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Rocket Rods

RIDE THE ROAD TO TOMORROW
Rocket Rods, Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2000

“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.


Rocket Rods, Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2000

Entrance to a long queue for a short ride

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.

Rocket Rods, Disneyland

Photos by Allen Huffman, 1998

One of these is the blueprint for your ride vehicle

Rocket Rods, Disneyland

Photos by Allen Huffman, 1998 and 1999

Yester attraction vehicles disguised as wire frames

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.

Rocket Rods, Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2000

In the CircleVision room

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.

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.

Rocket Rods, Disneyland

Photo by Chris Bales, 1998

Loading below the Observatron

Rocket Rods, Disneyland

Photos by Allen Huffman, 1998

Finally boarding a Rod

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!

Rocket Rods, Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2000

And away we go!

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.

Rocket Rods, Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2000

Behind the Moonliner and into Innoventions

Rocket Rods, Disneyland

Photo by John Delmont, circa 1998

Zooming above the Tomorrowland Autopia

Rocket Rods, Disneyland

Photo by Chris Bales, 2000

Zooming above construction for the new Chevron Autopia

Rocket Rods, Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2000

Exiting from the Rocket Rods queue building

Rocket Rods, Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2000

On the home stretch

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.

That was kind of fun. Do you want to ride again?

“Wait time: 75 minutes.” Well, maybe not.


The Rocket Rods attraction premiered at Disneyland Park on May 22, 1998, as the centerpiece of the biggest overhaul of Tomorrowland since 1967. 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.

Rocket Rods, Disneyland

Photo by Glenn Schmidt, 1998

Rocket Rods logo sign

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.

Rocket Rods, Disneyland

Photo by Chris Bales, 2000

Re-Opening Spring 2001?

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.

Rocket Rods, Disneyland

Photo by Doug Marsh, 2001

Parked at the Hollywood Pictures Backlot

One Rod was used as a “boneyard” prop at Hollywood Pictures Backlot at Disney’s California Adventure when that park was new.

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blaster, Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2006

Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters entrance sign

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.

Banners on formRocket Rods, Disneyland

Photo by Werner Weiss, 2017

Banners hanging from the unused track through the heart of Tomorrowland

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 gone.


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Updated July 26, 2019.