Saturday, September 3, 2011

Soarin' Over California ~ Disney California Adventure

Soarin' Over California ~ Disney California Adventure
      This has always been one of my favorite rides at Disney California Adventure. This ride combines the rich history of aviation and the beauty and history of the Golden State of California. (Yes I’m bias. I’m a California Gal born and raised.)

       The fun starts before you get in the line. As you enter the area that was called Condor Flats when the park was first built but is not called the Golden State. This entire area is themed to remind people of the deep ties between the history of aviation and the history of California. There is a large rocket engine hanging outside the building that on hot days a warning sound is followed by a blast of cool “steam”. A great way to cool off when overheated! LOL The shop across the way is the Fly ‘N’ Buy Souvenirs and there is the Taste Pilots Grill is right next door. Even the restrooms get into the theme because they are in an old hanger.
       Once you get inside the building it gets even more interesting. On the walls are pictures of aeroplans and aviators and designers of the past. There are also parts of historic plans hanging with the pictures and from the ceiling with placards telling you about the picture or part and its historical importance. There is even a memorial to the Challenger Shuttle Crew.
       When you reach the front of the line you are directed to one of three gates (A, B & C) and told to get in one of three lines. After a short video that gives the safety guidelines and brings you further into the “story” that the ride plays out.
       Once in the actual ride room you feel like you are in the middle of a giant’s erector set creation. You see a huge curved screen in front of three rows of seats. If you sit in rows two or three you may be wondering why you can’t see the screen. All you will see is the back of the seat in front of you.. Don’t worry this will change as soon as the room goes dark. Once the room goes dark you will feel the seat rise and go forward. You will find yourself immersed in the screen so close you feel part of the landscape you are viewing.
       The journey begins as the foggy clouds of San Francisco part to reveal the crimson expanses of the Golden Gate Bridge. From there you explore picturesque locations including Yosemite National Park, Napa Valley, Lake Tahoe, Palm Springs, San Diego harbor, Malibu at dusk and the frenetic lights of downtown Los Angeles. Return to the Disneyland Resort for a triumphant flight over Disneyland Park and up into a burst of fireworks.
       This ride is amazing and brings many to tears and you always hear cheers when the ride comes to an end.
Ride Design:
       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 of steel, and 37 tons 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.


  1. I would be interested in hearing just how high the seats go into the air - and if they go out over the pit at the front of the screen. I usually sit in the 3rd row as I do have a fear of heights but like the ride anyway. I have heard a lot of guesses as to the height but so far no one seems to really know.

  2. I will do some checking and see if I can find the information on the internet. If I can't find it I will make some calls and find out. :-)

  3. From a quick search and from having ridden the attraction many many times I found the following information and agree with it. The front row when up is around 40 ft off the ground. The middle row is about 25-30 feet off the ground and the last or back row is about 10-15 feet off the ground.


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