The Rocketeer is a 1991 American period superhero film from Walt Disney Pictures, produced by Charles Gordon, Lawrence Gordon, and Lloyd Levin, directed by Joe Johnston, that stars Bill Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Alan Arkin, Timothy Dalton, Paul Sorvino, and Tiny Ron Taylor. The film is based upon the character of the same name created by comic book artist and writer Dave Stevens.
Set in 1938 Los Angeles, California, The Rocketeer tells the story of stunt pilot Cliff Secord who stumbles upon a hidden rocket powered jet pack that he thereafter uses to fly without the need of an aircraft. His heroic deeds soon attract the attention of Howard Hughes and the FBI, who are hunting for the missing jet pack, as well as the Nazi operatives that stole it from Hughes.
Development for The Rocketeer started as far back as 1983, when Stevens sold the film rights. Steve Miner and William Dear considered directing The Rocketeer before Johnston signed on. Screenwriters Danny Bilson and Paul De Meo had creative differences with Disney, which caused the film to languish in development hell. The studio also intended to change the trademark helmet design; Disney CEO Michael Eisner wanted a straight NASA-type helmet, but Johnston convinced the studio otherwise. Johnston also had to convince Disney to let him cast unknown actor Billy Campbell in the lead role. Filming for The Rocketeer lasted from September 19, 1990 to January 22, 1991. The visual effects sequences were created and designed by Industrial Light & Magic, and were supervised by animation director Wes Takahashi.
The film was released on June 21, 1991, and received positive reviews from critics. Plans for Rocketeer sequels were abandoned after the film was a disappointment at the box office, grossing only $46 million on a $35 million budget.