Walt Disney was famously quoted saying, "Disneyland will never be completed." Each year Walt's words come true as visitors experience updated rides, listen to the sounds of a new parade, and try a different flavor of ice cream sundae. The variety the Imagineers and all the cast members bring to the ever-changing park is a huge factor in Disneyland's appeal, and repetitive visitors are certainly thankful.
But as much as we crave change, there are some rides that stand the test of time. Now a whopping 61 years since its opening day, there are still ten original rides running today! It's likely you've been on most- if not all- of these rides, but can you name them? Take this extremely hard quiz I whipped up to see if you can name all 10 attractions.
Unfortunately, not all Disney attractions become core memories. The park has also seen rides that were enjoyed (or not enjoyed) for only a year. I was fascinated by these short-lived rides and did some digging to compile a list of some of the attractions that were open for the shortest amount of time. Some you may remember, some you may have had the pleasure of riding, and some are way before our time. But they all have an interesting story to tell.
Tomorrowland Boats, 1955–56
Ladies and Gentlemen, I bring you the aquatic version of Autopia... the Tomorrowland Boats. Housed in what is now Nemo's submarine lagoon, riders of all ages got to be the captain of their very own motor boat. Sure, letting kids steer their own motorized boats at decently high speeds seems like a great idea and all, but problems would quickly arise. Riders would try and get the boats to go as fast as they could, causing the poorly designed motors to let out unbearable amounts of smoke and eventually stall completely.
To combat these issues, the fiberglass motors were redesigned and park operations had an employee pilot each boat to ensure no overheating (sorry, kids). The ride reopened in 1956 and was renamed Phantom Boats, but it ultimately closed in August- just over a year from its opening day- since the attraction was a money-sucker. Guess we will just have to do with regular Autopia.
The Viewliner, 1957–58
It was designed with articulated cars and a low center of gravity, allowing it to travel at higher speeds around tight corners. For a miniature train it still reached speed of 30 mph. Had the Viewliner been built to full scale, it would have been able to go 120 mph.
Tracks extended into Fantasyland and Tomorrowland which allowed the two trains to travel between these areas of the park. But in 1958 when construction for the Matterhorn and Submarine Voyage began, the Viewliner was forced to shutdown- ultimately being replaced forever by our beloved Monorail- basically a bigger and better version of the Viewliner.
Rocket Rods, 1998–2000
Let's make a ride that's not quite fast enough to be thrilling but fast enough to not actually do any sight-seeing. Enter, Rocket Rods.
In May of 1998, Tomorrowland's newest addition opened. It combined pieces of two Disneyland classics: the CircleVision 360 theater and the tracks from People Mover. The ride gave passengers a tour of Tomorrowland, zooming in and out of attractions while waving to churro-stuffed visitors from high above the ground.
But if you ask those lucky enough to have been in the small percentage who did ride it (myself included), there is one main detail they remember: the way the ride constantly sped up and slowed down. So why not keep this ride at a thrilling pace the whole time? Originally, Imagineers had wanted to create banked turns on the old People Mover tracks but couldn't raise enough money in initial funding to support the enhancements. Since Disney couldn't convince a corporate sponsor to pony up the dough, the track had to be left as is requiring the cars to slow down to practically a crawl into each tight turn.
Due to the frequent speed changes, the ride constantly broke down (it was actually closed throughout half of the first summer it opened). In September of 2000, park guests found signs that said Rocket Rods was being refurbished and would reopen in Spring 2001. Perhaps they will get money and make it more thrilling than ever! Nope. In April 2001 they announced it would never reopen. The current Disneyland President was quoted saying that the ride had never performed properly and it was due to the budget-conscious decision to run a high-speed ride on the old People Mover tracks. Makes perfect sense to me.
The track still lies high above the grounds of Tomorrowland unused, and the old Rocket Rods queue area is now part of Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters- home to my current and constant butt-kicking by my better half.
**For those of you who missed this short-lived attraction, here's a POV ride-through.
With technology advancements today, it's hard to imagine rides coming and going so quickly due to poor design or malfunctioning hardware- and it may not happen ever again. These are the only rides in the history of Disneyland that were gone within 1-2 years of their opening, disappearing completely and not being expanded into something new and better.
A big reason why I love Disneyland so much is getting to experience new rides. But even when I do visit the park, I find myself playing favorites. I may ride Pirates of the Caribbean three times and not go anywhere near It's a Small World. But that's the beauty of Disneyland, there is something for everyone.