- Thrill Scale (0=Wimpy!, 10=Yikes!): 2.5
Gentle motion simulation, moderate height and "soaring" simulation.
- Attraction Type: Motion simulation attraction
- Height Requirement: 40 inches (102 cm)
- Tip: Soarin' is one of Disney's most popular attractions and can generate huge lines. Use Fastpass. Guests staying on-property at a Disneyland Resort hotel can get into the park before it opens to the general public and get a no-line, no-wait ride on Soarin'.
- Soarin' Photo Gallery
Guests make a mad dash for Soarin' as soon as cast members drop the rope each morning. Its queue remains jammed all day --and for good reason. It is Disney Imagineering at its best.
The vintage aviation hangar, located in the Condor Flats district of the California park's Golden State land, belies the high-tech attraction within. Identical theaters each contain nine motion base units with ten seats. The units have no floors, allowing passengers' legs to dangle. After riders secure their seat belts, a roof swings down over each unit to both provide the illusion of a hang glider and to focus passengers' field of vision on the huge, domed Ominmax screen ahead. (Universal Studio Florida's more intense Simpsons attraction also uses an Omnimax screen.)
Should you try Soarin'?
If heights make you a bit queasy, let alone the thought of an actual hang gliding ride, don't necessarily dismiss Soarin's virtual hang gliding attraction. While the overall ride is exhilarating--thrilling even--the ride experience is quite gentle and doesn't contain any typical thrill ride gotchas. Once riders get past the initial sensation, it's smooth sailing. Very young riders might find the attraction a bit overwhelming, but the 40-inch height restriction will prevent them from riding anyways. If you're on the line, I'd say go for it; if you start feeling uncomfortable, close your eyes and the sensation should subside.
But most riders will want to keep their eyes wide open for Soarin's airborne journey. The adventure begins with a swoop above San Francisco's Golden Gate Bridge. Then it's a float over a river alongside some majestic California redwoods. Other flyovers include a Sierras' ski resort, Yosemite Falls, the Anzo-Borrega Desert, and the California coast.
The transitions from scene to scene--clouds and fog momentarily obscure the view and set the stage for the next vista--are a bit perplexing. At some level, Soarin' demands a suspension of reality, but no amount of pixie dust can justify shifting from cacti to crashing waves in the blink of an eye. Also, unlike most vaunted Disney attractions, Soarin' doesn't tell a linear story; it's a bunch of wordless scenes mashed together into a grand travelogue.
Hangin' around California
It's the kinetic and perceived sensation of motion, however, that's most remarkable. Soarin' takes the concept of a flight simulator attraction, pioneered in rides such as Disney's Star Tours, and gooses it to a new level by using its innovative flying motion bases to conjure hang gliding.
While it represents a next-generation Imagineering feat, Soarin' also borrows from "speed room" technology used in past Disney attractions such as Disneyland's PeopleMover and Epcot's Horizons and World of Motion. In those relatively low-tech rides, vehicles on a track would travel toward a screen projecting images that suggested forward movement. Riders felt as if they were accelerating into the screens. The only remaining Disney speed room, I believe, is in Buzz Lightyear's Space Ranger Spin at Walt Disney World's Magic Kingdom. It holds over the effect from If You had Wings, the attraction that once occupied its Tomorrowland building.
Soarin's motion bases, however, offer greater freedom of movement than speed room vehicles and are more adept at tricking passengers into believing they are immersed in the screened imagery. The IMAX film is projected at 48 frames per second, twice as fast as a normal movie, which renders it amazingly lifelike and helps reinforce the illusion.
It's intriguing to think of the ways Imagineers could use Soarin' Over California's ride technology to develop new experiences. Instead of a travelogue, how about a fantasy-based flight into a dream world? The possibilities send park fans' imaginations soarin'.