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Soarin' Over California

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Soarin' Over California
SOC logo
Disney California Adventure
Land Golden State (Condor Flats district) (2001-2010)

Condor Flats (2010-Present)

Designer Walt Disney Imagineering
Attraction type IMAX-type hang glider simulator
Opening date February 8, 2001
Hosted by Patrick Warburton
Music Jerry Goldsmith
Vehicle names Alpha, Bravo, Charlie
Vehicle capacity A & C-27, B-33
Ride duration 4:51 minutes
Height requirements 40" (102 cm)
Screen height 80 ft
Film speed 48 frames per second
Soarin'
Soarin logo
Epcot
Land Future World (The Land)
Opening date May 5, 2005
Previous attractions Kitchen Kabaret (1982-1994)
Food Rocks (1994-2004)
Soarin' to tower, we're ready for take off.
―Patrick Warburton

Soarin' Over California is a flight simulator attraction that opened on February 8, 2001 at Disney California Adventure, and later at The Land pavilion at Epcot as Soarin' on May 5, 2005. Tinker Bell makes a cameo appearance at the end when you're flying over Disneyland.

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Retroposter for the original attraction.

Development

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Soarin' Over California 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 within consists of three rows of seats under a wing-like canopy. 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 of California 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 of steel, and 37 tons are lifted during each ride cycle. To enhance the illusion of flight, subtle vertical movements of the seats are synchronized to the film. According to cast members who operate this attraction, the carriages do not move horizontally.

Sensations of horizontal motion are created using a combination of vertical carriage movement and then turning image on the screen. In addition, scents complementing the various scenes are injected into the air streams blowing on riders. In the Ventura orange field scene, for example, guests are treated to the scent of orange blossoms. The mountain scenes are accompanied by the aroma of evergreens. The Monterey and Malibu scenes have the scent of a sea breeze.

Premise

  • Experience the Golden State like never before while "hang-gliding” over landscapes as varied as they are beautiful.
  • Feel like you're flying—and even smell what you're seeing as you skim rolling waves, powdery ski slopes, majestic redwood forests, fragrant orange groves and familiar landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • In the grand Disney tradition, Imagineers pulled out all the stops to make fantasy reality, bringing California to life using a 180-degree IMAX projection dome and aerially captured footage that reproduces the flight path of a hang-glider. Thrill as you're lifted 40 feet in the air, engulfed in the stunning panoramas, swept from one scenic locale to the next!

Versions

Both versions have a hilarious safety spiel starring Patrick Warburton.

Disney California Adventure

At California Adventure, the attraction is placed in Condor Flats, a desert aviation base. Inside is Wings of Fame, a hall of fame honoring significant Californian aircraft. Another section is devoted to various aviators such as the Wright Brothers, Amelia Earhart, James Banning, Chuck Yeager and Howard Hughes.

From the hall of fame area, the queue splits off to the two Omnimax theaters and a trio of pre-show holding areas for each: Alpha Gate, Bravo Gate and Charlie Gate. A safety video by Chief Flight Attendant Patrick (played by Patrick Warburton) plays before guests enter the theater.

Epcot

Soarin queue at Epcot

The queue of Soarin' at Epcot.

Soarin' officially opened inside The Land pavilion on May 5, 2005. The cast members wear costumes that resemble flight attendant costumes, whereas the Disney California Adventure version uses airfield crew costumes. 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 include that you are onboard "Flight 5505", which is a homage to the opening day of the attraction (May 5, 2005).

Interactive Queue

The Epcot standby queue originally featured pictures of natural wonders from around the world, not just California. There was (and still 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.

Now, as you ready for your aerial adventure, check out the interactive games you can play while in the standby line. State-of-the-art infrared technology allows you to participate in up to 5 different games on massive digital projection screens using your body. Train your bird for a race, collect treasures as you pilot a hot-air balloon, “pop the blobs” to reveal a picture underneath, or create a virtual landscape by moving mountains and planting seeds.

Summary

The attraction, which lasts about 4 minutes and 57 seconds, takes 87 guests at a time on a simulation hang glider tour of California, flying over the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, Redwood Creek in Humboldt County, Napa Valley, Monterey, Lake Tahoe, Yosemite National Park (including Yosemite Falls and Half Dome), the PGA West golf course in La Quinta (credited in the queue video presentation as Palm Springs), Camarillo, Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, San Diego, Malibu, Los Angeles, and Disneyland itself during the Christmas season (with Tinker Bell making an appearance at the end, using her wand to fire off Pixie Dust that then transforms into fireworks).

The last few scenes transition from daytime to dusk and then to night, culminating in Disneyland's Holiday fireworks surrounding the guests in the nighttime sky. 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, and hang gliding, the main theme of the ride. The U.S. Air Force Thunderbirds and aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) at San Diego's Naval Air Station North Island are also featured.

An original score by film composer Jerry Goldsmith accompanies the imagery, and appropriate scents such as citrus, pine, sagebrush, ocean mist fill the air as the "hang gliders" themselves move gently to simulate the sensations of flight.


Disney California Adventure
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Buena Vista Street: Red Car Trolley

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A Bug's Land: It's Tough to Be a Bug! | Flik's Flyers | Heimlich's Chew Chew Train

Paradise Pier: Toy Story Midway Mania! | California Screamin' | Mickey's Fun Wheel | Goofy's Sky School | Silly Symphony Swings | Golden Zephyr | King Triton's Carousel of the Sea | Games of the Boardwalk | Jumpin' Jellyfish | The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Undersea Adventure | World of Color | Ariel's Grotto

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Resorts: Disney's Yacht Club Resort | Disney's Beach Club Resort & Villas | Disney's BoardWalk Inn | Disney's BoardWalk Villas | Disney's Caribbean Beach Resort

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