2003 MAY 16 #136
The Rocket Rods was one of Disneyland's new attractions when it opened the "new" Tomorrowland in 1998. It looked fun - cars ran on an elevated track over the Land, into buildings, through other attractions, and the vehicles looked like huge multi-person Go Karts. The actual experience was a bit underwhelming, however, especially given the 75 minute average wait in line just to putter around in the Rods for less than 3 minutes. The cars themselves often broke down, shutting down the attraction for hours at a time. The Rocket Rods had to slow down to a crawl around the curves (as they were unbanked), so any semblance of 'thrill' was lost. Those factors, combined with Disney's own dissatisfaction with the small number of riders per car, made Rocket Rods a disaster. It was closed most of its premiere summer; it closed again in summer 2000, with an expected reopen date of Spring 2001. That date came and went, and it became apparent that no work was being done on the attraction. Officially, the ride may still come back; but it has become clear that the cement track that runs over the guests' heads in Tomorrowland won't see Rocket Rods again.
To pass the 75 minute wait for the 3 minute ride, Disney provided a multimedia display of autos through the ages. The music for this display is the first track, a rather distressing version of the Steppenwolf song, "Born to Be Wild." Using the cheesiest of General Midi synthesizer sounds, vocoders, and the disproportionately loudest possible hair-metal guitar, the track sounds like the worst of the 70s and 80s rolled into one. Imagine what this was like for the poor guest, standing in line for the better part of an hour and half, watching video displays of Model-T Fords and speed boats, listening to this over and over...
On the queue on way out after the ride, visitors would hear the second piece included here, an original number called "World of Creativity." While perhaps less aurally offensive than "Born to Be Wild," this is no less baffling or distressing. While having very little sonic cohesion aside from the occasional melodic line (with lines line, "Magic Highways of tomorrow/are more than what they seem") and rumbling piano bass, mostly it just swirls around in a sort of epic tunelessness. I can quite easily imagine the composer in the studio putting this together, thinking he'd come up with a great piece of 20th Century Art Music that still worked in the Disney milieu.
One thing is certain - if the Rocket Rods do return to Anaheim, they will choose different music this time.
- Steve Marseille
TT-6:07 / 7MB / 160kbps 44.1khz
Aleck Bennett writes:
One thing that strikes me about the "Born To Be Wild" cover is that it sounds almost exactly like a slightly doctored version of the one performed by Moog Cookbook. This band consists of Roger Joseph Manning, Jr. (Jellyfish, Beck) and Brian Kehew, playing tunes on ancient analog synths (they've also had Mark Mothersbaugh, among others, guest on their albums). It's so close that Disney could be sued for identity theft (much as Frito-Lay was sued by Tom Waits for using a sound-alike in a commercial), but my hunch is that it's either a remixed version of their cover from the album "Ye Olde Space Band" or a newly-recorded version. Thanks for all the auditory goodness!
Brian Kehew writes:
I am from the Moog Cookbook - we heard from MANY people that they were using our music. The day I went to tape it - the ride broke and closed ( a common problem, I was told!). We went again and heard it - it DOES sound almost exactly like our version of "Born to Be Wild", which is not likely a coincidence, as it is NOT a synth song, and many of the sounds we used were copied exactly. So - we found out it was Steve Bartek (of Oingo Boingo and arranger for Danny Elfman) who did the music... hmm...
Max Swanson writes:
I once ran into a Web site whose author claimed that, since the inception of Disneyland and maybe before, the Disney empire had systematically kidnapped kids and programmed them to serve the Evil Empire at a later time. Methods for programming were outlined, most involving heavy doses of fear with the movie Fantasia running full-blast and full-screen to provide cues for recall as needed by future handlers. Imagine a combination of "Clockwork Orange" and "The Manchurian Candidate." My only problem is that, after hearing today's selections and reading the excellent blurb accompanying them, it strikes me that this Web Wacko just might be onto something. Can't remember the site's URL or how I got there; but wouldn't you like to play a little Solitaire?
A great resource for digging into Disney related legends, myths, and rumors are within the Urban Legends Reference Pages at Snopes.com.