LivingTravelSoarin 'Around the World is one of the best...

Soarin 'Around the World is one of the best Disney games

An instant classic and one of Imagineering’s greatest achievements, Soarin ‘Around the World is a fast-paced adventure that engages your senses and figuratively, if not literally, sends you, well, freaking out. It debuted at the Disneyland Resort as Soarin ‘Over California and was so popular that Disney cloned the Epcot ride from Walt Disney World. Over the years, the attraction has improved, and in 2016, it introduced entirely new content with new air destinations. The Mouse also added an additional version of the Shanghai Disneyland ride.

  • Excitement scale (0 = Wimpy !, 10 = Yikes!): 2.5 Simulation of smooth movement, moderate height and simulation of «flight».
  • Attraction type: flying theater, a kind of motion simulator attraction
  • Height requirement: 40 inches (102 cm)
  • Location: Inside Epcot’s The Land Pavilion at Future World at Disney World and on Grizzly Peak at Disney California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort
  • Use Fastpass at Disney California Adventure. For Epcot, find out how to use MyMagic + and Fastpass +.

The old aviation hangar at Disney California Adventure belies the high-tech attraction inside. Epcot’s The Land is the place to go soarin ‘at Walt Disney World. Sharing the lower deck with the massive Sunshine Seasons food court (where you can find a one-of-a-kind and delicious “fast casual” fare), the entrance and queue area for the ride looks like a bustling modern airport terminal.

At both locations, Patrick Warburton (Seinfeld’s “Puddy”) provides a short pre-flight video. Passengers enter one of identical theaters each containing nine ten-seat motion base units. The units do not have floors, which allows the legs of the passengers to dangle. After passengers fasten their seat belts, a roof swings down over each unit to provide the illusion of a hang glider and focus the passenger’s field of vision on the massive domed Ominmax screen ahead. (Universal Studio’s more intense Simpsons ride also uses an Omnimax screen.)

Would you be able to handle soarin ‘?

The soaring soundtrack begins, motion units soar toward the screen, and passengers glide through the air. The illusion is dazzling. The seat benches have a fairly limited range of motion, but they sure make passengers feel like they’re in the air.

If the heights make you a little dizzy, let alone the idea of true hang gliding, don’t necessarily discount Soarin’s virtual hang gliding attraction. While the overall ride is thrilling, even thrilling, the ride experience is pretty smooth and doesn’t contain any typical thrill-ride tricks. Once riders get over the initial feel, it’s generally a smooth ride. Very young riders may find the attraction a bit overwhelming, but the 40-inch height restriction would prevent them from riding anyway.

If you’re on the line, I’d say go for it; If you start to feel uncomfortable, close your eyes and the sensation should subside. (If you’re a scary cat, check out more Walt Disney World tips for Wimps on Soarin ‘and the other theme park complex attractions.)

Most riders will want to keep their eyes peeled for Soarin’s ride. The adventure includes dramatic swoops over the South Pacific, the Great Wall of China, Sydney Harbor, and the Great Pyramids of Egypt.

Scene-to-scene transitions – clouds and fog momentarily obscure the view and set the stage for the next view – are a bit unnerving. On some level, Soarin ‘demands a suspension of reality, but no amount of goblin dust can justify turning the desert to waves in the blink of an eye. Also, unlike most Disney attractions, Soarin ‘does not tell a linear story; It’s a bunch of wordless scenes mixed together in one big travel notebook.

Other distractions include whale rape which has obviously been processed with computer animation. And depending on how far you are from the center of the theater, you can see a very distorted Eiffel Tower in the Paris scene.

Hanging around the world

But these seem like little objections to such a wildly unique attraction. A multimodal ride, Soarin ‘incorporates sensory effects such as fans to lightly ruffle riders’ hair and enhance flight fantasy. The sense of smell even plays an important role as the unmistakable scent of flowers accompanies a step above India. It is the kinetic and perceived sensation of movement, however, that is most remarkable. Soarin ‘takes the concept of a flight simulator ride, pioneered in attractions like Disney’s Star Tours, and takes it to a new level using his innovative flight motion bases to conjure hang gliding.

While representing a feat of next-generation Imagineering, Soarin ‘also borrows from the’ speed room ‘technology used in previous Disney attractions such as Disneyland’s PeopleMover and Epcot’s Horizons and World of Motion. At those low-tech rides, vehicles on a track would travel to a screen projecting images that suggest forward motion. The riders felt like they were speeding towards the screens. The only remaining Disney speed room, I think, is in Buzz Lightyear’s Space Ranger Spin in the Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom.

It maintains the effect of If You had Wings, the attraction that once occupied its Tomorrowland building.

However, Soarin’s motion bases offer greater freedom of movement than speed room vehicles and are more adept at fooling passengers into thinking they are immersed in projected images. IMAX film is projected at a higher frame rate than conventional film, which makes it realistic and helps reinforce the illusion.

The concept that Disney introduced has been adopted by other manufacturers and amusement parks. In the industry, copycat games are known generically as “flying theaters.” Disney’s Soarin ‘, however, is still the best of the bunch.

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