Soarin' Around the World

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Soarin' Around the World
Guests flying over The Great Wall of China.
Land Future World
Theme Flight
Opening date May 5, 2005 (as Soarin' Over California)
June 17, 2016 (as Soarin' Around the World)
Ride duration 5:00 minutes
Type Motion simulator
Disney Genie + Yes

Soarin' Around the World (previously known as Soarin' Over California) is an attraction located within The Land pavilion in Epcot.

Attraction History

Construction in Disneyland

The concept of Soarin' began in 1996, when Disney Imagineers began work on an attraction for the unbuilt Disney’s California Adventure park. The attraction was originally designed as a motion simulator type attraction known as Ultraflight [1], which was to hoist vehicles over a large OMNIMAX screen, giving guests the sensation that they were hang-gliding over California [2]. Development on the attraction hit a snag however, when Imagineers could not figure out a ride mechanism that would achieve the sensation they were trying to create. Originally, Imagineers had wanted to use the "dry cleaning idea", which would have consisted of a series of little hang gliders on a conveyor that moved around [3]. This ride mechanism (as well as others) however, proved unsuccessful and the attraction was eventually stalled [3]. It was not until Imagineer Mark Sumner came up with a system that would allow guests to board at the same place, and then be raised forward into the screen that the attraction became a reality [3]. The idea for the new ride mechanism came to Sumner when he was working at his home over the weekend, and he built a model in his attic using an erector set [3].

Although the ride vehicle issue was solved, it still took Imagineers two years of preparation and filming before the attraction was actually built. Disney filmed the video for ride, from a helicopter using a 48 frames per second IMAX camera. The filming itself took a good deal of time, as Disney had to receive special permission and permits to film many of the attraction's locations [3]. Despite the setbacks, the attraction opened in Disney's California Adventure as Soarin’ Over California on February 8, 2001 [1].

Construction in Walt Disney World

Mark Sumner with his Soarin' ride model.

Due to the overwhelming success of Soarin' in Disney’s California Adventure, Disney executives decided to make a copy of the attraction in Walt Disney World [1]. Initially, Soarin' was to be housed in one of the World Showcase pavilions in Epcot, however when a suitable pavilion could not be agreed upon, the attraction was moved the The Land pavilion instead [2]. With the location now determined, Disney announced the creation of Soarin’ on October 10, 2003 (although construction had quietly started in August) [3].

In order to fit Soarin' into The Land, a new show building was created behind the pavilion [1]. The old Food Rocks Theater was then walled off to create a hallway connecting the show building to the rest of The Land[1]. Additionally, the building was designed to blend in with the nearby Imagination! pavilion so that it would not take away from that pavilion's architecture[1]. On January 3, 2004, Food Rocks closed, and later in the year the programming and testing of Soarin' began[1]. In January of 2005 the entire Land pavilion closed in order to facilitate the integration of Soarin’[1]. During the closure, changes were also made to Living with the Land, as well as to the pavilion's restaurants and atrium [1]. Finally on May 5, 2005 Soarin' opened to the public [4].

In March of 2015, Disney announced that Soarin' would receive a third theater and an upgraded projection system in 2016 [5]. As it turned out however, Disney had even bigger plans for the attraction in mind.

Soarin' Around the World

On August 16, 2015 Disney announced that Soarin' would be receiving a new film called Soarin' Around the World [6]. According to Disney:

"Soarin’ Around the World will take guests on a journey to far-flung lands, over some of the world’s most unique natural landscapes and man-made wonders. It will use the same technology that will make the Shanghai attraction, Soaring Over the Horizon, so spectacular, ensuring that the very best Disney has to offer can be experienced at Disney Parks around the world." [6]

On January 4, 2016 Soarin' Over California was closed to make way for Soarin' Around the World. At this time, a third theater was added to the attraction, and the existing projectors were updated [7]. On May 27, 2016 the original Soarin' Around California reopened to guests for a brief period of time [8]. Finally, on June 16, 2016, Soarin Over California closed for good, and on June 17, Soarin' Around the World made its debut [9].

Attraction Plot

Soarin' Over California

Soarin' Over California was a motion simulator attraction that allowed guests to take a trip to California on Flight 5505.


The queue for the original Soarin' was the first Disney queue to become interactive. While in line for the attraction, guests could play video games which included a bird racing game, and "Pop the Blob". Guests moved through the queue after playing each game, thus making the line movements less frequent, but more drastic. After reaching the end of the queue, guests were separated into Concourse A or Concourse B. Once inside, guests would watch a safety video hosted by Patrick Warburton, before entering their theater and departing for their flight

The Flight

Guests flying over Yosemite Valley.

Soarin’ Over California began with guests boarding their ride vehicles and being lifted into the air. The vehicles then "traveled" to various locations in California including:

  • San Francisco- Where guests flew over the Golden Gate Bridge.
  • The Redwood Creek- Where guests saw various boaters and wildlife.
  • The Napa Valley- Where guests saw different hot air balloons.
  • The Monterey Coast- Where guests could feel the ocean breeze and see boaters. Guests could also smell the sea breeze here.
  • Yosemite National Park- Where guests flew over a giant waterfall, and also saw another hang glider.
  • Lake Tahoe- Where guests flew over various skiers.
  • Palm Springs- Where guests flew over the La Quinta Golf Course, as sagebrush permeated the air.
  • Camarillo- Where guests flew over orange groves, even smelling the oranges themselves.
  • San Diego- Where guests flew over the USS Stennis aircraft carrier.
  • The Anza-Borrego Desert State Park- Where guests could see the Thunderbirds and fly over horseback riders. In this scene they once again smelled sagebrush.
  • Malibu- Where guests could see various surfers, as the smell of the sea breeze lingered in the air.
  • Los Angeles- Where guests would swoop down over a freeway, as they saw the city lit up at night.
  • Disneyland- Where guests saw an aerial view of the park, as fireworks went off and Tinkerbell flew by.

After seeing Disneyland, guests would land back on the ground and exit.

Soarin' Around the World

Like its predecessor, Soarin' Around the World is a motion simulator attraction that allows guests to take flight in a hang glider. As opposed to the previous journey over California landmarks, Soarin' Around the World takes guests to six continents.


The queue for Soarin' Around the World remained essentially unchanged from Soarin' Over California. The only major difference being the addition of Concourse C, which leads to the attraction's new third theater. Once inside the loading area, guests once again watch the safety video hosted by Patrick Warburton.

The Flight

After guests board their ride vehicles they ascend into the air. On their flight they visit a wide variety of destinations. These locations include:

A promotional photo of guests riding Soarin' Around the World
  • The Matterhorn-Swiss Alps (Valais, Switzerland)
  • Ilulissat Icefjord- Disko Bay (Ilulissat, Greenland)
  • Sydney Opera House-Bennelong Point (Sydney, Australia)
  • Neuschwastein Castle- Bavaria (Hoheschwangau, Germany)
  • Mount Kilimanjaro-Amboseli National Park (Tanzania- Kenya Border)
  • The Great Wall of China- Photography Locator (Near Jinshanling)
  • The Great Pyramid of Giza- El Giza, Egypt
  • The Taj Mahal- Agra (Uttar Pradesh, India)
  • Monument Valley- Utah-Arizona Border (Part of Navajo National Monument)
  • Lau Island- Lau Island Group (Fiji)
  • Igazu Falls- Argentina-Brazil Border
  • Eiffel Tower- Paris, France
  • Epcot- Walt Disney World

Attraction Score

The score for Soarin' Over California was written by Jerry Goldsmith who was reportedly in tears after riding the attraction for the first time [10]. Goldsmith's father was a pilot who loved California, and the composer was quoted as saying, “I'd do anything to be part of this project...I'd even score the film for free" [10]. The official Disney website states that Goldsmith was "Inspired by the optimistic spirit of California" [11].

Bruce Broughton created the new score for Soarin' Around the World, taking inspiration from the late Jerry Goldsmith's original score [12]. The new soundtrack was recorded by the London Studio Orchestra [12].

See the Film

Click play below to see Soarin' Around the World:

Soarin' Over California Fun Facts and Trivia

  • If you looked closely at the golf ball in the Palm Springs scene, you could see a Hidden Mickey [13].
  • Because Monterey is considered a marine sanctuary, it took a year to obtain all of the necessary permits to film that scene [3].
  • Disney negotiated a four hour window to film Yosemite National Park with the Department of the Interior [3].


  1. 1.0 1.1 1.2 1.3 1.4 1.5 1.6 1.7 1.8
  2. 2.0 2.1 Pedersen, R.A. The EPCOT Explorer's Encyclopedia:. United States: Epcyclopedia, 2011. Print.
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 3.7
  6. 6.0 6.1
  10. 10.0 10.1
  12. 12.0 12.1