disney Parks and Cruise Line with his groundbreaking technologies and inventions.

Join me as we delve into stories behind and from the creative genius whose “one little spark” of inspiration led to him holding more than 100 patents that have transformed the way we experience the magic of the Disney Parks – from the Star Wars Galactic Starcruiser Lightsaber to the Haunted Mansion, and his latest creation which is set to profoundly transform industries beyond Disney, the OmniDirectional Floor!


Summary

Lanny Smoot, a Disney Imagineer and inventor, shares his journey from growing up in Brooklyn to becoming a mastermind in themed entertainment. He discusses his early fascination with electronics and his education in engineering.

Lanny highlights some of his notable inventions, including the Star Wars extendable lightsaber and the HoloTile floor. He also emphasizes the importance of inspiring and supporting underrepresented individuals in the fields of science and technology. Lanny’s passion for innovation and his dedication to enhancing the guest experience in Disney parks make him a true visionary in the industry.

Lanny is not only a pioneering figure in themed entertainment but also a shining example of how passion can lead to groundbreaking achievements.

From the streets of Brooklyn to the renowned halls of the National Inventors Hall of Fame, Lanny’s journey is as captivating as it is inspiring. Born and inspired by his father’s inventiveness, Lanny’s fascination with electronics and electricity took him from Brooklyn Tech to the hallowed grounds of Columbia University, fueling a career that would come to influence the very way we experience storytelling and technology at Disney parks.

Lou dives into Lanny’s stellar career, from his early innovations in video technology and interactive experiences, such as his work on video-on-demand and his electronic panning camera, to his later contributions to the Walt Disney Company, where he developed immersive games and VR walking experiences like the HoloTile floor.

We’ll also discuss Lanny’s recognition as a Themed Entertainment Association master, his induction into the Inventors Hall of Fame following Walt Disney himself, and the influence of his work on future inventors and engineers.

Join us as Lanny shares personal stories, his approach to creativity in technology, and his advice for young inventors, all while reflecting on his desire to leave a diverse and transformative legacy.


Takeaways

  • Passion and curiosity drive innovation and creativity.
  • Collaboration and teamwork are essential for success in the field of themed entertainment.
  • Representation and diversity are crucial in inspiring future generations of inventors and engineers.
  • Technology can be used to enhance storytelling and create immersive experiences.

Chapters

[00:00] Introduction to Lanny Smoot
[01:21] Origin Story: Growing up in Brooklyn
[05:18] Education and Career Path
[08:53] Transition to Disney
[10:04] Inventions and Innovations
[15:47] The Holotile Floor
[18:55] Pushing Boundaries and Advancing Storytelling
[22:51] Awards and Recognitions
[28:25] Inspiring Future Generations
[33:00] Favorite Invention and Legacy
[36:14] Conclusion and Gratitude


Of all the technological advancements in Disney Parks, which one amazes you the most?

Share your thoughts in the WDW Radio Clubhouse at WDWRadio.com/Clubhouse, or call the voicemail at 407-900-9391 (WDW1) and share your story on the show.


Episode Transcript

Click Here To Read The Full Podcast Episode Transcript

Lou Mongello (00:01.501)
In the nearly 20 years of WDW Radio, I have been fortunate to share with you the stories of some of the dreamers and doers that make the Disney magic we love and appreciate. And for me, some of the most fascinating conversations have been with Walt Disney Imagineers who take us on these extraordinary journeys of imagination and innovation. And this week, I want to introduce you to someone who, like those that have both proceeded and surrounded him,

He's not just an Imagineer by title, but is a true mastermind in the realm of themed entertainment. He is not just a Disney research fellow, but he is also a trailblazer that has earned recognition held by no one else in the company, save for one, and whose remarkable contributions have helped shape the experiences both in the Disney parks and at Disney Cruise Line. I am incredibly excited and honored to welcome and introduce a...

truly multifaceted, a genius whose career is a tapestry of innovation and creativity. He is Disney Imagineer, Lanny Smoot. Lanny, thank you so much for joining me today.

Lanny Smoot (01:08.939)
After that introduction, what can I say? I should just leave now while I'm well respected before I say anything. But thank you for that kind introduction, sir.

Lou Mongello (01:10.849)
Hahaha!

Lou Mongello (01:21.825)
You are very welcome and it is very well deserved. And I tried to sort of gently dance around some of the many accolades that you deservedly have received. But I want to, before we get into all the things that you've done and the achievements and interventions and accomplishments, I want to go back to where it all began. I am a sucker for a good origin story. And for you, like how yours began in Brooklyn, where my parents are from, I want to hear the story about your dad and the bell.

Lanny Smoot (01:41.486)
Right.

Lou Mongello (01:50.077)
and how that got you to Brooklyn Tech, where my dad also went, and then to Bell Labs, where my dad also worked.

Lanny Smoot (01:52.664)
Yeah.

Lanny Smoot (01:57.814)
Are you sure I'm not your dad? I'm pretty sure. No, sir. So yeah, you know, I grew up in Brownsville, Brooklyn. My family was poor. My dad though was a very clever guy and was an itinerant inventor, a person who never got paid for patents or didn't have patents, but he would make gadgets for around the house and was always made some of my toys when I was a kid.

Lou Mongello (01:59.39)
Hahahaha

Lanny Smoot (02:27.97)
But one of the things that got me into this field was at about five years old, one of my earliest remembrances of something critical in my life. My dad brings home a battery, a bell, some wire, little lamp, and he got the bell to ring, and he lit the lamp, and my entire career was lit. From then on, I was interested and fascinated by electricity, by electronics.

by anything that was a physical electrical thing. And I just loved it. Had a brief dalliance with chemistry, found it too messy, chemicals, no, didn't want to do that. So that followed me through my elementary school time. I was always doing science fairs and anything I could do to, they sometimes say, you know, creative people were electrically interested, will take things apart to see how they work. I didn't do that. I figured out how they work.

Lou Mongello (03:06.884)
Right?

Lanny Smoot (03:26.454)
then I took the parts out to make something new. So I just didn't believe in, oh, let's just try stuff. I was more focused than that. So did all of that through elementary school. I went to a local junior high school again in Brownsville. I didn't have a role model specifically when I was a kid because I never saw a black engineer until I pretty much was one. So my early sort of interests were Star Trek.

which relates to something that I'm doing right now. And Mission Impossible with the Barney Collier character who was always the electrical engineer but never pointed out in the shows. Who was a black engineer and a black actor playing, played him. And so, okay. I was in junior high. I still, I excelled as a student. I built many...

gadgets and that sort of thing. And it came to a decision as to where to go to high school. And I went to the guidance counselors, said, what do you want to do? I said, I want to go to George Westinghouse High School. He says, okay, you're not going to go to George Westinghouse. I said, why? And what the why for me is this is my little mind at the time because Westinghouse was making refrigerators and I thought it was a really technical. He says, no, why?

Lou Mongello (04:47.945)
Hehehehe

Lanny Smoot (04:50.162)
It's not a bad school. You come out of there and you may become an electrician. You go to Brooklyn Tech, you'll come out, get ready to go to college and become an electrical engineer. It's one of the best pieces of advice I've ever gotten. So as you may know, Brooklyn Tech is a test school. You have to take an exam and you're competing with everyone else in New York City who wants to get into a technical school. There are other two schools are Brooklyn.

Stuyvesant and Bronx High School of Science, they compete for the best students that they can find in New York. And I was accepted into Brooklyn Tech, excelled there, did real well. And by my junior year, even though my parents had only had a high school education, they couldn't really guide me through the college application thing. I realized I probably ought to go to college. That seems like a good idea, right?

And I applied to Columbia University, I applied to MIT, to Rensselaer Polytech, I got into all of them, right? And I had one small like item that I had sort of not taken into account, which is I couldn't pay for any of them. So it's like, oh, this is bad. And in my junior year, I was sitting in class at Brooklyn Tech and over the speaker system comes a voice that says, Lenny Smoot.

Lou Mongello (06:02.324)
You

Lanny Smoot (06:14.926)
Come to the principal's office immediately. Get down. Trying to figure out what have I done wrong? What, okay. Go down to the principal's office and the principal is sitting at, Isidore Auerbach is sitting at his desk, big desk. And when you're a kid in high school, you tend to think the principal is the most powerful person in the world. There's an African-American guy pointing down at him at his desk and sort of bawling him out, right?

I walk into the room, he starts bawling me out. He says, where have you been? We have come out to recruit at this school three times. You haven't shown up once, not one time. And I was like, oh my God, oh, this is horrible. You know? And I was like, oh, okay, what should I, what did I do? He says, listen, I'm from Bell Laboratories, right? And Bell Labs at that time was the nation's preeminent research organization, the inventor of the.

Lou Mongello (06:55.082)
Hehehehehehe

Lanny Smoot (07:11.842)
transistor, the laser, and understanding of the big bang. So it's pretty good, pretty good facility. And he says, I may be in a position to offer you a scholarship to Columbia University. We'll pay room and board and everything. And okay, I was like, coming from Brooklyn and from Brownsville, I was like, I don't know about this. What do I have to do to get this? He says, well, we're still.

Lou Mongello (07:37.64)
Ha ha

Lanny Smoot (07:41.558)
looking at you, I want to talk to you right now. And, you know, the principal kind of got up, got out of the way, like, oh my God, right? And he grilled me for a little while and I left, right? About three, four weeks later, I get a call at my then girlfriend's house. Like, wait, how, this is, this is in the era before they had cell phones, okay? So how did he even find me? He says, Lanny, I'm proud to offer you a full scholarship to Columbia University.

Lou Mongello (08:00.461)
Hehehe

Lanny Smoot (08:11.19)
room and board, you'll have a summer job at Bell Labs throughout your tenure going through Columbia. Are you kidding me? And so went to Bell Labs, I invented some of the earliest fiber optic transmission systems that were used in what's called the loop plant. That's the part that's closest to the people who use the telephone.

and designed circuitry that actually had helped coin telephones to be multiplexed onto more, to less pairs of wires. You know how useful coin telephone is. But those were the days. And at the breakup of the Bell system, I moved to Bell Communications Research, which was just the follow on company of Bell Labs. It's Bell Labs with a different name.

Lou Mongello (08:53.961)
What the fuck?

Lanny Smoot (09:08.694)
And there I kind of took off because I designed some of the early systems for video on demand. So right now when we look at streaming TV and we can rewind and fast walk forward, that kind of stuff happened in my lab 40 years ago, 35 years ago, whatever it is. And also large screen teleconferencing. Right now we walk into a conference room, we see big screens with people on them and we take it as

sort of normal, I did some of the very first systems that support those, what we would call end users, and also the large screen that allows you to have a full knowledge of how people really look. I also invented a thing called the electronic panning camera, and that's what got me to Disney. What the heck is that? My early dream was that if you're sitting at home, watching television,

Why don't you have a joystick or remote control that allows you to look anywhere you want? I don't wanna just look at the news desk, I wanna see who's over on the side. If I'm watching sports, I wanna see who's playing and I wanna zoom in on that. I demonstrated it at the National Association of Broadcasters Conference out in Las Vegas, had the camera in my lab.

And I had three monitors set up so I could move the picture on the screen. I put touchscreens on each of these things so I could look where I wanted. And a fellow walks up to me and he says, Hey, this technology is amazing. I do. This is so good. We'd like to rent this from you guys. I said, well, we're kind of like the telephone company. We don't rent that. That's not our thing. Oh, but it could be a service for, for our company. I said, well, what's your application, sir? What do you, what do you plan to do with it?

Lou Mongello (10:48.684)
Right?

Lanny Smoot (10:57.29)
He says, oh, we're going to have a pit with animals down in it, and we're going to put the camera down in there and look at them. I said, wait, that seems cruel. What company are you from? I'm from the Walt Disney Company. I thought you were a nice business. I've always admired it. It's a beautiful company. Why would you put animals in a pit and look at them? Later on, I found out that that's sort of the code that I have to use sometimes to explain to people.

I want a thing, but I don't want to give away what we were doing. And this was actually for animal kingdom, where we have animals running around in the Savannah and they wanted to put cameras out there so that people in safety inside buildings could look at the animals. Okay. So we did do a deal. Uh, Disney took the camera and I found out a little later that they liked the invention, but they liked the inventor even more.

Lou Mongello (11:29.506)
Right.

Lanny Smoot (11:54.038)
So a little while later, I was offered a job to head the East Hampton R&D facility for Disney. And I moved to Long Island, I headed that firm and we came at that part of Disney. And I developed interactive games. Some of them became like, later on, Where's the Fire, interactive wars.

Lanny Smoot (12:23.442)
Oh my God, I'm just blanking on it now. If Rabcot, the Power City, thank you. See, you know more about my career than I do, right? So Power City and all of those, we designed those things out at East Hampton. A little while later, I was asked to move to Florida along with my organization. And for me, it was great because I liked New York. I still consider myself

Lou Mongello (12:28.005)
city.

Lanny Smoot (12:52.67)
a native New Yorker in some ways. I didn't like the weather. I didn't like snow, sleet, rain, driving in rain, snow. So I've been happily moved to California and I've been out here for almost 20, almost 25 years, 23 years, 20 some years. I just celebrated my last 25th, my 25th year anniversary. And I have been working on things like lightsabers. One of the favorites are the

the extendable lightsaber that you may have seen, the lightsaber experience at Star Cruiser, which is a completely different thing using a different saber and interactive technologies that I developed so that we can teach our guests how to fight off a lightsaber blast, as Luke Skywalker did in the movies. I've taught Madame Leota in the Haunted Mansion how to fly. She was the disembodied head in a sphere.

that used to sit on the seance table, where the ride vehicle goes around, she's talking about demons and goblins. And the thought, I had built something else, which was not Madame Leota, to be honest, but it gave me the idea that I could actually levitate Madame Leota and have her float around, and we did that. And changed the Haunted Mansion portraits from...

rooms full of equipment that slowly morphed the pictures from the good version to evil. Mine are instantaneous with a lightning flash and quite a bit of reduction of equipment, I will say that. And more recently, I'm going to fast forward to what am I doing now, which is I think always what I'm, whatever I'm doing now is always the most fun. It doesn't matter. I've invented a thing called the holotile floor.

Lou Mongello (14:43.757)
Good.

Lanny Smoot (14:48.17)
Some of you may have seen it. I think it might be the solution to VR walking. And I'm gonna go off-brand for a second here. As I said, when I was a kid, I watched Star Trek. They had a thing called a holodeck. And in a holodeck, you can walk in all directions and maybe they could have been wearing VR glasses, but how in a 24 foot by 24 foot room are you have the crew is in exploring features, water.

Lou Mongello (15:01.717)
Yeah.

Lanny Smoot (15:17.834)
things over here, the others are going up on mountains and what, how can they possibly all be in that room, walking in any direction that they might want to, never bumping into each other, never bumping into the walls. And I said, there's got to be a way to do it. And that research started a while back. And we finally have a system that allows us to do just that. And we call it again, the holotile floor.

Lou Mongello (15:47.673)
It is so Lanny as you're going through I sure I'm sure that anyone listening as you're mentioning these things were sort of instantly able to Visualize these effects and I'm not sure if you saw this incredible smile that was on my face as you were talking about some of These effects that you know, we as fans we don't want to know how it's we don't know We don't want to know how the sausage is made. We want it. We just love sort of being fascinated, right?

Lanny Smoot (16:08.606)
Right, and I'm not going to tell you. So it's OK. It's a match made in heaven. Yeah.

Lou Mongello (16:14.805)
But when you see that lightsaber, I was fortunate to be able to, you know, take a voyage on the star cruiser. When you see that lightsaber, when you hold one in your hand, all of these things that we imagined as a kid, I'm also a Star Trek fan. And when we were sort of you're helping to sort of not just fulfill these childhood dreams, but get us closer to technology that we used to sort of as kids watching Star Trek in the 60s and 70s, could only imagine. And now as we hold triquarters in our hands and things like that, we are approaching to it.

You also didn't mention, and I have to call it out because it's one of my favorite aspects in any Disney park, the fortress explorations in Tokyo DisneySea, I think is an absolutely remarkable and sort of leading into the future. It is not a passive experience, but really more of an interactive and almost, you know, as time is going to go on, I almost imagine it becoming a more personalized experience for the guests as well.

Lanny Smoot (17:11.486)
You know, I have been spoke, speaking to a few people recently, and one of the things I always bring up is the parks will learn more about what makes you happy when we go into the parks, you know, 20, 30 years ago, we're happy to be there with, with other people and we're doing the same thing. And that's, that's wonderful. But soon, you know, the parks will say, Hey, I know that Lou enjoys this aspect of a thing and Lanny enjoys this aspect of a thing, and I'm going to make that.

better for them. I'm going to make that more fun. And also, you know, there are more interactive things where my being here means something. It's not just that I'm another guest, I'm competing, or I'm making a thing go or I'm walking forever in virtual reality. And all of those things that are more personalized, I think is a wave of the future.

Lou Mongello (18:07.777)
Well, I think one of the things that's unique about being able to have this conversation with you is oftentimes we will talk to some of the many different aspects of Imagineering, right? There's a hundred plus sort of disciplines within Imagineering. And we talk about and ask them about how evolving technology is going to affect their creativity, their storytelling solutions. But you are the person that is pushing those boundaries. You are creating those technologies.

figuring out how to use emerging technology into the storytelling, you're saying, what can I do, I guess, to advance the storytelling by creating these new technologies? Talk a little bit about that mindset and that perspective and almost sort of a quote unquote, what's a day in the life of Lanny look like?

Lanny Smoot (18:55.19)
Well, you know what, I've always been interested in multiple projects at the same time. At the same time that I'm working on a hollow tile floor, I might be working on a lightsaber. If I'm working on a lightsaber, I might be working on some sort of interactive shooting beams or whatever. So and I find that by doing that, if I run into a problem in one area, I stop for a little while. I think about that. And I sometimes find it's the thing that's wrong with the.

first thing is the fix for the second thing. And the second thing is going to help the third thing be better. So I'm constantly, people say, you know, you are working on just a lot of projects. They noticed that about me. And it's because it's easy for me to slide between them and see the similarities between them. And a question that you...

Lou Mongello (19:27.434)
I'm going to go to bed.

Lanny Smoot (19:52.266)
haven't asked Lou and I know that it's going to come up is, Hey, you guys in R&D, do you just come up with stuff and the rest of the company uses it if they like it? Or does the rest of the company come to you and say, Hey, we need this? And you know what I always say? Yes. It is it is it is the question most asked. And I love this place because I can wake up in the morning and say, Hey,

Lou Mongello (19:55.199)
I'm going to go to bed.

Lou Mongello (20:09.707)
Right.

Lanny Smoot (20:20.318)
I've got a great idea that might work on a theme park, right? Little later in the day, I'd say, oh, we, it'd be better on a cruise ship. We could do it on, a cruise ship would allow you to do this. Oh, wait a minute. I wonder if my colleagues over in the movie business can use this. And so to me, this is continuous opportunities, right? But to go back as to whether we're asked to do something or whether we volunteer to do or come up, it is both.

Occasionally, I'll come up with something that is just a cool thing, just cool to look at, or it'll do something that you just say, wow, that's crazy. Now, I'm very good at the engineering part of this and unhumbled about that, but I'm not good at making things look good, okay, or the art sort of side of things, right? And I say, why do I have to be good at that? I don't. I can, I have within 50 feet of my.

Lou Mongello (21:08.929)
Ha ha

Lanny Smoot (21:18.638)
place where I'm sitting right now. I have some of the best architects, some of the best artists, some of the best in the world. So often having a teamwork sort of thing. I say, I've got this great gadget. This is wonderful. And one of my creative people will come over and go look at it like, hmm. Yes, it is amazing, but it just doesn't look, you know, what are you trying to say? Well, can I have it for a while? And it'll become something that's amazing, beautiful.

you know, and I don't have to worry about those things. And I always tell young kids, by the way, collaborating with other people who are better than you in areas. You can be very good at something and you probably should be good at something, hopefully, but you don't have to be the best in the world at everything because when you work in groups, as we do here at Imagineering and at R&D, people work to their strengths.

and don't have to worry about weaknesses because there will always be someone that's strong in that area that can help you out with it. I don't know where I was going with that long story, but collaboration is important.

Lou Mongello (22:24.173)
Yeah, no, well, right. You have this atmosphere of collaboration where others can sort of help maybe embed the narrative into the physical spaces and experiences that you are creating. Lonnie, Atlanta, I want to be respectful of your time, but I have a billion questions just about imagining that I wish I could get to, but it's really... All right. It's really important that we talk about some of the awards and recognitions that you've received over the years.

Lanny Smoot (22:41.607)
Yeah. Go for it. We're doing a lightning round.

Lou Mongello (22:51.937)
You're a themed entertainment association master, which is the highest technical honor in that company. And this year you were inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame. You were the very first Walt Disney Imagineer to receive such a prestigious recognition. Obviously only Walt Disney himself has been the only other sort of Disney recipient of that award. Just briefly talk about the gravity and the weight and some of the responsibility I think that comes with

that honor.

Lanny Smoot (23:22.37)
The TEA Masters is literally a measure of mastery in a field. For me, it's special effects, technologies, and the things that I do. And the responsibility there is the organization. And by the way, I became the chair of the TEA Masters. I'm the past chair. Now a woman named Tracy Eck, who is my vice chairman, always takes the chair's position and I move on.

But I strived to make sure that we got out to young kids who are interested in the themed entertainment world, which encompasses everything from technology to theater, to ride design and all of those things. And we are very active. In fact, I am still active and about to go to a university to inspire people who are coming up through the undergraduate years to get into these fields, which are sometimes not well-defined. How do you?

How do you get into themed entertainment? That's usually not on the curriculum for elementary schools or junior high schools. It requires someone to have some interest in the types of fields with some multiple skills, not only the technology, but the theatrical capabilities, et cetera. Okay, for the National Inventors Hall of Fame, this is like the Oscars here for inventors. This is a national organization that is partially the US patent and trademark,

office and a semi governmental organization, which is the National Inventors Hall of Fame. Their goal is to reach young engineers, giving them examples and role models across all fields to be an inventor, to be creative. So it's a responsibility. It's a wonderful award.

The responsibility is we have to keep our kids moving in after us and doing the things that we did and doing better than what we did. And so both the TEA, the Themed Entertainment Association and the National Inventors Hall of Fame have similar goals. And I'm so proud to be with them. And Disney was very generous and very kind to

Lanny Smoot (25:41.334)
celebrate my induction into the National Inventors Hall of Fame and brought some of the inventors who are in that organization to Disney. And one of them, Lonnie Johnson, is a physicist, a scientist. He's got more patents than me, so I'm going to try to bump him off and get rid of that competition. But also he had one invention that kind of stood out, which is the super soaker. And I was like, really? The guy who's made these things.

Lou Mongello (25:59.237)
Ha ha

Lou Mongello (26:08.782)
That's right.

Lanny Smoot (26:10.926)
quite well off due to just that one invention. So I said, okay, Super Soaker, pretty good. But he's also an amazing. Yeah, I can, I can, I can, the water stream off like that, right? With my lightsaber. I know, I know. But it's funny, we, I had wanted to reach him, a little personal story, I'd wanted to reach him. And, you know, I didn't know him and tried to find his phone number as many people might. I sort of failed and I...

Lou Mongello (26:12.621)
Ha ha.

Lou Mongello (26:17.857)
Yeah, but you invented the lightsaber, Lenny, so, you know, he might have the super soaker, but...

Lou Mongello (26:25.997)
the

Lanny Smoot (26:40.258)
gave up for it. And then we wound up sitting next to each other on the dais. But that night was my super honor. Another fellow I always talk up is Jim West, who's an, so, so Lonnie is an inductee into the national inventors hall of fame, I think with 140 patents. Oh man, I gotta, I gotta compete with this guy. Jim West, who is the inventor of the Electret microphone.

You probably aren't using one right there. I always point to the thing there. But my laptop, every laptop, every cell phone has an Electret microphone in it. Any small microphone is one. The reason I say yours isn't, yours is a little different stature in the microphone world there. But so to be amongst these greats, these people who I have admired over the years, it's humbling.

Lou Mongello (27:09.546)
Yeah.

Lanny Smoot (27:36.202)
It's exciting. And I'll tell you something, Lou, I did not know that when I was alerted that I was being inducted into the National Inventors Hall of Fame, I thought I was the first person at the Walt Disney Company to ever get it. And someone in media said, oh no, you're the second person. And you know, I have an ego. I split the little bit. I said, oh, now who could it be? But I said, okay, I've got to celebrate whoever it is.

Lou Mongello (27:58.517)
Hehehehe

Lanny Smoot (28:04.386)
They said the first person was Walter Elias Disney.

What? Lump in the throat, excitement, also feeling of responsibility. And it isn't bad. Let's put it that way.

Lou Mongello (28:25.037)
And so I want to very quickly just touch on something that you talked about before. You know, you are so humble and gracious and you thank your dad for his support and encouragement and helping you not just recognize but continue to pursue this passion that you have for invention and technology. And whether you realize it or not, you are also not just an inspiration for other people.

a role model for young students and inventors, maybe even more so from those from underrepresented backgrounds in science and technology. And yeah.

Lanny Smoot (29:04.118)
Without a doubt, Lou, that's a weight on me and I love it. I love to bear it because again, Brownsville, Brooklyn, even now is sort of a tough neighborhood. It's mostly African-American, people look like me, and everyone there has potential to do great things. And the shame of the world in many cases is that they may never see the thing that they would have been.

And to the extent that I can share the fact that, yeah, I didn't have mentors and my dad and mom were professors at some university. These are people who did, who had high school diplomas and worked hard all of their lives just to make ends meet. And so if I can do it, all of those other kids can do that. So I try to make sure that message does get across. And the same thing in some sense for women.

who have been overlooked in many cases and they're making steps. You know, our company is doing well in terms of trying to get more people into these fields. So that warms my heart. And that's, I think, the importance of a national inventors hall of fame thing or a patent record or whatever it might be.

Lou Mongello (30:18.913)
Well, that's one of the things that I loved, not just about seeing your story, but seeing the video of Josh coming sort of into your mad scientist workshop and letting us see, because I think that does open up for so many more people, the introduction to you and the accessibility to you. And while, you know, every child is not going to get a chance to see you and talk to you, it serves as a bit of inspiration. So I would be remiss if I didn't say if that

little boy, right? If that little 2024 little boy was able to walk up to Lanny Smoot and say, I love, you know, dumpster diving and taking things apart and putting things back together again. You know, how do I do what you do? What's that bit of advice that you would give me and leave with that young boy, that young girl that wants to grow up and sort of emulate sort of a similar path to yours?

Lanny Smoot (31:08.618)
I have a very easy answer. Keep doing what you love to do. Don't let anyone stop you. Right? You know, when I was a kid, oh, you're the one that's always making stuff. Let's go out and do this. No, I am loving what I'm doing and I'm really happy doing it. Right? Because the way we get to be good about things, I'm pretty good. I'll say, now there's my unhumble self. I'm pretty good at what I do. The reason I'm pretty good at what I do is I did a lot of.

I love to do it and I'm continuing as long as I have fun. And you can't pay people necessarily, it's helpful, but you can't pay people to love something. And I feel sorry for the people who go to work. And I said, do you love what you do? No, I just do it because I'm paid. I do the things I do, don't tell our company, but I would do it if I wasn't here, because I love to do it. And kids, if they're encouraged.

Lou Mongello (31:46.63)
Hahaha.

Lanny Smoot (32:07.21)
Let them go. If for the parents, I tell them, take your kids to places they never would have seen in their normal life. Get them to a museum. Drag them to different places that you might not even like because you never know what's gonna kindle a love. And once it sets in, I can tell you it's for life. You're gonna wanna do it. You gotta do a lot of it to become good.

Lou Mongello (32:31.957)
And you have done more than just become good. You talk about other inventors with 100 plus patents. You are in that hundred plus patent club. Again, Lenny, I don't want to sort of ask the question that is unfair, right? The favorite child question, but I know someone listening is screaming because they're curious of all the things that you've built, right? That you put together with your two hands, which I love and I'm fascinated by. There has to be one not from the this was my job.

but just from a personal perspective that make you, that still makes you say, wow, that as you start to think about your legacy going forward, this is the one, this is the thing that, at least right now.

Lanny Smoot (33:10.55)
Lou, I'm gonna tell you, I gotta tell you, I think it's gonna be the holotile floor. Why? I don't think we've, I've ever made something that has so many uses, right? Lightsaber, very good. It's a lightsaber, right? That's what it does, okay? This thing can be the stage floor of a theater. This can be the answer to virtual reality. This can be the thing that because someone said, can it be used for exercise?

Sure. Okay. Yeah, we can make it a treadmill. It's an omnidirectional treadmill. You can run on it. There are just so many things that we're even learning now ourselves that it can do, and there's so much interest in it. I think it's going to be my legacy project. But then again, I am also working on something that's coming after it that has nothing to do with it, and I may fall in love

Lou Mongello (33:41.633)
Yeah.

Lou Mongello (34:03.21)
I'm not sure.

Lanny Smoot (34:10.238)
the key to success. Whatever you're doing, make sure that you really, really like it. Oh, and you came in. I also designed the water harps at the journey of water that's inspired by Moana. And so when you play water strings to make music, come on, pretty fun, right? And I designed those. That's it.

Lou Mongello (34:15.593)
Yeah. Ha ha ha.

Lou Mongello (34:35.677)
I love that. I love that there's a little bit of Lanny everywhere we go.

Lanny Smoot (34:39.606)
There's a little bit of, yeah, I'm pretty proud of that, sure.

Lou Mongello (34:44.029)
You mentioned the word legacy, Lanny. How do you want to be remembered? How do you want people to remember or think of Lanny's mood?

Lanny Smoot (34:50.014)
I want people to remember that I've tried to help other people, especially people of color to move into positions that in the past may have been overlooked. I want to be able to say that, yes, I have a record of over 100 patents, but it's symbolic of the fact that people like me can do that. And many people do and more people will. I think I'm...

How can I say, I work on diverse projects. I've worked on things that are truly science and I publish papers and that sort of thing, but I've also worked on things that are practical. So I'd say I have a broad scale of interest. So those are the things, but I think if I change the world, it's gonna be partially a whole tile floor, but partially just because I look like this and I've done this.

Lou Mongello (35:45.133)
Yeah, your journey from that curious kid in Brooklyn to a celebrated Imagineer and inventor is such a testament to your creativity and innovation and stick-to-itiveness and that enduring passion for the thing that you've had since a kid, which is technology and entertainment. You have truly significantly and in a meaningful way enhanced our guest.

experience in the parks and I think more importantly you continue to inspire future generations of inventors and engineers and boys and girls you know everywhere so we are all very grateful for your work Lenny I'm incredibly grateful for your time congratulations on all of your achievements and accolades they are they are certainly well deserved and I sincerely appreciate what you do for us in the parks and certainly for your time today

Lanny Smoot (36:43.618)
Thank you so much, Lou, for your kind words. What can I say? Thank you.


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