The original iteration of the attraction, known as Soarin' Over California, was an opening day attraction at Disney California Adventure on February 8, 2001. The initial version took guests over several locations in California, and included a pre-show tribute to the history of California's aviation industry. Due to its consistent popularity, Soarin' Over California was duplicated at Epcot in Walt Disney World as Soarin' in 2005.
The current global version of the ride debuted at Shanghai Disneyland as Soaring Over the Horizon on June 16, 2016. Concurrently, the American versions were also replaced with the new film as Soarin' Around the World on the next day, June 17. A fourth attraction was announced in 2016 for Tokyo DisneySea, and is expected to open in 2019.
Soarin was first conceptualized in 1996 as "Ultra Flight," a name which can still be seen on the tower consoles of the California Adventure attraction. It was to feature an OMNIMAX screen with an inverted track allowing guests to fly over California's landmarks. The attraction would have three load levels and the system would operate on a horizontal cable, much like a dry cleaner's rack. This plan was abandoned, however, when it was determined that the construction and labor costs for that design would be prohibitive. It seemed that Soarin wouldn't become a reality until engineer Mark Sumner developed a different idea for the ride vehicles, using an Erector Set and string to create a working model. This design would allow Disney to efficiently load guests on one level instead of three, thus cutting construction and labor costs greatly.
Each ride vehicle consists of three rows of seats under a wing-like canopy, and has a capacity of 87 guests at a time. After guests have been safely restrained in the vehicle using standard lap belts, the canopy descends slightly and a cantilever system lifts the chairs forward and into the air with the guests' feet dangling freely. The vehicle is lifted forward so that guests look into a large, concave movie screen onto which aerial views are projected. The scenes were shot with an IMAX HD frame rate - 48 frames per second, twice the conventional output for regular films. Since the vehicle is moved forward toward the center of the dome, guests can only see the images projected on the screen and experience the sensation of flight. The ride structure contains about one million pounds (454,000 kg) of steel, and 37 tons (33.5 metric tonnes) are lifted during each ride cycle.
To enhance the illusion of flight, subtle vertical movements of the seats are synchronized to the film. Sensations of horizontal motion are created using a combination of vertical carriage movement and turning the image on the screen. In addition, scents complementing the various scenes are injected into the air streams blowing on riders. These scents include rose blossoms in the Taj Mahal scene, the aroma of grass in the Africa scene, and a sea breeze scent in the South Pacific scene.
Disney California Adventure
Soarin' Around the World is located in the Grizzly Peak Airfield section of Disney California Adventure at the Disneyland Resort. It is one of the most popular attractions in the resort and usually has wait times ranging from 30 to 150 minutes. However, the attraction is tied into the park's FASTPASS system, allowing guests the option of bypassing a long wait.
Before entering the theater area, guests are placed in one of three preshow areas, called "Alpha Gate", "Bravo Gate", or "Charlie Gate," (named for the first three letters of the NATO phonetic alphabet). Just before boarding, guests watch a pre-boarding video hosted by their chief flight attendant, Patrick, portrayed by actor Patrick Warburton.
The attraction opened in 2001 as Soarin' Over California in what was then the Condor Flats area of the park. In early 2015, the attraction closed for refurbishment as the surrounding area was transformed into Grizzly Peak Airfield. It reopened on May 15, 2015, with new exterior theming and with updates to its screen and projection system. The attraction now features the IMAX Laser 4K projection system. In addition to the projection system changes, several exterior changes occurred, including a replacement of the mock-up RS-25 rocket engine with a fire lookout tower.
From January to March 2016, the attraction operated as Soarin' Over California intermittently in order to prepare for the introduction of the Soarin' Around the World ride film. The original film was shown until June 15, with the attraction being closed on June 16 to prepare for the new film debuting on June 17, 2016.
The attraction was duplicated, simply as Soarin', and officially opened inside "The Land" pavilion at Epcot in Walt Disney World on May 5, 2005. Unlike the Disney California Adventure version, the idea is that guests are taking flights to California, rather than already being there. This is further reinforced in the theming that you are loaded into "gates" and with airport-themed spiels which reference "Flight 5505", which is a homage to the opening day of the attraction. Its cast members wear costumes that resemble flight attendant costumes, whereas the California version uses airfield crew costumes.
The Epcot standby queue originally featured pictures of natural wonders from around the world, not just California. There is very little reference to the fact that the ride only features California. The queue currently utilizes a new infrared technology that allows guests to participate in interactive games. In 2009, this interactive game technology appeared in the Magic Kingdom as part of a seven-month overhaul of Space Mountain.
The attraction closed for refurbishment on January 4, 2016, originally slated to reopen on June 17, with a third theater to coincide with the release of the new Soarin' Around the World film. The ride reopened with the original film on May 27, with the change to the new film occurring on June 17, 2016.
The attraction was retooled as Soaring Over the Horizon for Shanghai Disneyland. The attraction was not part of the park's original design plans, and was added only after Walt Disney Imaginnering began development on it for the American parks. Located in the Adventure Isle section, the ride opened with the park on June 16, 2016.
On April 27, 2016, officials with Tokyo Disney Resort announced a number of new attractions for both Tokyo Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea parks in the coming years. Included in the announcement was a proposed version of Soarin' to be located in the Mediterranean Harbor section of Tokyo DisneySea. The announcement revealed that this version will have a different theme, with the ride vehicles resembling Renaissance-era flying machines envisioned by Leonardo da Vinci, and that it was planned to open during the 2019 fiscal year for the resort.
Soarin' Over California
The original ride film, which lasts about four minutes and 51 seconds, takes guests on a simulated hang glider tour of California. Appropriate scents (citrus, pine, sagebrush, ocean mist) fill the air as the ride vehicles themselves move gently to simulate the sensations of flight. In addition to the state's various landscapes, the ride also highlights its diverse recreation, including snow skiing, river rafting, kayaking, golf, horseback riding, hot air ballooning, surfing and of course, hang gliding. The locations visited are:
The original Soarin' Over California ride film at both Disney California Adventure and Epcot used an orchestral score by composer Jerry Goldsmith, who is said to have come down from his first ride in tears. In addition to finding the ride visually beautiful and magical, he said that his father was a pilot who loved all things Californian. "I'd do anything to be part of this project," Goldsmith said. "I'd even score the film for free." The soundtrack he wrote plays throughout the entire attraction, starting with a crescendo in the low strings while the screen is still dark. Numerous variations of a serene theme for horn and strings can be heard, as well as several statements of a fanfare that accompanies the film's grandest vistas. The entire ride score can be found on recent Disneyland Resort and Walt Disney World official albums, and the exit music is also played as part of a loop in the Disneyland Resort Esplanade and Epcot's entrance plaza.
Soaring Over the Horizon and Soarin' Around the World
An updated version of the Soarin' attraction debuted at the Adventure Isle section of Shanghai Disneyland as Soaring Over the Horizon, on June 16, 2016. On August 15, 2015 at the D23 Expo, it was announced that the attractions at Epcot and Disney California Adventure would debut versions of the new Soaring Over the Horizon ride film, titled Soarin' Around the World. This new ride film features locations, landscapes, and landmarks across six continents of the world. Unlike the original ride film, the updated version features transitions between scenes, including close encounters with a seaplane, a kite, and an eagle. The updated attractions opened on June 17, 2016 at Disney California Adventure and Epcot, along with a third theater for the latter location. The locations visited are:
Soarin' Around the World and Soaring Over the Horizon, received a new score, composed by Bruce Broughton, based on Goldsmith's original themes. The new score was performed by the London Studio Orchestra.
Although the attraction would change, it could keep the Jerry Goldsmith underscore.
Soarin' over the Horizon in Shanghai is the only one to be located in a "Magic Kingdom"-style park.