Burbank, Calif. -- The Walt Disney Company announced the creation of the Disney Fellows Program to attract men and women who have made major technical contributions applicable to the creative arts, media and entertainment. The first Disney Fellow is W. Daniel Hillis who joined Disney as vice president of research and development at Walt Disney Imagineering. "Integration of science and technology as part of our creative process has always been a key element in creating the Disney magic," said Michael D. Eisner, Disney's chairman and CEO. "More and more, creative people such as Danny Hillis are helping us expand the scope, improve the quality and increase the dramatic impact of our entertainment. They suggest technologies that open new doors for our story-tellers and designers; and they develop innovative methods and formats that enable us to bring that entertainment to our audiences." Said Disney President Michael Ovitz, "Danny Hillis' stature as a scientist is a measure of the importance we place in maintaining our leadership position in the arts, entertainment and media. We expect that he and other Disney Fellows will make bold new contributions to our entertainment capabilities that will excite and delight our guests and audiences." An inventor, scientist and computer designer, Hillis, 39 pioneered the concept of parallel computers that is now the basis for most supercomputers. He co-founded Thinking Machines Corp., which was the first company to build and market such systems successfully. Hillis attended the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and received his bachelor of science in mathematics in 1978. As an undergraduate he worked at the MIT Logo Laboratory developing computer hardware and software for children. During this time he also designed computer-oriented toys and games for the Milton Bradley Co. While still a college student he was a co-founder of Terrapin Inc., a producer of computer software for elementary schools. As a graduate student at the MIT Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, Hillis designed tendon-control robot arms and a touch-sensitive robot "skin." He also built a computer composed entirely of Tinkertoys. It is on display at the Boston Computer Museum. During this time he began to study the physical limitations of computation and the possibility of building highly parallel computers. This work culminated in 1985 with the design of a massively parallel computer with 64,000 processors. He named it the Connection Machine, and it was the topic of his Ph.D. thesis. He received his doctorate degree in computer science from MIT in 1988. Hillis co-founded Thinking Machines Corp. in 1983 to produce and market the Connection Machine. The company's customers included American Express, Dow Jones, Schlumberger, Stanford University, UCLA, the University of Tokyo, the Los Alamos National Laboratory and NASA. His team of Thinking Machine scientists and engineers has been widely acknowledged as among the best in the industry. Hillis is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Hopper Award, the Spirit of American Creativity Award and the Ramanujan Award. He was recently the subject of a British Broadcasting Corp. documentary film, "Seven Wonders of the World," in which he explained his ideas on information and evolution. He holds some 40 U.S. patents -- for disk arrays, forgery prevention methods, a color camera and various software and mechanical devices. He is an editor of several scientific journals and a member of the science board of the Santa Fe Institute, the Clock Library Foundation, the external advisory board of the Institute for Biospheric Studies, and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. A 1991 Time story reported: "The experts scoffed when Hillis argued that...'massively parallel' computers would soon move into the mainstream of computer science, surpassing in sheer speed and processing power even the famous supercomputers built by Cray Research. Last week when Hillis introduced the Connection Machine's latest incarnation...most of his predictions had come true." After leaving Thinking Machines Corp. in 1994, Hillis served as a consultant to industry and as an adjunct professor at MIT.