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Disneyland Article
Rocket Rods Disneys Rocket Powered Mistake

Rocket Rods
Daniel Dimanna
December 22, 2020
January 19, 2021
Behind their veneer of magic, mascots, and overpriced souvenirs, the Disney theme parks are overflowing with interesting stories and history. Disneyland in particular is home to many tales of innovation, imagination, and more than a few infamous missteps. This is the story of one of those missteps, and of how one of Disneyland’s most legendary attractions was discarded in favor of cheap thrills. This is the story of Tomorrowland’s notorious Rocket Rods.

The origin of Rocket Rods

Of all the lands Walt Disney included in Disneyland, Tomorrowland held a particular fascination for him. As a devout futurist, Disney saw the land as a showcase for an optimistic world of tomorrow, and a land that would never truly be completed. Indeed, Tomorrowland would see extensive additions and refurbishments over the years, each adding new technology and attractions. In 1967, Tomorrowland saw the addition of the beloved Peoplemover, a train-like system of moving vehicles that carried guests through the park. Riding atop a series of winding tracks above Tomorrowland, the Peoplemover traveled over the crowds and even through some of the rides. For nearly three decades, it remained a favorite of guests.

However, all of that changed in the 1990s. As part of the company’s “Disney Decade,” it was hoped that a major refurbishment would be coming to Tomorrowland to make it seem a bit less dated. Unfortunately, the financial failure of Euro Disney forced this planned makeover to be cut back drastically. Instead of a complete overhaul, Tomorrowland instead saw some updates to a few of its attractions. One of those attractions was the Peoplemover, which saw its final run on Aug. 21, 1995.

In 1996, Tomorrowland was closed to begin the small-scale refurbishments. In late 1997, it was announced that an exciting new thrill ride would be taking the place of the slow-moving Peoplemover. Called Rocket Rods, the ride was designed to give teenagers something exciting to do in the park, and showcase possible transportation trends of the future.

A Rocket Rods replacement In the spring of 1998, “New Tomorrowland” officially opened to the public. Rocket Rods quickly became one of the land’s hottest new attractions, regularly resulting in over an hour of waiting in line. Thankfully, guests could enjoy a documentary on the history of vehicular transportation playing on monitors in the cue while they waited.

The Rocket Rods themselves were 5-passenger steampunk-styled cars with two rear wheels and a pointed front. Upon departing the loading area, the cars performed a wheelie and accelerated to 35 mph in only a few seconds. It was after this exhilarating start that things began to take a turn for the worst.

Following the fast start, the Rocket Rods would then screech to a drastic halt at the first curve. After slowly turning around the curve, they would speed up again until they hit the next curve. This process repeated for the entire duration of the ride. Despite offering a great view of Tomorrowland and even passing through rides like Star Tours and Space Mountain, the overall experience was often unpleasant for guests.

What went wrong

In addition to being uncomfortable for riders, the attraction was riddled with problems from the very beginning. The biggest issue was that this high-speed vehicle was traveling along the Peoplemover track from the 1960s, which had not been modified since its construction. The track hadn’t been built to handle the fast speeds and inertia of the Rocket Rods, resulting in damage to the track and even the internal structure of the attraction.

In addition to this, the cars themselves were being put under incredible stress from constantly speeding up and slowing down. Their tires were being worn down at a quick pace, resulting in damaged engines. The ride’s computer would also shut the cars down if they weren’t in the correct position, leading to frequent downtime for breakdowns, evacuations, reboots, and maintenance.

After only a month of operation, the ride was closed for repairs. When it reopened three months later, little had changed. The ride would operate for nearly two years until it was closed again in 2000 for more repairs. Although announced to reopen in 2001, Disney evidently decided the 25-million-dollar ride was more trouble than it was worth. Rocket Rods never reopened.
Attractions Referenced


Rocket Rods

Space Mountain

Star Tours

Lands Referenced


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