Have you ever wanted to fly? Peter Pan says it just takes faith and a little pixie dust to take to the skies. But if you’re a bit short on pixie dust and still wish you knew what it was like to fly over the earth, the Soarin’ Around the World attraction in the Land pavilion in Future World at Epcot has a seat reserved just for you. Even though this attraction is almost several years old, it’s still a Guest favorite in the parks at Walt Disney World. Here are 8 amazing things about this attraction!
8. You’re hang gliding with a safety net.
Some of us are more daring in our dreams than we’d ever be in real life. Apparently, Walt Disney Imagineering knows this well, so they dreamed up and built an attraction for all of us would-be thrill junkies. The entire premise for the Soarin’ Around the World attraction is that Guests are hang gliding over amazing and beautiful landmarks and locations all over the world. And if you didn’t know better, you’d be sure you were actually hang gliding. Think of Soarin’ as your chance to experience that thrilling experience you’ve always wanted to have, but without the threat of crashing into a mountain or landing face first on the ground.
7. The attraction that almost wasn’t…
The idea for the Soarin’ attraction was born in 1996, under the name of “Ultra Flight.” But as design and development teams began to work on further conceptualizing this attraction, it became evident that it would be too expensive and serve too few Guests at a time to be feasible. Design ideas were shelved. But there were some who kept the idea of this amazing attraction alive.
6. The ride structure design for Soarin’ was developed using a toy.
After the initial ride design plans were found to be inefficient and not cost-effective, an engineer named Mark Sumner saved the day. Or the attraction, as it were. Sumner was able to develop new design strategies that would serve more Guests at one time and also be much more cost-effective. And he did so with an erector set and some string. With these two tools, Sumner was able to create a model of his idea for the attraction’s ride structure that would allow more Guests to be loaded into ride vehicles at one time, thus ensuring that though the queue might be long, it wouldn’t be impossibly lengthy, leading to the dissatisfaction of many Guests.
5. You’re really flying! Well, sort of…
The way the ride structure works gives you a few seconds of actual “flying”, rather than a simulation. Once Guests are loaded into the ride vehicles and securely fastened to their seats, the rows of seats move upward about 40 feet, and Guests’ feet are hanging freely in the air. Ok, so you’re not flying; you’re being positioned 40 feet up for the attraction experience, but it’s totally cool, nonetheless.
4. Around the world in 80 days? Try 4 minutes, 51 seconds!
Around the world in any amount of time sounds amazing—there’s so much to see on this fascinating earth. But in true Disney fashion, the magic allows Guests to visit places all over the world—from a birds-eye view—in a short amount of time. You’ll soar over the Great Wall of China, Sydney Harbour in Australia, the Matterhorn in Switzerland, the Taj Mahal in India and the Great Pyramids in Egypt, among other places. And from take-off to landing, your journey lasts a whopping 4 minutes and 51 seconds.
3. The ride “vehicles” are massive!
Remember that erector set that was used to create a model for the more efficient ride vehicles? It was genius! But it takes a lot of materials to create such a massive ride structure like the one in Soarin’. How massive? The ride structure is made of 1,000,000 pounds of steel. Nearly 74,000 of those pounds of steel are hoisted into the air before the projections begin showing on the screen.
2. Imagineers were creative in enhancing the feeling of flying.
Imagineers are not corner-cutters. They could have created the Soarin’ attraction’s simulation of flight with just the giant OMNIMAX screen and footage that was shot with an IMAX HD frame rate of 48 frames per second. We would have probably felt that we were soaring over the earth. But the experience you have in the Soarin’ attraction is 100% believable because Imagineers took further steps to realize the simulation of flight. The ride vehicles move slightly from time to time, in sync with the film. Enhanced simulation is also created by turning the image on the screen in front of the ride vehicles.
1. Mmmm! Smell that?
Have you noticed certain scents while you’re soarin’ around the world? No, you’re not experiencing altitude sickness. Scents are injected into the air streams that blow on Guests during the simulation. The scents enhance the realness of the experience. You’ll notice the scent of rose blossoms during the scene with the Taj Mahal. The aroma of grass is pumped into the air during the African scenes, and a light sea breeze scent is blown onto Guests during the South Pacific scenes. Now that’s cool!