Disney Historian Jim Korkis goes up into his imaginary attic to rummage around his archives and often stumbles across an unusual story about Walt Disney World. Those who have met me know that I take real joy in talking about Walt Disney.
As part of the Summer 1991 promotion for the film, a live Rocketeer lifted off by jet pack and flew out and above the Chinese Theater courtyard during each evening’s presentation of the “Sorcery in the Sky” fireworks show.
Even today, on the left side of the forecourt with the cement handprints and autographs of other actual celebrities, visitors can find the imprints of the boots and “blast marks” of The Rocketeer in cement, reminiscent of a scene planned for the final film.
A location for original props from The Rocketeer that might be missed by guests visiting Disney Hollywood Studios is the Sci-Fi Dine-In Restaurant. If these items are still present and if you ask politely, the servers might let you wander briefly down the aisles that look like the back of theatrical flats that lead into the main dining area.
On the left side, down to the right and near the bottom is the black and gold front cover of the South Seas Club menu-secured under plexiglass. The South Seas Club was the scene of a showdown between the Rocketeer and villain Neville Sinclair and his thugs.
Wandering a little farther down, just before the entrance to the main dining area, high on the left wall is a rocket pack that was used in the actual film. Directly to the right and about waist level and protected by plexiglass is a prop copy of the Los Angeles Examiner newspaper with the headline “Who is the Rocketeer?”
It is amazing to examine these artifacts up close-to see the care and effort that was put into something that might have been glimpsed just briefly in the actual film.
When Disney-MGM Studios opened in 1989, in the Echo Lake park area had the Lakeside News, a newsstand selling comic books and publications like old issues of “Life” magazine and other souvenirs. By 1991, to theme in with The Rocketeer, it became Peevy’s Polar Pipeline, featuring “Frozen Coca-Cola Concoctions” as well as regular soft drinks, water, and snacks.
The interior of the location is filled with welding tanks, gauges and other mechanical items that might have been found in Ambrose “Peevy” Peabody’s workshop in 1938. Peevy was the best friend of Cliff Secord, the Rocketeer. Very prominently displayed on the left side wall is a Rocketeer helmet and below it is a rocket jet pack.
Many versions of the Rocketeer helmet were made for the film because, in those days, before CGI became common, the stunts were performed by live stunt men or through the use of miniature models. The helmet showcased at Peevy’s is obviously a stunt helmet because it is wider and has larger eye lenses.
This helmet was meant to form around a sky-diving helmet and designed to be easy to “break away” in case an emergency arose during the stunt. The helmet is wider than the “hero helmet” (the prop used by the main actor and in close-ups) for that reason and there is a slight splitting along the side seams common among the stunt helmets for the film. The eye lens area is larger to give the stunt person greater visibility.
Moving closer to the posted menus on either side of the location will also reveal the blueprints for the rocket jet pack behind the items listed for sale.
A Rocketeer jetpack was on display area in the “One Man’s Dream” attraction, but has now been removed.
I am sure that several readers may also recall when items like Cliff Secord’s GeeBee flying racer and the Bulldog Diner were once prominent items on the Backlot Tour. I think I’ll go watch the film again and then visit DHS.
Check out Jim’s other “From the Attic” Blogs
Full features from the Walt Disney World Chronicles series by Jim Korkis can be found in the AllEars® Archives: /ae/archives.htm
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Jim Korkis is an internationally respected Disney Historian who has written hundreds of articles about all things Disney for more than three decades. As a former Walt Disney World cast member, his skills and historical knowledge were utilized by Disney Entertainment, Imagineering, Disney Design Group, Yellow Shoes Marketing, Disney Cruise Line, Disney Feature Animation Florida, Disney Institute, WDW Travel Company, Disney Vacation Club and many other departments.
He is the author of three new books, available in both paperback and Kindle versions on Amazon.com:
The Book of Mouse: A Celebration of Walt Disney’s Mickey Mouse
Who’s Afraid of the Song of the South AND
"The REVISED Vault of Walt":