A talented engineer and roboticist, Imahara spent almost a decade at Lucasfilm’s visual effects division Industrial Light and Magic, where he worked on films such as Galaxy Quest, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, the Matrix sequels, and the Star Wars prequels. Being one of the people behind R2-D2 and the Energizer Bunny, Imahara’s work had a notable impact on pop culture. He also gained some public recognition through appearances on BattleBots, where he competed his middleweight robot Deadblow.
However, Imahara was most well known for being a member of Mythbusters’ Build Team, joining the cast in 2005 after the departure of Scottie Chapman. Working with team members Tory Belleci and Kari Byron, Imahara tested the scientific plausibility of hundreds of myths by designing and building outlandish contraptions, delighting thousands with his innovation and stoking wider interest in robotics. He was enthusiastic about sharing his passion for engineering with others, and encouraged people to be curious and investigate how things work.
“Anything that’s already broken is fair game!” Imahara told Mashable in a 2011 interview. “The worst-case scenario is it stays broken. The best-case scenario is you find out how it works or, even better, transform it into something else.”
Imahara mentored the Richmond High School robotics team in his spare time, and was responsible for the design and construction of Craig Ferguson’s Late Late Show sidekick, the skeletal robot Geoff Peterson.
After leaving Mythbusters in 2014, Imahara co-hosted short-lived Netflix series White Rabbit Project with Belleci and Byron, continuing to investigate scientific questions and make such topics accessible to a wider audience. He also consulted with Walt Disney Imagineering to develop its Stuntronics — robotic aerial stunt performers intended to be deployed in Disneyland theme parks.
Fans and friends are remembering Imahara not only as a skilled engineer, but also an uncommonly kind and gentle person. He was an inspiration to many regardless of whether they ever met him, and worked hard to nurture and embolden the next generation of roboticists.
“[Students would say] ‘Oh no, I can’t do that!’ [Then I would respond] ‘Yes you can. Here’s how. I’m going to show you once, and then you’re gonna do it, and you’re gonna show your friends,'” Imahara said in a . “It’s enabling them to go beyond what they think they can do.”
Imahara is survived by his fiancee, costume designer Jennifer Newman, to whom he had been engaged since 2016.
“I haven’t found the words. I don’t know if I’ll be able to,” on Monday. “I lost a part of my heart and soul today. He was so generous and kind, so endlessly sweet and so loved by his incredible friends. I feel so lucky to have known him, to have loved & been loved by him. I love you, honey.”
I’m at a loss. No words. I’ve been part of two big families with Grant Imahara over the last 22 years. Grant was a truly brilliant engineer, artist and performer, but also just such a generous, easygoing, and gentle PERSON. Working with Grant was so much fun. I’ll miss my friend.
— Adam Savage (@donttrythis) July 14, 2020
He would drop anything and everything to help a friend, including our engagement. He put charity and community work as a priority in so many projects. He was an inspiration in so many ways, and I’m going to miss that joyful laugh so much. The silliness and adventure.
— Matthew Mercer (@matthewmercer) July 14, 2020
Two days ago my good buddy Grant wished me a happy birthday and now he’s gone. Just like that. I’m devastated. He was an unbelievable human being. I loved being around him. He was not only brilliant but so funny and such a warm person. I love you pal. I’m so sad. @grantimahara pic.twitter.com/sITseqYsgI
— Michael Rosenbaum (@michaelrosenbum) July 14, 2020
He was so kind and generous and humble and talented. They just don’t make people like this. Can’t process this news
— Alex Hirsch (@_AlexHirsch) July 14, 2020
We are completely devastated to report that @grantimahara has passed away. Grant was one of the brightest and most creative individuals we have ever known. He was a GiantNut winner, a Judge, a Mythbuster, and a great friend. Our hearts go out to his family. We love you Grant. RIP pic.twitter.com/8uI9ABJYAv
— BattleBots (@BattleBots) July 14, 2020
When I met @grantimahara on my 1st day of work at Lucasfilm in 2002, I knew we’d be friends for life. We’ve had plenty of laughs, drinks, glitter fights & late night talks. It’s hard to celebrate a friendship of 18 years in a tweet. I will miss you Grant, more than I can say. ♥️ pic.twitter.com/eh2TTX9xNr
— Bonnie Burton (@bonniegrrl) July 14, 2020
When WF was starting out (06), Grant Imahara emailed us w/ words of encouragement as AsnAms. Being a big fan of him on MB, my mind was blown & it was a HUGE push for me to keep WF going. I fanboyed when I finally got to tell him in person. Was always a goal to work w/ him someday pic.twitter.com/s9dTw3ml3J
— philipwang (@philipwang) July 14, 2020
Rest in peace, Grant.