Thursday, June 23, 2016

Attraction Review: Soarin' Takes Flight Around The World!

On June 16, Soarin' Around The World made it's world debut as part of the grand opening of the new Shanghai Disney Resort in China.  The very next day, the new film premiered at the U.S. Disney theme parks.  At Walt Disney World's Epcot, Soarin' opened a third theater inside The Land Pavilion, in an effort to reduce long waits for this very popular attraction.  Initial reports indicated a massive crowd queued up for the ride at park opening, but by mid-day, the stand-by waits were as little as thirty minutes.

Over at Disney California Adventure, Soarin' Over California also changed to the new international film.  There was no fanfare or build-up for the new attraction at the park where the Soarin' attraction was born.  The ride closed for one day to change the film and add new scents (the attraction went through a lengthy refurbishment in 2015 to prepare for the new film).

I arrived at Disney California Adventure that morning not knowing what to expect.  All I knew for sure was that I was going to ride Soarin' twice, so that I could give an accurate review.  Mission accomplished!  The park opened at 8AM.  But this was an "Extra Magic Hours" day, so hotel guests got into the park an hour before everyone else.  I'm assuming Soarin' was open during that time.  When I got to the attraction at 8:15, the stand-by wait was 45-minutes.  I grabbed a FastPass, and did something else to pass the time.

The queue area for the DCA ride has not changed.  Only the lower panel of the wood sign in front of the attraction was changed to reflect the new name of the film. Once inside, everything is still the same, with the photos of California's aviators on the walls in the first section of the building.  The music may be slightly different in the queue area.  One thing noticeably different is the fact that you can now hear thunderous rumbling coming from the theaters.

Once in the boarding area, the pre-ride video that once showed the names of locations in California flying by has been replaced with a "Raiders of The Lost Ark" type of graphic, where a line travels to a location on a map, and the name appears.  Up next is the pre-flight safety video with your "Chief Flight Attendant, Patrick."  Fans will be happy to know that actor Patrick Warburton is still featured.  In fact, it's the exact same video.  In a somewhat strange lack of a move, Disney chose not to update the video.  Instead, they edited the clip, removing only the sound when he says "Soarin' Over California".  In what looks like a bad Godzilla movie, his lips keep moving during "Over California", but you don't hear it.


SEMI SPOILER ALERT (some new scenes will be revealed below)

After you enter the theater and board the attraction, you take off, and the film begins.  While Disney did a nice job of teasing the new film, they did a masterful job of not revealing too much.  The film starts with a view of the Matterhorn in Switzerland, before transitioning to the Arctic Circle where polar bears frolic around and a massive section of glacier falls into the water.

From north, we travel way south, to Sydney Harbour in Australia, where we see two famous Sydney landmarks.  The journey takes us to several other amazing landmarks, monuments and world wonders, before finishing back at Disneyland.  Only at Disney California Adventure will the film begin and end with a Matterhorn.  That's because the Epcot version now finishes at Epcot, and the Shanghai version ends in that park.

The scents that went away from the DCA version of the ride earlier this year are back.  Even one or two new scents will be experienced during the ride.  Thankfully the score for this film is pretty-much the same, with an updated version of the original "Soarin' Over California" score by composer Jerry Goldsmith.  Fans will appreciate the addition of new instrumentation throughout.

I know many people (especially fans of Soarin' Over California) were skeptical of a new Soarin' film replacing the California version in a California park.  Many people thought this would be better suited just for Epcot.  I've probably ridden the original Soarin' more than one hundred times.  Most of those were at DCA. I have been a huge fan of this attraction, the music and the California theme ever since it opened in 2001.

But as well as Soarin' Over California was made, and as great as the original version of this ride was, I knew there was an opportunity to take this new format around the world, and highlight more sights. With Soarin' Around The World, Disney has done just that.  They've also added a whole bunch of new Disney "Magic" to this film.  Sure, there's no longer a golf ball flying at the screen (supposedly hit by former Disney CEO Michael Eisner).  But the new effects in this film will impress, and even surprise many riders.   I believe they could have selected a couple of different locations.  But everything seems to fit.  Maybe a future version will give us New York or another major city.  Maybe we'll someday see a rain forest, or other natural wonders.  I was hoping to see the Grand Canyon. But that's just me.

What I do know is this new version of Soarin' has created an exciting new ride for these parks, and the millions of fans who visit them.  I am so happy I got to ride this classic attraction twice on opening day, and look forward to returning tomorrow, and beyond.  In 2001, Soarin' Over California gave us a brand-new attraction experience, that instantly became a Disney classic. This year, technology and Disney Imagineering has raised the bar on that experience, giving us Soarin' Around The World, and taking a great attraction to new heights.

My Grade For  "SOARIN' OVER THE WORLD": A+

Did you know? 
Jerry Vargas is an Authorized Disney Travel Specialist with Magical Vacation Planner. He can plan all of the details for your next Disney dream vacation.  His services are free, and Magical Vacation Planner is recognized as one of the top Disney "Earmarked" Travel Agencies in the United States.

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