Tomorrowland – When guests entered Tomorrowland from Main Street USA, they would see the Rocket Rods entrance on their immediate left, in the building that now houses the Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters.
After a three-year refurbishment and update, the former PeopleMover track reopened as part of the “new Tomorrowland” in 1998. The massive white infrastructure that dominated the Tomorrowland skyline now housed a high-speed transport system from the future.
The waiting area for the Rocket Rods was an attraction in and of itself. Guests began their tour in the blueprint room, which featured original plans of Tomorrowland, and housed old ride vehicles from closed rides. Next, guests passed monitors showing 1950’s-1970’s Disney animations, predicting what transportation might look like in the future.
The largest waiting area for Rocket Rods was the CircleVision360 theatre. In the theater, guests could watch different transportation videos, including a short film detailing the evolution of GM cars. From the theater, guests traveled through the transit tunnel (a backstage area during the PeopleMover days) up to the loading platform.
On the platform, guests boarded 5-seat vehicles and proceeded to a drag race starting line. When the lights turned green, the vehicles took off for a three-minute flying ride above Tomorrowland. The Rocket Rods tour included travel through the Star Tours building, the Starcade, Space Mountain, and the Innoventions building. Riders also experienced some thrills, including sharp turns and an illusion where two rockets seem like they are going to collide before veering off at the last second. Finally, the Rockets flew by Autopia and the lagoon, before finishing the ride in a strobe light room and returning to the loading station.
CLOSURE – September 25, 2000
When the Rocket Rods first closed in 2000, the closure was going to be a temporary refurbishment, with a reopen date set for spring 2001. However, the ride never reopened, and its permanent closure became official with reports in the OC Register and the LA Times in April 2001.
There were two primary reasons for the ride’s permanent closure. First, the PeopleMover track had been built for a slow transport ride, and its infrastructure saw serious damage with the installation of the faster rockets. And second, the rapid speed changes were often too much for the computer systems, causing frequent breakdowns and incredibly long lines; the Rocket Rods averaged at least one complete shutdown per day.
For almost a decade, the Rocket Rods track has stood empty over Tomorrowland, giving many fans hope that the PeopleMover will return. While rumors continue to circulate about its comeback, there has been no confirmation from Disney, and the huge white track still looms over Tomorrowland, waiting for its next adventure.
Rocket Rods was the first Disneyland ride to offer a single rider line.
During the high-speed race, the Rocket Rods played an original song: World of Creativity (Magic Highways of Tomorrow). The song also appeared in the 1967 film The Happiest Millionaire, known then as “Detroit”.
When Star Tours: The Adventures Continue debuted in 2011, the Storm Troopers used the track as an elevated platform, looking down at visitors and monitoring Tomorrowland from above.