Wednesday, November 04, 2015

Classic GDB - The Douglas Rocket

The Moonliner was an impressive feature of the pre-1967 Tomorrowland. I loved it best when it had the TWA colors; that airline ended its sponsorship in 1961, and the TWA name was painted out. About a year later, Douglas Aircraft Company took over, and remained the sponsor until the rocket's removal in 1967.

This first picture was originally posted in 2010 (the photo is from April, 1966); it's a beautiful view of the rocket in its natural habitat. The rocket was 76 feet tall, but was based on a concept by Werner Von Braun that (had it ever been built) would have been over 200 feet tall and powered by an atomic reactor. Imagine that!  

Zooming in to the right we see part of the oval Flying Saucer area, and the new Administration Building under construction. 

This next shot is also a beauty; it was taken in October, 1963 (originally posted in 2008), in the late afternoon. I don't think I would be able to deal with crowds like this!


Nanook said...


Both of these are lovely views. It would also appear we can spy the Anaheim Convention Center under construction, just above the new Administration Building. And let's not forget both the Callens & Dominguez houses ("standing-in" for 10 years as the original Administration building) hiding behind the tree. Both were most-likely torn down probably not too long after this image was shot).

And as far as those 'crowds' are concerned - I'm with you, Major. I'm sweating just looking at that image-!

Thanks for more "blasts form the past", if you catch my drift.

Chuck said...

So much on- and back-stage goodness today!

The Douglas paint scheme on the Moonliner has never done anything for me. The lettering is so large that it actually makes the rocket seem smaller (or maybe it just makes it feel actual-sized).

I found an interesting scheme for the Moonliner years ago (even before GDB, if you can imagine such a world), a "what-if" showing what the vehicle might have looked like had NASA actually built Von Braun's proposal in the 1960s (

This website inspired me to acquire a copy of the Glencoe Mars Liner model (a re-issue of the 1950s Strombecker Moonliner release without having to pay Disney royalties) as well the re-issue of the "Man In Space" satellite launcher, but unfortunately didn't inspire me enough to actually build them.

Nancy said...

well said, Nanook. Drifting right along with you here..

I admit to loving view number 3 the best; beautifully framed by some greenery from the trees, luv those lights and especially the colors, with the yellows from the bench and little roofs, orange and blue in combination (my two favorite colors) and its an uncloudy day...vintage Disneyland deliciousness! :-)

Thanks for beautiful views today, Major!

Major Pepperidge said...

Nanook, yes, that is the old Convention Center peeking up over the Admin building. There is a part of me that wishes they had managed to save those old houses in the backstage area, but I do understand why they were probably more trouble than they were worth. Still, the history behind them is so great.

Chuck, the Douglas paint scheme is definitely not as cool as the TWA version; maybe I just like it because it’s different. I’ve seen that NASA paint scheme on the Moonliner, having visited the “Fantastic Plastic” site before. Not sure it works, since the rocket is so 1950’s (almost 1940’s, resembling a souped-up V2), with very 60’s graphics on it. But it’s still interesting. You have to build those Glencoe models…!

Nancy, that third picture is really nice, with the warm afternoon sunlight. It’s so crazy to see the place practically empty on such a beautiful day.

K. Martinez said...

Maybe in photographic images the TWA rocket looks best, but the only Moonliner memories I have are of the Douglas rocket and even if the paint scheme bothers people today, it sure looked large and looming to a little kid like me in the 1960's. I remember that "Rocket to the Moon" and really believed we were making the trip. I still have love for the original Tomorrowland. Thanks, Major.

JG said...

Major, thanks for the pics of the Moonliner.

It's strange that my personal memories of the Moonliner are with the TWA color scheme and logo, yet by the time frame you cite, it's unlikely that these are real memories. I must be conflating comic book and guide book photos to override reality.

Anyway, my personal 200 foot tall, nuclear powered rocket, parked on my south 40, has the TWA color scheme, which I remember so clearly. Dr. Von Braun signed the instrument panel for me personally.

When I get it running again, (short on uranium just now) you can all come over for a ride.

Best regards.


Chuck said...

Major, maybe part of my problem with the Douglas scheme is that I never got to see it in person. I'm sure it worked better at forced perspective distances. I agree that the NASA scheme, while intriguing, looks anachronistic. That Fantastic Plastic site is pretty awesome.

A note on the Glencoe Moonliner reissue - I thought they were very, VERY clever with the decal set they provided with the model they called the "Mars Liner." All of the striping is identical to the TWA version, but there are no "TWA" or "Moonliner" decals, presumably to avoid paying royalties.

What's interesting, though, is that the kit includes decals for a "FASTWAY" space line, "coincidentally" in the same font and size as the "TWA" lettering would have been in the original kit. There are also cursive decals for ships named "Moonbeam" and "Rocketliner." It's almost as if Glencoe designed the decals with something else in mind for the discerning modeler with a sharp hobby knife...

Ken, I am openly jealous of your experience in seeing the Moonliner up close, especially when you were so small in relation to it. I remember thinking we actually went to the Moon, too, and wanting to be sure I was outside to see one of the other launches later in the day. Sadly, I always seemed to be inside when they happened.

Chuck said...

JG, can you retro-fit it to use a Mr Fusion?

K. Martinez said...

Chuck, Photographically the TWA rocket looks awesome, but I'm a fan of both versions. To adult visitors the Douglas paint scheme was probably a disappoint but as a little kid I didn't pay attention to those kinds details. I only know it was Douglas because my first trip was in 1963. It probably wasn't until a little later that I noticed things like that. I'm really amazed I can still remember lots of things from that first trip like sitting on my mother's lap on the round Skyway buckets and tagging along with my sister inside House of the Future. And yes, I wondered why I didn't see the Moonliner rocket outside blast off too.

JG said...

@Chuck, That's a good idea. I have plenty of banana peels and beer cans. I hate to take it out of the DeLorean though. It takes a couple of days to tune the harmonics.

I'll give it a shot. If I can make it work, I'll stop by your house last Wednesday, around 5.

Let me know if I showed up.


Major Pepperidge said...

K. Martinez, I wish I had memories of the Moonliner; the small version that is there now is still pretty neat, but it needs to be more monumental.

JG, I have had the same issue; there are some things that I can’t possibly remember, and yet I feel as if I do. Looking at ten zillion vintage photos has scrambled my brains! When you need uranium, just go out to the desert and look for crazy old prospectors. Gold is so “old school”.

Chuck, those Glencoe designers sound pretty sneaky, and I mean that as a compliment! Very cool. I don’t know how you could resist putting those models together, unless it is a matter of having the free time. I haven’t built a plastic model since I was a kid, and those were always WWII fighter planes. You might have missed those other rocket launches, but at least you can see a photo of one from last April 1st!

K. Martinez, it seems like Douglas wanted to be sure that everyone knew who was sponsoring the Rocket to the Moon ride - the name IS awfully large. One side note is that I was visiting a guy who used to be “the guy” when you wanted to buy Disneyland attraction posters, and he had a binder with a black and white image (it might have been a xerox) of a RTTM poster with the Douglas markings. I have no idea if this was purely a conceptual piece, or if posters were ever actually produced, but I am dying to see one someday!

JG, just have your chauffeur deal with all that stuff, like I do!

JG said...

Major & Chuck.

I have an old oscillation overthruster that I got as a prize from saving proof of purchase from the Hong Kong Cavaliers comics.

I'll try that.


Dean Finder said...

I think it's that the DOUGLAS logo is vertical, not horizontal. It makes it feel like a static display rather than a vehicle that would take you to the moon.

Chuck said...

It's days like these that I remember why I love you guys so much.

TokyoMagic! said...

I'm late to the party today, but I was glad to see a cameo appearance made by the Dominguez house. And we had been talking about the old residence just a couple months ago. Nanook, the original administration building was actually a composite of the TWO houses, right? I had forgotten all about that....thanks for the reminder.

JG said...

@Chuck, glad to have you back. Hope you're on the mend after your accident.

Best regards.


Anonymous said...

The comment about the proposed rocket at over 200 feet tall...remember that the real Saturn V ended up being well over 300 feet!

Anonymous said...

As an east coaster I never had the opportunity to see the original.moonliner. so my Strombecker model.kit had to suffice. I still have an unbuilt strombecker moonliner kit and have built the glencoe reissue which sits on my desk.

It was great then and it's still great