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The entrance to Rocket Rods.
|Opening date||May 22, 1998|
September 25, 2000|
April 28, 2001
America the Beautiful (queue)
|Replaced by||Buzz Lighyear Astro Blasters (queue)|
|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 thrill attraction in Tomorrowland at Disneyland in Anaheim, California. The ride, meant to evoke a futuristic rapid transit system, opened in 1998 on the existing PeopleMover infrastructure as part of the New Tomorrowland project. Plagued with technical problems, Rocket Rods closed permanently in September 2000 after a little over two years of intermittent operation. Rocket Rods was replaced with Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters in 2005.
Opening on May 22, 1998 as part of the New Tomorrowland, this high-speed attraction ran on a renovated 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. In front of the riders were lights changing from red, to yellow, to green, the vehicles would then zoom down a straightaway toward the entrance of Tomorrowland, before quickly decelerating at the curve in the track. When the attraction was first opened, the straightaway was used for a small wheelie as well. During the development phase, Disney was unable to obtain sponsors to aid in the funding of the attraction; thus, the turns were not banked, requiring sudden deceleration followed by acceleration.
The ride traversed 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 used a mirror to create the effect of nearly colliding with another oncoming ride vehicle. Afterwards, the Rocket Rod took guests into Space Mountain, during which the riders could catch a brief glimpse of the ride. The vehicle then took riders 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 vehicle 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 vehicle passed next to the Disneyland Monorail station before entering the Rocket Rods queue building, where a strobe light flashed and a blast of air shot out at the riders. 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.
The queue for Rocket Rods was located in the former CircleVision 360° theater which housed America the Beautiful and Wonders of China. In the first room, large blueprints of old and current Tomorrowland attractions adorned the walls, along with former Tomorrowland attraction vehicles, which were repainted blue with an orange grid to mimic a blueprint appearance. Four PeopleMover cars, two rockets from Rocket Jets, a Space Mountain rocket, and the front of a Mark III Disneyland Monorail were included in the queue of the ride. Near the end of the room was a video screen that displayed Walt Disney animated segments from the 1950s—1970s, which featured Walt's ideas of future transportation. All of the segments featured what many consider far-fetched or nearly impossible 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 expected to be used in the future. 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 the ride itself.)
The next room of the queue was the original 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 through the "transit tunnel" (formerly a backstage area) where guests passed "proposals" for extending the Rocket Rods system to the nearest commercial airport, 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 location of the Rocket Jets attraction.) The stairs led guests to 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 titled Rocket Rods Proposed System Expansion, showing guests where Rocket Rods was to expand in the future. The map was for fun, and had no actual 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
- Disneyland Resort Hotels
- Edison International Field
- Arrowhead Pond of Anaheim
- Walt Disney Studios, Burbank
- City of Hollywood
- John Wayne Airport
- 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 Robert and Richard Sherman.
Demise and closure
On July 6, 1998, just a little over a month after its grand opening, Rocket Rods was closed for refurbishment due to mechanical problems. It was reported to remain closed for five weeks, but it ended up staying closed for three months before reopening in October 1998.
Rocket Rods closed again 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.
The support structure originally designed for the PeopleMover was not suitable for the high speed of the Rocket Rods ride, causing damage to the structure itself. The constant changes of speed in the ride often caused malfunctions, resulting in frequent closures of the ride and a main reason why the attraction permanently closed. The building is now used for Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.
Most of the Rocket Rods vehicles were scrapped after the closure, but it is unknown exactly how many were kept. One vehicle was placed in front of the Hollywood & Dine restaurant at Disney California Adventure where it remained for a few months. It was gone by the spring of 2002. Another vehicle ended up in the collection of Richard Kraft, and was listed for auction in late August 2018.