Daniel DiManna
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Rocket Rods: Disney’s Rocket-Powered Mistake – Pt. 2

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Rocket Rods
One of the last remaining Rocket Rods on display
Photo: Lyght via CC

In part one of this story, we discussed the history of Tomorrowland’s beloved Peoplemover, and how it was ultimately replaced by the car-themed Rocket Rods attraction. Now it’s time to find out how it all went very, very wrong.


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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.


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Following the closure of Rocket Rods, the vehicles were scrapped for parts. The show building was quickly turned into a Buzz Lightyear ride. However, the vintage track was left behind, unused and abandoned. The track is still in Tomorrowland today, an eerie remnant of Disneyland’s storied past.