Daniel DiManna
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Rocket Rods: Disney’s Rocket-Powered Mistake – Pt. 1

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Rocket Rods
Tomorrowland after its late-90s renovation. A Rocket Rod can be seen stuck on the track
Photo: Elf via CC

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.


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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.


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How this this promising car-themed attraction end up going so wrong? Read part two of this article to find out the hilarious, whiplash-inducing answer.