Photo of Dumbo (wide)


 

 
Rocket Rods  
Long wait. Short ride.
Yesterland
Photo of Rocket Rods ride and entrance Enjoy a 3-minute whirlwind tour of Tomorrowland

“Wait time: 75 minutes.” Are you sure you want to get into this line? Well, it looks like fun, so you might as well. At least it’s not a 90 minute wait. Anyway, most of the line is inside an air-conditioned building.

Photo of Rocket Rods sign at night
At night, look for the glowing red sign.
Photo of Rocket Rods sign at night
50 years?

You enter the building under the “Rocket Rods” sign.

Photo of blueprint for a new Yesterland vehicle
Here’s the blueprint for a new Yesterland vehicle.
 

Photo of Rocket Jet in Chicago Bears colors
See a Rocket Jet in Chicago Bears colors.

Now you’re winding through a large room decorated with oversized blueprints for Yesterland ride vehicles such as the Flying Saucers and the Submarine Voyage.

Also, there are actual Yesterland ride vehicles—including two Rocket Jets, cars from the PeopleMover, and even the front of an old Monorail —which are painted blue and covered with a grid of orange stripes glowing under black light.

There’s also a movie screen with some clever animated films about transportation in the future, as imagined around 40 years ago when the films were made. Don’t be surprised if you see each film several times.

Next, the line takes you into a circular room with nine large movie screens. There are three films, each introduced by Walt Disney. Again, you might see each film several times.

Photo of Rocket Rods queue through <i>CircleVision</i> theater
See the same wacky vehicles on nine screens.
 

Photo of stairs to the Rocket Rods loading area
You’re almost there!
 

One film shows crazy vehicles; the next shows the progress from the Model T to the Rocket Rod. In both cases, the same image appears on each of the nine screens. The third film surrounds you with familiar CircleVision scenes, but faster than you’ve seen them before. The line spirals to the center of the room and back out again.

This concludes the entertainment portion of the line. Unfortunately, this doesn’t conclude the line itself. In fact, the line slowly goes down stairs to below ground level, through a dark corridor, and up lots of stairs to the loading level.

Yeah! Finally!

Photo of Rocket Rods load area above Radio Disney booth
The loading platform is above the Radio Disney booth.
 
Photo of Rocket Rods riders preparing to blast off
    from the loading area
Get ready to blast off from the loading area.

Climb into a Rocket Rod, with an unusual 1-1-1-2 seating configuration. Fasten your seat belt. Your Rod moves into position. The lights count down. It’s green, and you’re off!

Photo of Rocket Rods Riders departing from loading area
Wheeee!

You accelerate rapidly on straight stretches and slow down as you enter the unbanked curves. You zip in and out of buildings, catching glimpses of other attractions.

Photo of Rocket Rods vehicle and riders
Enjoy the view. It goes by quickly.

You know the ride is almost over when you’re hit by a flash of light and a blast of air while passing through the building that contains the Rocket Rods queue.

Photo of Rocket Rods vehicle and riders
Wave to the Autopia drivers.

That was kind of fun. Do you want to ride again? “Wait time: 75 minutes.” Well, maybe not.


Photo Rocket Rods entrance sign in 2000
Rocket Rods entrance sign in 2000
 
 
Photo of 'Reopening in 2001' sign
But the Rocket Rods attraction never re-opened.
 
 
Photo of Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters sign in 2006
Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters sign in 2006
 
 
Photo of the unused track over Tomorrowland in 2005
The unused track over Tomorrowland in 2005

At Disneyland Park, the Rocket Rods attraction premiered on May 22, 1998, as the centerpiece of the biggest overhaul of Tomorrowland since 1967. The Rocket Rods combined two previous attractions—the CircleVision 360 theater and the PeopleMover track. It seemed like a good idea. Unfortunately, Disney couldn’t convince a corporate sponsor to provide funding for a big-budget, entertaining pre-show or for banked turns on the old, flat PeopleMover track. So the ride opened with neither.

The Rocket Rods covered the old 16-minute PeopleMover route in just three minutes, but the Rods had to slow down substantially at every curve rather than offering thrilling banked turns as enjoyed by riders of Test Track at Epcot. The constant speeding up and slowing down took its toll on the vehicles and infrastructure. Almost immediately, the ride became better known for breakdowns and limited operating hours than for entertainment and thrills. In fact, the ride was closed most of its first summer.

Guest reaction to the Rocket Rods ride was mixed. Some guests, especially children, enjoyed the “thrilling but not too thrilling” acceleration and speed. Other guests felt it lacked the thrills of a true thrill ride, while going too fast to be enjoyable for sightseeing. The biggest complaint was that the ride, although fun, wasn’t fun enough after the long wait.

In September 2000, Rocket Rods closed again. Park visitors found a sign at the Rocket Rods entrance announcing that the attraction would reopen Spring 2001. Perhaps the attraction would be enhanced and reengineered to bring it up to its full potential!

For a half year, there was no evidence of progress—no track work, no test runs, and no sign of activity inside the Rocket Rods building. Spring arrived, but the Rocket Rods didn’t. On April 28, 2001, the Los Angeles Times and the Orange County Register reported that the Rocket Rods would never reopen. The Times quoted a statement by the Disneyland President at that time, Cynthia Harriss, “The high-speed attraction was never able to perform to its designed show standards.” The Times added, “The problem, she said, was a budget-conscious decision to run the high-speed Rods on the PeopleMover’s unbanked track.” At least her explanation was honest.

The valuable high-traffic location of the old Rocket Rods queue—the CircleVision pre-show and theater—became part of the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters attraction in spring 2005. At least it wasn’t a repeat of the 1990s, when the buildings for America Sings and Mission to Mars were closed for most of the decade before finally reopening in 1998 as Innoventions and Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port.

The structure for the track that was once the PeopleMover route and then the Rocket Rods route still winds above Tomorrowland—a constant reminder to guests that both of these attractions are now gone.

Photo of vehicle from Rocket Rods on display A vehicle from Rocket Rods on display at Disney’s California Adventure

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© 2001-2011 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated August 29, 2011.

Photograph of Tomorrowland entrance with Rocket Rods car: 2000 by Werner Weiss.
Photograph of Rocket Rods ride and entrance: 2000 by Werner Weiss.
Photograph of Rocket Rods sign (red) at night: 1998 by Allen Huffman.
Photograph of Rocket Rods entrance at night: 2001 by Allen Huffman.
Photograph of Rocket Rods “50 years” sign: 2001 by Allen Huffman.
Photograph of Rocket Rods blueprint: 1998 by Allen Huffman.
Photograph of blue and orange Rocket Jet: 1998 by Allen Huffman.
Photograph of Rocket Rods queue through CircleVision theater: 2000 by Werner Weiss.
Photograph of Rocket Rods above Radio Disney booth: 2001 by Allen Huffman.
Photograph of stairs to Rocket Rods loading area: 1998 by Allen Huffman.
Photograph of Rocket Rods launch area: 1998 by Allen Huffman.
Photograph of Rocket Rods with Observatron in background: 2000 by Werner Weiss.
Photograph of riders in a Rocket Rods vehicle: 2000 by Werner Weiss.
Photograph of Rocket Rods vehicle above Autopia: by John Delmont.
Photograph of Rocket Rods entrance sign: 2000 by Werner Weiss.
Photograph of the “Re-opening in 2001” sign: 2000 by Allen Huffman.
Photograph of Buzz Lightyear entrance sign: 2006 by Werner Weiss.
Photograph of empty track over Tomorrowland: 2005 by Allen Huffman.
Photograph of a vehicle from Rocket Rods at Disney’s California Adventure: 2001 by Doug Marsh.