Photo of TWA Moonliner at Rocket to the Moon
The TWA Moonliner towers above Tomorrowland.
Yesterland

 

Rocket to the Moon


Presented
by TWA

 

“E” Ticket

 

Prepare for
a journey
beyond
the Earth’s
atmosphere.

Sit down inside your Rocket to the Moon passenger chamber. There’s a round projection screen in the center of the floor, another on the ceiling, and three tiered rows of seats surrounding the screen in concentric circles. What are the two screens for? The floor screen will show you where you’ve been, while the ceiling screen will show you where you're going—almost as if they were windows.

Photo of the twin domes of Rocket to the Moon
The twin domes of Rocket to the Moon allow frequent “lift-offs” into space.

You lift off with great velocity. You’re high above the launch pad, then high above Anaheim, and soon high above the Earth. As you leave the Earth’s atmosphere, the blue sky changes to the blackness of outer space. You now see the Moon growing larger on the ceiling screen as the Earth gets smaller on the floor screen.

Photo of Astro-Jets and Rocket to the Moon
The Astro-Jets are next to Rocket to the Moon.

You don’t actually land on the Moon, but you get to fly around the back side of the moon. Along the way, you learn interesting facts about the Moon and the planets. Soon you’ll be heading back to Earth. After you turn around, you see your destination on the floor screen. Prepare to land.

Photo of Rocket to the Moon entrance
The Rocket to the Moon building is designed with curves and domes.

Rocket to the Moon opened in Disneyland in 1955. Trans World Airlines sponsored the attraction until 1961. The red-and-white TWA Moonliner stood at the entrance to a show building with two identical round theaters.

Douglas Aircraft sponsored Rocket to the Moon from 1962 until 1966. The Moonliner stayed, but it sported a new, less elegant paint scheme. Blue vertical stripes down the rocket were interrupted by columns of large, red upper-case letters spelling “DOUGLAS.”

Photo of the Moonliner in the 1955 model at Disneyland - The First 50 Magical Years
The Moonliner in the 1955 model at Disneyland - The First 50 Magical Years.

In 1967, as part of the New Tomorrowland, the attraction became Flight to the Moon, presented by McDonnell Douglas—featuring a new, larger show building, an Audio-Animatronics “Mission Control” pre-show, and moving seats. The 1955-vintage Moonliner rocket was no longer anywhere to be seen.

Photo of Mission to Mars exterior
Mission to Mars was an updated version of Flight to the Moon.

From July 1969 through December 1972, six manned missions of NASA’s Apollo program landed on the Moon. Travelling to the Moon didn’t seem so futuristic anymore. The present had caught up with Tomorrowland. In March 1975, less than eight years after the opening of Flight to the Moon, the attraction was updated to become Mission to Mars.

Photo of Mission to Mars interior
Mission to Mars interior

Mission to Mars closed in November 1992. But this time, the closing wasn’t to make way for a major update or brand new attraction. Except for a short period in 1996, when part of the building was used for the temporary Toy Story Funhouse, the former Mission to Mars was simply shut. It was part of a sad corner of Disneyland with several other shuttered attractions that weren’t replaced until years later (or not replaced at all): America Sings (closed 1988), the Skyway to Fantasyland (closed 1994), and the PeopleMover (closed 1995).

Photo of new Moonliner and Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port.
The Rocket Rods ride passes right above Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port.

In 1998, the building was transformed into Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port restaurant, as part of the new New Tomorrowland project. A new Moonliner, approximately two thirds the height of the original, landed near the restaurant’s entrance. The 1998 Moonliner is red-and-white, just like the original—only now it’s the red-and-white color scheme of Coca Cola, not the red-and-white color scheme of TWA.

Photo of refreshment seating at the new Moonliner
The 1998 Moonliner is “Delivering Refreshment to a Thirsty Galaxy.”

The sponsors of Rocket to the Moon are now yester-companies. American Airlines acquired the assets of Trans World Airlines (TWA) in 2001, marking the end of the once-mighty global carrier TWA. Aerospace manufacturer Douglas Aircraft Company merged with the McDonnell Aircraft in 1967 to form McDonnell Douglas (the sponsor of Flight to the Moon). When McDonnell Douglas merged with Boeing in 1997 to form The Boeing Company, it was the end of the Douglas name and the “DC” (Douglas Commercial) series of airliners.

Photo of Stitch’s Great Escape! exterior
Stitch’s Great Escape! in Tomorrowland at Magic Kingdom Park.

When Walt Disney World opened in 1971, Flight to the Moon was one of the original attractions at Magic Kingdom Park. As at Disneyland Park, it became Mission to Mars in 1975. Twenty years later, The ExtraTERRORestrial Alien Encounter, an intense, fear-inducing attraction, replaced Mission to Mars in 1995. Stitch’s Great Escape! starring the less-menacing alien from Disney’s Lilo & Stitch (2002), replaced Alien Encounter in 2004.

The pre-shows changed; the main shows changed; and the decor changed. But these attractions all used the same infrastructure with a single stand-up pre-show area that led to two round theaters with concentric circles of tiered seating.


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© 1997-2010 Werner Weiss — Disclaimers, Copyright, and Trademarks

Updated January 15, 2010.

Photo of TWA Moonliner at Rocket to the Moon: by Charles R. Lympany, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photo of the twin domes of Rocket to the Moon: 1959 by Fred M. Nelson, Sr.
Photo of Astro-Jets and Rocket to the Moon: by Charles R. Lympany, courtesy of Chris Taylor.
Photo of Rocket to the Moon show building: 1958 by Merrill A. Garner.
The Moonliner in the 1955 model at The First 50 Magical Years: 2006 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of Mission to Mars exterior: 1991 bt Chris Bales.
Photo of Mission to Mars interior: 1995 by Chris Bales.
Photo of new Moonliner and Redd Rockett’s Pizza Port: 2000 by Werner Weiss.
Photo of refreshment seating at the new Moonliner: 2005 by Allen Huffman.
Stitch’s Great Escape! in Magic Kingdom Park: 2007 by Werner Weiss.