Soarin' Over California

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Soarin' Over California
Disney California Adventure
Area Grizzly Peak Airfield
Coordinates 33°48′30″N 117°55′12″W / 33.80837°N 117.92000°W / 33.80837; -117.92000
Status Operating
Opening date February 8, 2001
Area Future World (The Land pavilion)
Coordinates 28°22′21.66″N 81°33′9.43″W / 28.3726833°N 81.5526194°W / 28.3726833; -81.5526194
Status Operating
Opening date May 5, 2005
Replaced Kitchen Kabaret (1982-1994)
Food Rocks (1994-2004)
General statistics
Attraction type IMAX-type hang glider
Manufacturer Dynamic Structures
Designer Walt Disney Imagineering
Music Jerry Goldsmith
Height 80 ft (24 m)
Vehicles 6 in two theaters
Riders per vehicle Alpha 27, Bravo 33, Charlie 27
Participants per group 87 per theater
Duration 4:51
Height restriction 40 in (102 cm)
Host Patrick Warburton
Film speed 48 frames per second
Single rider line available at Disney's California Adventure
Must transfer from wheelchair
Closed captioning available

Soarin' Over California is a simulator attraction at Disney California Adventure and Walt Disney World's Epcot park. The ride employs a mechanical lift system, a film presentation on a large concave projection screen, and at certain points artificial scents to simulate flight via a hang glider ride over several California locations. The ride's soundtrack was written by Jerry Goldsmith.

The original Soarin' Over California was an opening day attraction at Disney California Adventure on February 8, 2001. In addition to the main ride and film presentation, the attraction features a pre-show tribute to the history of California's aviation industry. Soarin' Over California has consistently been a popular attraction at the park despite its low attendance during its early years, and the ride was duplicated at Epcot under the name Soarin‍ '​ in 2005.


The attraction, which lasts about four minutes and 51 seconds, takes 87 guests at a time on a simulated hang glider tour of California. The locations visited are: 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 Palmer 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. The last few scenes transition from daytime to dusk and then to night, culminating in Disneyland's Holiday fireworks surrounding the riders 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, surfing and of course, hang gliding. The USAF Thunderbirds and aircraft carrier USS John C. Stennis (CVN-74) at Naval Base San Diego are also featured. An original score by film composer Jerry Goldsmith accompanies the imagery, and appropriate scents (citrus, pine, sagebrush, ocean mist) fill the air as the ride vehicles themselves move gently to simulate the sensations of flight..

Ride design[edit]

Three rows of seating for the ride

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 (454,000kg) of steel, and 37 tons (33.5 metric tonnes) 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.


Disney California Adventure[edit]

Soarin' Over California exterior as it appeared from 2001-2014 at Disney California Adventure.
Soarin' Over California exterior as it appears today after reopening in May 2015 at Disney California Adventure. Photo from July 17th, 2015.

Soarin' Over California is one of the most popular attractions in the Disneyland Resort and usually has wait times ranging from 30 to 150 minutes. However, the attraction is tied into the park's FASTPASS system, allowing guests the option of bypassing a long wait.

While waiting in line, guests pass the Wings of Fame, an homage to significant aircraft in the history of aviation in California. Some of these include the P-51 Mustang, SR-71 Blackbird, and the Bell X-1. There is also a section dedicated to individuals such as John J. Montgomery, Amelia Earhart, Jimmy Doolittle, Charles Lindbergh, Jack Northrop, the Wright brothers, Howard Hughes, Jacqueline Cochran, Kelly Johnson, and Chuck Yeager.

Before entering the theater area, guests are placed in one of three preshow areas, called "Alpha Gate", "Bravo Gate", or "Charlie Gate," (named for the first three letters of the NATO phonetic alphabet). Just before boarding, guests watch a pre-boarding video hosted by their chief flight attendant, Patrick, portrayed by actor Patrick Warburton wearing the uniform of a first officer.

In early 2015 the attraction closed for refurbishment. It reopened May 15, 2015 with updates to its screen and projection system.[1][2][3][4] The attraction now features the IMAX Laser 4K projection system. "Advances in laser illumination technology allowed Disney to upgrade the projectors without a sacrifice in the quality of the show," According to Brian Scholz, executive producer for Walt Disney Imagineering.[5] In addition to the projection system changes, several exterior changes occurred, including a replacement of the mock-up RS-25 rocket engine with a Fire lookout tower.


Queue decor inside Epcot's Soarin'

Soarin' officially opened inside "The Land" pavilion on May 5, 2005. Its cast members wear costumes that resemble flight attendant costumes, whereas the Disney California Adventure Park 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 reference "Flight 5505", which is a homage to the opening day of the attraction.

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

it was announced on March 5, 2015 that Soarin will be receiving a third theater and an improved projection system. It is slated to open in 2016.[6]


Both versions of the ride use the same orchestral score by composer Jerry Goldsmith, who is said to have come down from his first ride in tears. In addition to finding the ride visually beautiful and magical, he said that his father was a pilot who loved all things Californian. "I'd do anything to be part of this project," Goldsmith said. "I'd even score the film for free."[7] The soundtrack he wrote plays throughout the entire attraction, starting with a crescendo in the low strings while the screen is still dark. Numerous variations of a serene theme for horn and strings can be heard, as well as several statements of a fanfare that accompanies the film's grandest vistas. The entire ride score can be found on recent Walt Disney World official albums, and the exit music is also played as part of a loop in the Disneyland Resort Esplanade and Epcot's entrance plaza.

Inspirational music from a variety of films, many of them war- or flight-themed, is played outside the ride building at the California Adventure version and in the queue hallways in both versions. Some film scores featured include Patton, MacArthur, Air Force One, The Blue Max, Explorers, (all by Jerry Goldsmith), The American President (by Marc Shaiman), DragonHeart, Dragon: The Bruce Lee Story (both by Randy Edelman), The Last Starfighter (by Craig Safan), Apollo 13 and The Rocketeer (both by James Horner), Always (by John Williams) and the HBO miniseries Band of Brothers (by Michael Kamen). The Air Force Song and "Jupiter" from Gustav Holst's orchestral suite The Planets are also included, based on their use in The Right Stuff. In the California Adventure version of the attraction, the "History of Aviation in California" hallway of the queue uses the scores to many different films.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Pimentel, Joseph (January 25, 2015). "Upgrades close several Disney rides". The Orange County Register. p. Local 2. 
  2. ^
  3. ^ Glover, Erin (March 9, 2015). "New Smokejumpers Grill Opens March 20, Part of Grizzly Peak Expansion at Disney California Adventure Park". Disney Parks Blog. Retrieved March 11, 2015. 
  4. ^ Glover, Erin (May 15, 2015). "Grizzly Peak Airfield Now Open at Disney California Adventure Park". Disney Parks Blog. Retrieved May 15, 2015. 
  5. ^ Mark Eades, OC Register. "New Grizzly Peak Airfield at Disney California Adventure recalls scenic national parks". Retrieved July 12, 2015. 
  6. ^ Thomas Smith, Social Media Director, Disney Parks. "More opportunities to soar enjoy toy story mania coming to walt disney world resort". Retrieved July 12, 2015. 
  7. ^ Jim Hill Media. "The new Disney California Adventure Official Album". Retrieved September 9, 2009. 

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