EPCOT’s Soarin’ Around the World (review)

SoarinAfter having ridden Soarin’ three times, and now, in all three seating sections, I’d like to share my thoughts on the experience. It was GREAT! But because I can never simply attribute so few words to a review, you’re still going to get a bunch more. Like many, I too had grown tired of Soarin’ Over California. Although California is the home of Walt Disney Studios and it’s a state containing a dynamic landscape from the mountains to the seashore, it always puzzled me why we were soaring over California in Florida. Yes, I am aware the Florida is beaches, cities, and swamp; so, it does not boast nearly as beautiful a landscape (other than the beautiful beaches). And Yes, I know that Soarin’ is a carbon copy of the attraction at Disney’s California Adventure; however, I always thought that it would have been interesting to have Soarin’ over California at the Walt Disney World Resort and Soarin’ Over Florida at the Disneyland Resort. But, I digress. This new incarnation of a popular attraction is vastly improved in terms of picture quality, queue experience, and guest cycling. With the addition of the third auditorium, Soarin’ is able to load and unload guests much more efficiently than before. I half expected that the wait times would be 2+ hours even after the first couple of weeks, but honestly, the wait times have been relatively low. Yes, that is partly due to the drop is guest attendance at WDW compared to previous year; but, I attribute the lower wait times to the addition of the new concourse. Very much a wonderful and refreshing experience and I look forward to continued journeys to famous monuments, buildings, and landmarks around the world…

The first thing anyone who is familiar with the predecessor to Soarin’ Around the World is going to notice is the nicely refurbished queue. It’s a little less utilitarian looking and creates a more relaxing atmosphere. Perfect for preparing to embark on a flight around the world in fewer than eighty days. From the carpet to the color scheme, Soarin’ has a fresh feel and generates a ambiance of newness. Although there are some changes to the costume, they are quite minor and had to be pointed out to me by a friend with whom I first experienced the new Soarin’. If you enjoyed the interactive games in the queue before, you will be delighted to know that there are still games; however, not in the same fashion as the ones that had been a staple of the queue from day 1. The new activity is called “Soarin Challenge;” it’s a trivia based game that requires the user to participate by using his or her phone. Fortunately, for those who do not have an unlimited data mobile plan (that I’ve had since 2007 haha), there is ample access to the queue’s WiFi. Joining tens or hundreds of other players who are also in the queue, guests have the opportunity to answer questions on geography, cuisine, languages and more. Guests can also unlock passport stamps for their digital collection and aim to up their personal score on the leaderboard. Even if you do not have a mobile device–unlikely, I know–you can still participate by looking at the large displays overhead. One of the fan favorites of this attraction has long since been Patrick Warburton’s preshow. Good news! He is still here. In fact, the video is largely untouched. However, if you pay close enough attention, you will notice that the white Disneyland letters that were on his “pal’s” shirt are now gone. Much like the previous preshow video, this one also highlights the destinations.

Unless I am mistaken, I was unable to pick up on any differences in the ride system itself. After going through he attraction three times, I have been unsuccessful at noticing anything that has have changed during the refurbishment. If you have noticed changes, please let me know. Like with the previous ride video, this one is also best experienced in the center seating section (B). Although B-1 is definitely the best row, any of the rows in B offer a great experience. As for the flanking sections (A & C), the experience is slightly distorted. This has nothing to do with the quality of the IMAX image or viewing area, but simple physics. Due to the very nature of the “dome” having a curvature, the seating sections A and C display distorted imagery as the buildings, monuments, and landmarks move across to the bottom of the screen. I don’t think this is something that typical guest will pick up on, but it is something that caught my attention the second and third times I rode it. Other than that unavoidable distorted view form the house right and left sections, the experience was excellent. I thoroughly enjoyed the new sights, sounds, and yes aromas. Who would’ve guessed that the smell of the dirt on the Savannah could have been created?!? Great job Imagineers. Regarding the ride time itself, I feel that some of the locations could have been extended by 3-5 seconds while one of two of them could have been shortened.

Instead of ending at Disneyland, as the previous Soarin’ did, this one (in Florida) ends at Epcot during the nighttime spectacular Illuminations: Reflections of Earth. Tinkerbell welcomes you to WDW’s second theme park as a litany of fireworks illuminate the sky. Liked the Hidden Mickey in the last finale? You still have one in this ending. Great experience all the way around, and I definitely look forward to many trips around the word in this outstanding attraction.

 

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