Soarin' Around the World opens at Epcot, California Adventure

June 17, 2016, 11:17 AM · Disney debuted its new version of its popular travelogue Soarin' at Epcot and Disney California Adventure today. Soarin' Around the World replaces Soarin' (Over California) with snippets of iconic destinations from around the world, including a few that inspired popular sights in Disney theme parks.

The new version first opened officially yesterday at Shanghai Disneyland, where it plays as Soarin' Over the Horizon. Unique to this show is the different ending in each park. The DCA version I saw retains the flight down Main Street USA in Disneyland, while the Shanghai version shows that city and the Epcot version visits that park.

(To clarify: It's a reshot flight down Main Street for the DCA version. But it's still Main Street. And as much as I like that flight down Main Street, it's still weird for the climax of a theme park attraction to be a scene from... another theme park. With DCA's beautiful new Buena Vista Street and Carthay Circle, California Adventure could have provided a delightful ending for its own Soarin' film. I'd even have preferred it to the rather bland Epcot finale.)

The concept is the same here as in the old Soarin' — we're "flying" on hang gliders above famous and interesting sights. Even the pre-flight instruction video is the same. (And yes, you'll still get to enjoy a variety of scents while flying.) While the concept traps the camera in the air and prevents us from getting too close to or lingering too long on any one subject, freeing us to travel the globe instead of just around the Golden State allows us to visit many more compelling locations. Here's the video of the DCA show, with location spoilers in the next paragraph.

The new show opens with the Matterhorn and includes glimpses at the Arctic, the Sydney Opera House, Neuschwanstein Castle, Mount Kilimanjaro, the Great Wall of China, the Pyramids of Giza, the Taj Mahal, Monument Valley (look for the hidden Mickey!), Fiji, the Iguazu Falls in Paraguay, and the Eiffel Tower, as well as the local finale.

If there's a missed opportunity here, it's that Soarin' Around the World uses the same soundtrack as the original film. One of the reasons why Epcot's Impressions de France sets the standard for theme park travel films is its enthralling classical score. While the repertoire of California-inspired classical music is pretty thin (the Korngold violin concerto? Maybe?), retheming Soarin' to the entire world opens the entirety of classical scores for potential use. How much more thrilling this could have been if we could hear music as memorable as these vistas on our five-minute journey around the world.

And that opening shot of the snow-covered Matterhorn made me wonder,if just for a spilt second, if Paramount actually filmed the new Soarin' film.

Still, it's a fun ride, and it's nice for loyal Disney theme park fans to have an attraction such as this updated with a fresh show.

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Replies (24)

June 17, 2016 at 11:31 AM · Yes they kept the score the same!
June 17, 2016 at 11:33 AM · Too much CGI, very sad.
June 17, 2016 at 11:36 AM · Why do you dislike the score Robert? I think it's pretty grand and majestic.
June 17, 2016 at 11:38 AM · I agree with Jaiden. The score was amazing and I'm glad they kept it.
June 17, 2016 at 11:46 AM · Instead of just 12 scenes they could have 24 or 36 and randomly chooses 12 each time, so one ride would never be equal to another.
June 17, 2016 at 11:53 AM · I really like the original music, but I am surprised they kept it. Was this done to cut corners, or is the music considered to be that iconic?
I have a play list called "Music to Fly By." I like to listen to it while waiting to take off on-board an airplane. Besides the Soarin' theme, it includes John William's E.T. and Superman themes, and Sinatra's Come Fly With Me among others. It's fun to see what song on the list will shuffle up during take off. The single biggest lost opportunity here will be the chance to randomize the show like Star Tours. Maybe that will be Soarin' 3.0. I'm very curious about the preshow for Shanghai and the new version going in at DisneySea.
June 17, 2016 at 11:59 AM · Difficult to judge with such a POV video but I have the feeling that there are a lot of CGI enhancements. The polar bear going in water at the right moment just before the glacier cracks, the elephant throwing dust, the kites ont the Great Wall... I am not saying that all is digital SFX, but there are lot more CGI add-ons compared to the original. The Taj Mahal looks strangely perfect or false... Does anyone that saw it with its eyes could say what he thinks?
June 17, 2016 at 12:19 PM · I hope Disney is thinking ahead. For the US Parks, I would love to see Soarin Over America in the next three to five years.
June 17, 2016 at 12:30 PM · I love the music. With Jerry Goldsmith's death I thought they'd do something different so I'm pleasantly surprised to hear it's still there.
June 17, 2016 at 12:45 PM · Yeah, I agree with the commenters. SO happy they left the score in tact. To be fair though, it's the same musical theme from Jerry Goldsmith's score, not the exact same track. The segments inside each have their own flavor of the theme to fit the new current visuals, so it's not the identical score as the original. It wasn't a money saving budget thing in that case, it was a choice; a way to keep a memorable part of the original in tact while bringing it up to today's visual standards.
June 17, 2016 at 2:08 PM · I'm thrilled they (more or less) kept Goldsmith's original score, which is one of the best theme park compositions ever. I would have been incredibly disappointed if they had jettisoned his work.
June 17, 2016 at 3:32 PM · The new version is terrible!

Soaring Over California fit California Adventure like a glove; the new version has nothing to do with California.

Soarin Over California emphasized the incredible diversity of California's natural landscapes. The new version mostly ignores nature's beauty for the sake of man-made objects. The Great Wall is not great. Most of it was reconstructed back in the 1980's. It's alright but hardly spectacular. They should call it the Alright Wall of China.

And Jerry Goldsmith composed the musical score especially for California, not for China or India or France! Sticking Goldsmith's score onto the new version lacks any emotional context. Apparently Iger was too cheap to hire a new composer to give the new version its own score.

Say what you will about Michael Eisner, but he was a man of great taste. Eisner would never have allowed such a half-baked version of Soarin' to see the light of day. He had some pride.

June 17, 2016 at 4:51 PM · Was a third theatre added at both parks? I shudder to think about what kind of wait times this version will have all summer.
June 17, 2016 at 4:53 PM · I remember hearing that Bruce Broughton (Spaceship Earth, Honey I Shrunk the Audience, CineMagique, among others) adapted the Goldsmith themes for the new Soarin'. Broughton is a perfect choice for such a thing. He really seems to "get" the sensibilities of Disney theme park attractions.
June 17, 2016 at 6:21 PM · The wait time in Shanghai was 150 minutes! No joke.
The score definitely was changed up, with the "local flavors". The India scene really stood out.
It was really weird to see the tall buildings "curved", and as much as I loved the scenes, the cloud/smoke transitions felt forced, and there seemed to be nothing to connect the segments.

I'll be honest and say I prefer the old movie and soundtrack.

June 17, 2016 at 6:47 PM · Yeah, it's a problem to depict icons with long, straight vertical lines (such as the Eiffel Tower) on a curved screen and not have the images looked warped to anyone not sitting dead center. Poor design choice, IMO.

And Disney just shouldn't try to wrap up a travel film with the Eiffel Tower, anyway. It just reminds the audience that Soarin' isn't even in the same league as Impressions de France.

June 17, 2016 at 8:15 PM · It's far too difficult to judge the ride experience of a simulator without actually riding, so I'll just make some observations based on the footage itself:

-The footage is great, and I think there is a nice selection of locations featured. However, I do wish they had either filmed a large number of sequences with random destinations in each flight or at least added a few additional US sequences for the US versions.
-The transitions sometimes work and sometimes don't, but at least they tried to make something better than the straight cuts before.
-It would be interesting to see how many CGI enhancements were added in this ride. There were a few in the original, but it appears more were added in this version and some are really obvious (or Disney just got super lucky with filming). I wish they had done less and only used CGI where absolutely necessary.
-There is no logical sense to the order of scenes. This is one of the things I liked with the original went roughly north to south through California. On this, you're hopping from Switzerland to the Arctic to Australia to Germany and so on.
-The music is NOT the same soundtrack, it is a new soundtrack using the same core theme. Personally, I think this was the right way to go. Soarin' had one of the best scores ever created for a theme park attraction and it was around long enough that the music was well known.

It's hard to say without riding the ride, but my hunch is that this film is good but won't become as classic as the original ride film. I'm glad that they updated the attraction and I'm excited for the new version, it just looks like they went 80% of the way and called it good enough. Particularly in California, I think random sequences are necessary to maintain long-term popularity of this attraction under the Around the World concept.

June 17, 2016 at 8:57 PM · Like the rest of California Adventure, the original idea has been tossed out with the mop water. The park is not meeting expectations and the rebuilds haven't fixed the problem. The theater went digital a while back with the original IMAX film converted to digital video as a hold over until this one was done. It is OK, but not a knockout winner. Better than the Luigi remake, but it isn't a California Screamin' or Radiator Springs or Hollywood Tower of Terror.
June 18, 2016 at 5:30 AM · Glad they kept the original score and added some "local" elements to it. Appears a bit too CGI in some shots. It's not bad and I'd have to see it in person, but I prefer the original California version. I hope one of the two theaters it dedicated to it in the future so there's a choice.
June 18, 2016 at 6:32 AM · We were among the first to see it yesterday in California Adventure (thanks, Magic Hour!), and we loved it! In person, the film was absolutely breathtaking. So much richer than the California version with more diversity of places and scenes. The scents were great, too and the soundtrack fit perfectly. Withhold judgement until you see this one live.
June 19, 2016 at 3:07 PM · I am sorry Robert, but not many share your joy of the pretty boring Impressions de France. That is not saying it isn't a good attraction. It actually subtly serves its purpose. However, guests are not going to make the connections and backstory. As many things French, it is a little heavy handed.

I actually like the score of Soarin. It is memorable and brings the old to the new.

I am a little worried about the CGI. The whole point of Soarin is that it shows the natural wonders of the World (or California).

June 20, 2016 at 11:16 AM · I think it was 2010 when I first read that Soarin' around the World was in the planning stages. It sure took long enough.

Looking forward to experiencing this, but, unfortunately, that might only be in October of next year.

June 21, 2016 at 6:30 PM · Even though the new Soarin' was pretty cool for the most part, there were very big flaws with a couple scenes. The Taj Mahal, The Great Pyramid of Giza, and the close up of the Eiffel Tower all looked like CGI. At first I thought it was just my seat at the time, but after my second ride on it, the fakeness of those scenes just bugged me even more. I don't know if they really are fake, but if they are, why would Disney do that? The landscapes in Star Tours look more realistic than those! I hope they come out with a full behind-the-scenes documentary on SAtW, but until then, i'm just gonna assume that they're fake which really saddens me :(

(Also, those scene transitions were a little too much. Many of the other riders with me kept ducking at every scene transition. Maybe they were trying to recreate the golf ball part from the first one with the bird, the kite, the plane, the water, and the sand, but it just got annoying after a while.)

June 22, 2016 at 6:59 AM · I rode the new attraction 4 times and liked it less each time. Too much CGI, much of it looked unrealistic (particularly the elephants and Taj Mahal). I'm disappointed in the outcome after all this waiting for the ride to re-open.

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