CONCEPT ART: TRON Lightcycle-Type Ride Was Envisioned for PeopleMover Track in New Tomorrowland at Disneyland, Jet Packs, Wall-E & More

Tom Corless

In 1998, Disneyland introduced a New Tomorrowland. Headlined by the infamous Rocket Rods, which ran on the track once intended for the beloved PeopleMover, the overhaul of the classic themed land was an unmitigated disaster. Large attraction spaces for the CircleVision Theater and Mission to Mars became queues and restaurants respectively, Space Mountain was painted an unsightly copper color, and the land’s other new offerings were attractions that opened in EPCOT in 1994. Once Rocket Rods closed in 2002, Disneyland fans began to speculate about the future of the area. An effort to quickly correct the mistakes of 1998 was made in the mid-2000s when Buzz Lightyear’s Astro Blasters replaced the queue of Rocket Rods. The land was slowly painted in shades of blue to erase the disliked copper-tones that were added. The classic Submarine Voyage was even brought back to life as a new attraction featuring characters from Finding Nemo. Despite all of this, questions remained about the future of the PeopleMover track and other unsuccessful venues from the overhaul.

Well, as early as 2008, Disneyland was planning to fix Tomorrowland.

In what is essentially a book documenting the possible 5-year-plan for Disneyland Park around 2008 (which we acquired at a recent auction), an entire section breaks down what was being worked on for another New Tomorrowland, one we are sadly still waiting on as of the writing of this piece. The page is broken into two segments, one featuring items that were already in development or negotiation, and another with the “Walt Disney Imagineering Master Plan” for the area.

Tomrrowland 2008 DL Creative Menu
A 2008 Disneyland Creative Menu breaks down possible plans for Tomorrowland at Disneyland Park.

Here’s what is listed:

  • Monorail – In production
  • Star Tours 3.5 – In development
  • Chevron Initiative – In negotiations
  • Wall-E Synergy Initiative – HISTA/Innoventions
  • Beamway/Rocket Bikes – Investigate ride system
  • Space Mountain/Forecort/HISTAS – Global 3D Strategy
  • Rocket Jet Packs – Investigate ride system

As far as the items in production, the Disneyland Monorail Mark VII trains began debuting in July 2008.

2008 Tomorrowland DL Realized
Concept art for the Disneyland Mark VII Monorail, Star Tours Episode 3.5 (eventually Star Tours: The Adventures Continue, and the Autopia.

Star Tours 3.5 was a reference to the timeline in which the new Star Tours: The Adventures Continue would take place, between Episode III and IV of the Skywalker Saga. This opened in 2011.

The Chevron Initiative is referencing the Disneyland Autopia, which was sponsored by Chevron from 2000-2012. This was speaking of the upcoming contract expiration, which did come to pass without Chevron renewing. Honda became the new sponsor in 2016, eventually updating the ride and adding ASIMO and his counterpart Bird to the attraction.

The Wall-E synergy initiative was likely referring to the “Living Character” Wall-E that Walt Disney Imagineering built but never got to use in public outside of some appearances at D23 Expo events and a few other non-park opportunities. There was even a backdrop for it at Disney’s Hollywood Studios at The Magic of Disney Animation, but it just sat there with no character ever materializing.

As for the WDI Master Plan, well, this is where things get really interesting.

The Rocket Bikes certainly do evoke some feelings of the TRON Lightcycle, and it is so strange that they aren’t specifically TRON vehicles given how close this was the the release of “TRON Legacy” in 2010. That being said, maybe this choice was on purpose to protect the secret of the new TRON Legacy Lightcycles which were not revealed at this time. Lucky for us, the concept eventually made its way into a roller coaster for Shanghai Disneyland in 2016 and the recently opened TRON Lightcycle / Run at the Magic Kingdom.

DL 2008 Rocket Bikes Tomorrowland
Rocket Bikes were envisioned to replace the Rocket Rods, which replaced the Disneyland PeopleMover.

The concept art here shows single-file trains of Rocket Bikes zooming past what looks like the Astro Orbitor. They also appear to be on banked turns, an investment that wasn’t made for Rocket Rods and was eventually a big part of the reason why the attraction had to be retired.

Sadly for Disneyland, the PeopleMover track remains dormant, although rumor is that a new, shorter version of the PeopleMover attraction is currently in development.

2008 Tomorrowland DL Unknown 1
It’s unclear what part of a new Disneyland Tomorrowland this concept art represents.

The Global 3D Strategy is likely referring to the eventual use of the Magic Eye Theater, then home to Honey, I Shrunk the Audience, as a theater to preview upcoming Disney 3D films. While this did eventually happen, Captain EO Tribute ended up being the next attraction in the space, while the previews were relegated to Disney California Adventure for a while in different venues. After Captain EO Tribute closed, guests would find these film previews, for a period, in Tomorrowland.

DL 2008 Tomorrowland Overall
Rocket Bikes and Rocket Jet Packs swirl around a drastically reimagined center of Tomorrowland at Disneyland in this concept art.

Rocket Jet Packs appears to be using the same ride structure as the Astro Orbitor with two important changes: it is moved back to where it was formerly located on an elevated platform in the middle of Tomorrowland and the rockets have been turned into “jet packs”. While this didn’t materialize at Disneyland, it was in fact an opening day attraction at Shanghai Disneyland.

DL 2008 Tomorrowlanf Jet Packs 1
Rocket Jet Packs take over what looks to be the Astro Orbitor apparatus, moved to an elevated platform in Tomorrowland in this concept art.

In this Creative Menu book, the Tomorrowland project is listed as a possibility for 2012, but with a choice between this project and a large Fantasyland expansion project. Neither of these actually materialized, but in fairness, the document did label both as plans “for the next 5 years or beyond.”

While we are still waiting for new developments for Tomorrowland at Disneyland, it is interesting to see that the problem has not only been known for at least 15 years, but there have been very real plans to correct it.

So, what do you think of these plans? Would you want to see the or other changes materialize in Tomorrowland at Disneyland? Let us know in the comments.

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Author

  • Tom Corless

    Tom has been regularly visiting the Walt Disney World® Resort from the time he was 4 months old. While he has made countless visits in the last 28 years, he did not become a truly active member in the Disney fan community until the summer of 2007, when he decided to launch the WDW News Today website and podcast. Tom has since become an Orlando-local and is a published author on Walt Disney World. Contact Tom at tom@wdwnt.com.

1 thought on “CONCEPT ART: TRON Lightcycle-Type Ride Was Envisioned for PeopleMover Track in New Tomorrowland at Disneyland, Jet Packs, Wall-E & More”

  1. Personal watercraft, the Sea Doo was the early entry , snow machines, motorcycles, single seater co carts, single and dual rider dune buggies, all these things pre-date Tron, all these things could have been the inspiration.

    But. Whatever.

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