For my thoughts on the re-opening of Walt Disney World, see this.

By the co-author of The easy Guide to Your Walt Disney World Visit 2020, the best-reviewed Disney World guidebook series ever.

Available on Amazon here.

(As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)

Fridays with Jim Korkis: Soarin’ Around the World

By Dave Shute

Welcome back to Fridays with Jim Korkis! Jim, the dean of Disney historians, writes about Walt Disney World history every Friday on


By Jim Korkis

Soarin’ Over California was an opening day attraction at Disney California Adventure on February 8, 2001. The original five minute version took guests over several locations in California and included a pre-show tribute to the history of California’s aviation industry.

It was all meant to theme with the Condor Flats and Grizzly Peak Airfield section of the park, in a building that was like a huge hangar similar to what might be found at a medium sized municipal airfield.

Soarin’ opened at Epcot on May 5, 2005 in the Land pavilion, and while it used the same film as the one in Anaheim, the story was that guests were boarding a flight TO California on “Flight 5505” a reference to opening day of the Epcot attraction. It quickly became the most popular experience at Epcot.

“The Soarin’ building at Epcot features a strong airport and travel theming,” said John Leloudis, Director of Architecture and Engineering for Walt Disney Imagineering. “In our story, you’re traveling to parts of California. Your journey starts from our entry rotunda where you will see an information desk and airport security portals.

“Once you pass the security checkpoints, you enter the concourse leading to your gates. Before each gate is a pre-show area in which you will be given a safety presentation related to your flight and what you are about to experience. The attraction at Disney California Adventure has more of an aviation history theme.”

Another difference is that the California attraction’s foundation is buried 23 feet below ground but the Florida crew placed the Epcot foundation only 10 feet in the ground for the seven story high building that takes up roughly 60,000 square feet of space.

Leloudis said, “I think the uniqueness of this attraction is that guests are immersed in the environment through the powerful imagery of the movie scenes, coupled with incredibly smooth movement.

“It will give guests the feeling and experience that they are in a hang glider and soaring in space. Guests will experience the motion of gliding through air, over mountaintops, ocean and orange groves, feeling wind on their faces and smelling orange groves and pine trees. It’s as close as you can get to hang gliding without actually doing it.

“Once you enter the theater itself, you see a powerful and massive piece of machinery that will lift 90 guests in the air at the same time. The theater features a huge eighty-foot IMAX screen designed especially for this attraction. It’s quite a sight. The building design camouflages its massiveness and it is truly a huge volume of space.”

When the attraction opened at Epcot, the intention was that the film would be revised to include a trip around the world so that it would be appropriate for the park. However, the new film Soarin’ Around the World did not debut there until June 2016.

Soarin’ Around the World features locations, landscapes, and landmarks across six continents of the world with the final scene taking place over Epcot. The famous “orange scent” going over orange groves is gone, replaced by the smell of red roses during the Taj Mahal scene.

Unlike the original ride film, Soarin’ Around the World heavily features computer generated imagery including animated transitions between scenes. The Taj Mahal scene is completely computer generated.

The new score is adapted from the Jerry Goldsmith music for the original attraction by composer Bruce Broughton. The score was recorded by the London Studio Orchestra at the historic Abbey Road Studios in London, and features instruments from around the world that complement the orchestra score, giving it an international flavor.

*  *  *  *  *

Thanks, Jim! I have a review of Soarin’ Around the World here.  The new version is hard to like compared to the original…

And come back next Friday for more from Jim Korkis!

In the meantime, check out his books, including his new books Kungaloosh! The Mythic Jungles of Walt Disney World and Hidden Treasures of Walt Disney World Resorts: Histories, Mysteries, and Theming, much of which was first published on this site.


Follow on Facebook or Twitter or Pinterest!!



Have a thought or a question?...

Comment by typing in the form below.

Leave a Comment | Ask a Question | Note a Problem

My response to questions and comments will be on the same page as the original comment, likely within 24-36 hours . . . I reserve the right to edit and delete comments as I choose . . . All rights reserved. Copyright 2008-2021 . . . Unless otherwise noted, all photos are by me--even the ones in focus--except for half a dozen from my niecelets . . . This site is entirely unofficial and not authorized by any organizations written about in it . . . All references to Disney and other copyrighted characters, trademarks, marks, etc., are made solely for editorial purposes. The author makes no commercial claim to their use . . . Nobody's perfect, so follow any advice here at your own risk.