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Soarin’ goes hang-gliding around the world

Soarin' Around The World to open at Epcot

Soarin' reopens at Epcot on June 17, 2016 with a third screen and a new show called Soarin' Around The World.
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Soarin' reopens at Epcot on June 17, 2016 with a third screen and a new show called Soarin' Around The World.

In a survey of new attractions, we can’t count Soarin’. Or can we? The concept and the seats are the same, but the hugely popular Epcot attraction reopened June 17 with new technology, an additional theater, a new score and a new show — even new scents.

The new show is Soarin’ Around the World, which visits 13 places, including the Sydney Harbor in Australia, the Great Wall of China, India’s Taj Mahal, Monument Valley in Utah and the Iguazu waterfalls on the Argentina-Brazil border, plus some with sly references to Disney, such as the Matterhorn in Switzerland (a 1:100 scale replica is one of Disneyland’s icons) and Neuschwanstein Castle in Germany (inspiration for Disneyland’s Sleeping Beauty Castle).

There’s a bit of customization: The Disney World version ends with a fireworks show over Epcot, while at just-opened Shanghai Disneyland, it ends with fireworks in that city.

The new shows visit 13 places, including a few with sly references to Disney

The hang-gliding flight simulator show replaced Soarin’ Over California, which was an opening day attraction when Disney California Adventure debuted at the Disneyland Resort in 2001. Four years later, it opened at Epcot.

Part of my own enchantment with Soarin’ comes from the fact that I am a native Californian and I love the feeling of soaring over places so familiar to me at ground level. But where Soarin’ Around the World concentrates on natural and manmade wonders, Soarin’ over California interspersed strikingly beautiful spots with ordinary vistas — citrus orchards, ski slopes, foothills — and made the scenery feel more real. Already, people are complaining that the new show uses too much computer-generated imagery.

Even so, the new Soarin’ is a gorgeous, exhilarating experience.

One element that feels more real is the awareness of heights. The new show has better photography, more advanced technology and an almost exaggerated emphasis on dramatic changes in elevation in the scenery. The simulation of movement feels more like we’re actually flying and creates a few dizzying moments. For most of us, those moments are gleeful. But those who have a real fear of heights might want to take the advice of Patrick Warburton, Soarin’s chief flight attendant, and sit out the show.

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