Friday, September 03, 2021

Rocket Jets, August 1970

Today I'm sharing two more beautiful Kodak Instamatic slide scans, from some August 1970 slides generously given to me by my friend Mr. X. 

We'll start with a photo of the Rocket Jets and the Peoplemover that is about as nice as anybody could want. Mr. X would almost always wait for the spacecraft to be up in the air when he photographed the Rocket Jets, and my gosh it looks so great, gleaming against that deep blue sky. And there's the wonderful and much-missed Peoplemover trains, in yellow, blue, and aqua. We can juuust see the Carousel of Progress in the background. Depending on who you ask, this might be "peak Tomorrowland".

Why not take another photo for good measure? Hey, take three, four, or ten, I won't complain! I honestly would love to know the rationale used when they relocated the Rocket Jets from that striking, raised platform to the down-on-the-ground location at the entrance to Tomorrowland (renamed the "Astro Orbiter")?

NOTE: Once again, I will be out of town starting today, but I am hoping I will be able to check in occasionally to check out your comments.


K. Martinez said...

It's peak Tomorrowland for me. Even with no Space Mountain yet, it still has Carousel of Progress which best reflected the spirit of Tomorrowland.

Yes, I don't know who's idea it was to put the roto-jet style ride on the ground, but it really lowered it's appeal in a major way.

Absolutely wonderful photos of Tomorrowland in it's prime. Thanks Mr. X and Major.

Nanook said...

'Peak Tomorrowland'... Check-! We even have a rather 'elongated view' of a portion from a certain mural. All looks good.

Thanks to Mr. X.

TokyoMagic! said...

In that second photo, we can see three people on the Rocket Jets, who have their arms extended out of their vehicles, and are holding onto their rocket's "side fins." I think today, those riders would be getting a firm talking-to over the loud speaker, by a cast member.

Thank you Major and Mr. "X"!

Chuck said...

Another vote here for “peak Tomorrowland.” The “command module” at the top of the Rocket Jets is in its original silver paint scheme and all is right with the world. Except for those filthy Yippees. This is their month, isn’t it?

We get the Goodyear and GE logos right next to each other in the first photo along with a portion of the Richfield sign. Atlantic Richfield was in the process of rebranding their stations to ARCO in 1970, so I’m guessing that the Richfield branding and eagle are in their last days at Disneyland. Did the Autopia ever sport the ARCO logo?

I’ve always thought that this Tomorrowland had a “World’s Fair” sort of vibe, but I never really noticed until just now that that impression was partially reinforced by the fact that every single attraction except the Skyway and Matterhorn had a corporate sponsor. Maybe that’s why the Matterhorn moved to Fantasyland - it was jealous of its eastern neighbors.

Thanks, Mr. X, and have a great trip, Major!

Chuck said...

TM!, I’m afraid I have to disagree. Its physically impossible today for a guest to extend their arms outside a Rocket Jets vehicle…or, in fact, to do anything else inside a Rocket Jets vehicle. :-(

TokyoMagic! said...

Chuck, it's not completely impossible. A guest would just have to walk into the Little Green Men shop in Tomorrowland, pull all of the plush merchandise out of one of the old Rocket Jet vehicles and throw it on the ground, and then climb inside! In fact, I think I will do just that, the next time I am at Disneyland.


TOKYOMAGIC beat me to it! I was gonna say ....”we’ll ACTUALLY........”

The ARCO re-branding never was used at Disneyland. It’s interesting that Richfield Oil was the very first in park corporate sponsor yet there has never been a known version of the AUTOPIA attraction poster with the sponsor’s name on it. I can’t think of any sponsored attraction that featured an attraction poster that didn’t have a variant with the sponsor on it during the first 1956-1971 series. It’s said that after the president signed aboard to sponsor Autopia he said “ well ATLANTIC RICHFIELD is the first to be a Disneyland sponsor ..... and I’m not really sure what that means ....”

One thing : Richfield’s name didn’t go onto an attraction poster!

You can thank Tony Baxter and Eddie Sotto for the removal of the Rocket Jets .... but there was intention of having the Orbitron to go in its place, however all the extra spinning orbs and spheres added extra weight and Disneyland engineers advised against it - not so much because the support pylon couldn’t hold it, bug for fear the extra orbs and spheres would catch the Santa Anna winds and rip it down! A center support pylon that went deep into the ground was all that held up the elevated Rocket Jet tower ..... . The PeopleMover and Jets loading platform were literally build around the Rocket Jet support pylon.

I remember being very excited about the unbuilt Tomorrowland 2055 but was a tad hesitant when it was decided to go away from a realistic Tomorrowland and go with a SPACE FANTASY theme ........ but the Taco Bell Tomorrowland Disneyland ended up with in 1998 was dreadfully bad. It was nick-named Taco Bell Tomorrowland because the deep red, greens and tans used for Tomorrowland 1998 were the same corporate colors of the Taco Bell restaurants of the same time.

The biggest disgrace was the the Disney company failed to replace the Rocket Rods when they should have ..... maintaining the grandfather laws of the original PeopleMover beamway - now lost after 20 years ...Very sad.

At least we have pictures like today’s images to remind us that The great Tomorrowland’s will probably always remain in the past.

Anonymous said...

Mike Cozart: Wow that’s a treasure trove of info packed into one comment! I love it. I’m also stealing the term Taco Bell Tomorrowland. Unfortunately that was my first experience of Tomorrowland. I didn’t even get a crunchy taco for my trouble!


JG said...

Yes, Peak Tomorrowland, when everything was shiny, new, well-maintained, well-conceived, and worked.

Mike, I have never heard “Taco Bell Tomorrowland” but it is appropriate. A sad digression from the mean.

I have been certain from the beginning that changing structural requirements dictated the relocation of the Rocket Jets. It would be either wind loads or seismic loads (earthquake) that would govern. Structures are calculated for both, and sometimes, for mass structures of concrete or masonry, seismic loads will govern. Wind loads make sense here because of the bulbous shapes of the replacement design. Codes have changed dramatically over the years and the thin elegant concrete members of the central tower would no longer calculate for the potential imposed forces that the new requirements anticipate.

It’s a shame since that concrete is some of the most beautiful in architecture, compound curves and tapers in three dimensions, worthy of comparison to Saarinen or Calatrava, and all designed by hand with drafting tools, no CAD. Amazing work, and dramatically under-appreciated, even denigrated by the architecture profession because it was created by Disney to make people happy.

Chuck, Tokyo, let’s do that sometime. Store Command would never be the same.

Major, please thank Mr. X for sharing these pictures, and take a bow yourself.


Kel said...

All this was ruined. :(

I think this moment had aspects of peak Tomorrowland, but the true peak (in my book) was 1987. It had all this plus Matterhorn updates (hi Harold!), Captain EO, and Star Tours (original). This lasted until sometime in 1994 with the Skyway removal. All down hill from there...

I still hope for a better tomorrow!

Major Pepperidge said...

K. Martinez, I agree; as much as I love the earlier Tomorrowlands, and as much as I enjoy Space Mountain, this really feels like the last “Walt” version of the Land of Tomorrow.

Nanook, ha ha, I guess some scientist could reconstitute that image and figure out what Mary Blair’s mural looked like!

TokyoMagic!, hmmm, it never occurred to me to put my arms on the fins of the rockets like that. Maybe if you sat in the back it was just a nice place to rest your hands?

Chuck, Mr. X himself sent me an email regarding the G.E. logo, it’s funny how things like that (or the Monsanto logo elsewhere) still have positive vibes, especially considering how evil Monsanto seemed to become decades later. I don’t believe that the Autopia ever had the ARCO logo, but maybe Mike Cozart will chime in and let us know for sure. Good point about the sponsors in Tomorrowland supporting the “World’s Fair” atmosphere!

Chuck, sad trombone noise…

TokyoMagic!, now THAT’S a video I want to see! You’ll be a Tik-Tok sensation.

Mike Cozart, aha! I was hoping you’d give us your expertise. I didn’t know that Atlantic Richfield was supposedly the first company to sponsor an attraction. If anything I’d assume that Santa Fe would have been the first. Interesting about the Richfield name not being on the poster. I figured that Tony Baxter probably had something to do with the removal of the Rocket Jets. And I didn’t consider wind forces on those orbs and planets, since I’m sure they are hollow and not that heavy in the scheme of things. I still consider that one of the biggest flubs of the “New New Tomorrowland”. Or “Taco Bell Tomorrowland” as you called it!! Oh yeah, maybe the removal of the Peoplemover was the biggest flub!!

Celeste, ha ha, maybe “Taco Bell Tomorrowland” will become canon!

JG, the weird thing is that I don’t really hate the look of the Astro Orbiter, but on the other hand, I don’t love it so much that I feel that it was worth replacing the Rocket Jets with that thing. Knowing nothing about winds, I would have thought that they might have slipped around the spheres pretty well, but of course there would have been some forces anyway. I’ve always marveled at what they built at Disneyland in the years before CAD. I’m sure you’ve read about how Bob Gurr taught himself trigonometry so that he could calculate the slopes of the Matterhorn track. Pretty impressive.

Kel, it’s disappointing when so much effort and thought goes into an “improvement” that really doesn’t improve ANYTHING. It was change for change’s sake, or so it seems. Everyone has their own “peak” time, I won’t argue with you about 1987 being great!

Bu said...

The greatest example of "they ruin everything". I never was a fan of "steam punk" anything, and if Discovery Bay went forward there might have been more relevance. That new Tomorrowland is not Gustav Eiffel or Jules Verne is not even Taco Bell is DCA craptastic except worse. Sorry everyone who probably spent countless hours on mind bending conference calls to build all that just is awful. OK done with that. I thought Star Tours was a "they ruin everything" moment as it was strange to see non-Disney IP at first. When they covered up the Mary Blair mural...but kept the other one...that was a brief meltdown moment. I knew the project manager very well as he also did Capt. EO and ultimately married one of my best Park buddies- so I got the story behind the story...which is all money anyway and not very interesting. The ride Star Tours however was well executed and definitely a game changer in the world of Theme Park rides. I worked on the ride for literally a NY minute...during the Disneyland Employee Christmas Party when all the supervisors ran all the rides...I got about 2 minutes of training (literally)...when I pushed "go" I was praying that no one would fly out of their seats during the adventure. After about three attempts they put me on something less "taxing". I thought that the space above Capt. EO could have been utilized better for a "something else"- other than a longer queue for Space Mountain. Again: $$. At least from the ground Capt. EO was fairly innocuous and made logical sense. I'll take the Dairy Bar, Hobby Land, and the Bathroom of tomorrow over mountains made of French Fries and a Taco Bell paint scheme any day.

Stu29573 said...

I'm just being "that guy" and pointing out that WDW still has their rockets in the sky...and that you still ride an elevator up to them. However, the last time I rode them the rockets seem to have shrunk significantly. Kind of like my old clothes...

Anonymous said...

The first thoughts are to winnow my way into those pictures. I was having a blast working there as an 19 yo.

That version of Tomorrowland, like NO Square, still had Walt's fingerprints on them...and those who implemented it to completion were still an intact group of folks steeped in his thinking. Thus the stellar results. KS


STU: that’s correct ! The Florida Rocket Pylon support pillar for STAR JETS in 1974 was built at a wider diameter for its footing and also goes much further down into the ground. And remember at WDW the Tomorrowland ground level is already the roof of a second story. If you notice the WDW 1994 Astro Orbitor’s center tower pylon was build around the existing Rocket Jet mechanisms if 1974. Its spinning orbs are actually on the exterior ring that sits on the WEDWAY PeopleMover structure NOT the Rocket Tower support pylon. this doesn’t affect the requirement of the center pylon support weight , balance and wind resistance the way a Disneyland / Disneyland Paris mechanism would having its sinning orbs on the central tower.

Tokyo Disneyland had a WDW Star Jets ( now removed because of their Fantasyland expansion) as well sans the PeopleMover. The TDL Tomorrowland was designed with a Wedway PeopleMover but ultimately the owners of Tokyo Disneyland - The Oriental Land Co. - decided against it. They felt the mostly Japanese audience rode forms of mass transportation in their daily lives and felt a PeopleMover would not be of great interest as an attraction. This was the real reason there was no “Disneyland Railroad” encircling the park like DL & WDW : the OLC early on did not want a railroad encircling the park . The story Disney tells is because if a second station was added it would fall under public transport regulations ( and that is true ) but isn’t really why TDL features a railroad as a attraction only - The Western River Railroad - which is regulated to just parts of WESTERNLAND and ADVENTURELAND. From Some of TDL’s earliest plans there was to be no “grand circle tour” Disneyland Railroad.

Omnispace said...

Many thanks to Mr X! I'm so glad I was introduced to Tomorrowland during this time. There are so many cool features to it, including the groovy Goodyear display pods you can see along the Speedramps. And just think that to the right of this scene, one would also have the very unique Adventure Thru Inner Space with it's own "floating" pod-vehicles, and the very modern Character Shop. I'll agree that this time was a real "peak" for the land although it would have been prefect if the "Spaceport & Rocket Flight" had been built then.

I keep hearing the story how $$$ was a huge factor in Tomorrowland 98's detraction, but more money would have only meant more brown paint, and perhaps even more complete alterations. As awesome as it may look in illustrations, the reality of Steampunk is a very drab, heavy, and industrial style. To me, the new Star Wars realms fall into that same character.

Stu29573 said...

Mike, thanks for that info! I never noticed how the orbs at WDW where no actually connected to the pylon. I never thought about it. That's very cool! And you're right, I consistently forget that the Magic Kingdom is the second floor to the utilities. Such a genius design!

"Lou and Sue" said...

Great pictures, comments and info! Thanks, Mr. X, Major and all!
Am so glad I experienced this Tomorrowland era!

Chuck said...

TM! & Mike, I actually almost wrote "...unless they dump out the one full of plush at the Little Green Men store" but I wasn't sure if it was there anymore and was about to be late for work, so I cut it for time. Glad to see we (and JG) are all on the same (warped) wavelength.

Mike, thanks for the info on the ARCO branding. I didn't remember any, but my memories (like everyone's) have a few holes. Also a big thanks for all of the additional background on the Rocket Jets and why WDW got a conversion to the Orbitron and DL didn't. Also a +3 for the typo that referred to DLP and DL's Orbitrons' "sinning orbs." And interesting about the REAL reason TLD doesn't have a Grand Circle Tour on the railroad.

JG, the attitudes of "serious architects" towards Disneyland makes me want to shove a churro up their collective third point of contact.

And speaking of churros, my wife sent me a picture at work of a new delicacy at Disneyland - the fried pickle corn dog. Seriously - how have we managed to cobble together an advanced society to date without this amazing culinary invention? (Mrs. Chuck had a much less positive reaction.)