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The entrance to Rocket Rods.
|Attraction type||"Prototype" Rapid Transportation System|
|Manufacturer||Walt Disney Imagineering|
|Designer||Walt Disney Imagineering|
|Music||"World of Creativity" - (Magic Highways of Tomorrow) by the Sherman Brothers|
|Height||21 ft (6.4 m)|
|Speed||35 mph (56 km/h)|
|Vehicle type||Rocket Rod XPR (Experimental Prototype Rocket)|
|Riders per vehicle||5|
|Height restriction||46 in (117 cm)|
Single rider line available
Rocket Rods was a high-speed ride in Tomorrowland at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The ride, meant to evoke a futuristic rapid transit system, opened in 1998 as part of the New Tomorrowland project. Plagued with technical problems, Rocket Rods closed permanently in September 2000 after two years of operation. Its track and station – which were originally built for the PeopleMover in 1967 – are presently standing but not operating.
Opening on May 22, 1998 as part of the New Tomorrowland, this high-speed attraction ran on the former PeopleMover track. Riders entered the attraction through the former Circle-Vision 360° building at the front of Tomorrowland.
Guests boarded an unusual 5-seat Rocket Rod before moving forward to a staging area similar to one used for drag racing. Anticipation was built by the lights changing from red, to yellow, to green, and then having the vehicle zoom down a straightaway toward the entrance of Tomorrowland, before quickly decelerating at the curve in the track. During the development phase, Disney was unable to obtain sponsors to aid in the funding of the attraction; thus, the turns remained without banks, requiring the sudden acceleration/deceleration. When the attraction was open, this straightaway was used for a small wheelie as well.
The Rocket Rod took riders through the building housing Star Tours, Star Trader and the Starcade, offering views of all three through glass panes in the tunnel. Segments of the tunnel were entirely opaque, and one turn created the effect of nearly colliding with an oncoming Rocket Rod. (In reality, this was only the vehicle's reflection in a mirror). Afterwards, the Rocket Rod took guests into Space Mountain, during which the riders could catch a very brief glimpse of the ride. The vehicle then took riders back outside again before entering the Carousel Theater, home of Innoventions. Due to the long, slightly curved nature of this stretch of track, the Rocket Rods were able to accelerate to a comparatively high speed here. After leaving the other side of Innoventions, the Rocket Rod took riders through a series of turns and dips above Autopia and the Submarine Voyage, which closed only a few months after the opening of Rocket Rods.
Finally, the Rod passed next to the Disneyland Monorail station before entering the Rocket Rods queue building, where the riders were surprised by a strobe light and blast of air. The vehicle then traveled along the straightaway from the first leg of the ride back to the station.
Rocket Rods was the first Disneyland attraction to house a Single Rider line due to its long lines and limited capacity.
Guests entered the former CircleVision 360 building. In the first room, huge blueprints of old and current Tomorrowland attractions hung on the walls, along with actual former Tomorrowland attraction vehicles, which were repainted blue with an orange grid to make them appear like blueprints. The ride vehicles included were four PeopleMover cars, two Rocket Jets, a Space Mountain rocket, and the front of a Mark III Disneyland Monorail. Near the end of the room was video screen that displayed Walt Disney animated segments from the 1950s to the early 1970s, which featured what transportation may look like in the future. All of the segments featured radical and somewhat far-fetched concepts of future transportation systems, such as fully automated and auto guided mobile homes and cars using anti-gravity or magnetic devices to scale walls and objects. Each segment concluded with a short narrated segment explaining how these technologies evolved into forms of transportation used in 1998, or will use in the years to come. The short narrations brought insight to the animated segments and explained to guests that "in the world of creativity there's no end to the possibilities" (the theme of Rocket Rods). The next room of the queue was the nine-screen Circle-Vision 360° theater, where guests watched transportation videos, excerpts from the Circle-Vision 360° films "America the Beautiful" and "The Timekeeper" put between a Walt Disney narrated video, and a video depicting the evolution of General Motors cars. Guests then continued down the "transit tunnel" (formerly a backstage area) where guests passed "proposals" for extending the Rocket Rods system all the way to the John Wayne Airport and other nearby destinations. The Transit Tunnel led to a series of stairs that circled around the inside of the tower that held the Rocket Rods platform and the Observatron (the former Rocket Jets attraction). At the top of the stairs, guests found themselves on the elevated Rocket Rods station in the center of Tomorrowland.
In the queue area, near the stairway to the boarding area was a fictional map reading titled Rocket Rods Proposed System Expansion, showing guests where Rocket Rods was to expand to in the future. The map was just for fun, but had real life locations on it (as well as ambiguous ones), including Tomorrowland attractions already bypassed by the Rocket Rods' route, such as:
- Star Tours
- Space Mountain
- Disney California Adventure Park
- Disneyland Resort Hotels
- Edison International Field
- Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim
- The Walt Disney Studios
- The beach
- The mountains
In addition to the re-arranged version of "Born to Be Wild," the attraction featured its own theme song: "World of Creativity (Magic Highways of Tomorrow)" also arranged and performed by Steve Bartek. The song, originally known as "Detroit" from the 1967 Disney film The Happiest Millionaire, was composed by the Robert and Richard Sherman.
Demise and closure
The Rocket Rods closed on September 25, 2000 for a refurbishment that was to last until Spring 2001, but no work was ever seen on the attraction. On April 28, 2001, the Los Angeles Times and The Orange County Register reported that Rocket Rods would never reopen.
There are a number of reasons that led to the closure of the Rocket Rods:
- The Rocket Rods completed the course of the 16-minute PeopleMover in only about 3 minutes. Because the Rocket Rods project was not given a large enough budget to bank the track's curves, the Rocket Rods had to slow down substantially to maneuver most of the turns.
- The support structure and track originally built for the PeopleMover was not meant to be used for a high speed attraction and began to weaken.
- The constant changes in speed caused the vehicles' on-board computer systems to fail, shutting down the entire attraction. The attraction broke down at least once a day, causing queues of up to three hours. It was not uncommon for guests to receive rain check passes to ride on another day.
Most of the Rocket Rods vehicles were scrapped after the closure, but at least two survived. One was placed in front of the Hollywood & Dine restaurant at Disney's California Adventure, where it remained for only a few months. It was gone by the spring of 2002. Another Rocket Rod is in the hands of a collector. The track is moderately rusted and very overgrown with foliage after a decade of sitting unused. However, Disney did repaint it at one point, suggesting they are still maintaining that structure. Removing the track altogether is nearly impossible, since half of it is located inside of buildings, which would mean having to close all of Tomorrowland & partially dismantle the buildings.
After the closure of Rocket Rods, hopes arose that the PeopleMover would be reinstalled. Rumors still circulate today, usually stating that the PeopleMover will return, possibly as a copy of the Magic Kingdom's version of the ride: the Tomorrowland Transit Authority. The equipment used for the PeopleMover remains only on portions of the track, which would mean that most of the equipment would have to be reinstalled to restore the ride.
Rocket Rods' queue area, which was formerly Circle-Vision 360°, is now Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters, which opened in March 2005.
As of March 2012[update], more than a decade after the attraction's closure, the PeopleMover/Rocket Rods track still stands empty. However, the segment along Tomorrowland's main avenue still seems to be maintained, as it was repainted in the area's new blue and white paint scheme in 2005. It has also been reported that foliage that was on the track in the Autopia area has been removed. The track was used for the grand opening of Star Tours: The Adventures Continue as a high vantage point for a group of stormtroopers.
- "Simulated dragster ride - Patent #6,227,120". US Patent & Trademark Office. Retrieved 2005-11-16. - Patent for the 'wheelie' effect. Includes a breakaway view of the Rocket Rod vehicle
- Ride-Through on YouTube
- Rocket Rods at Yesterland