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Welcome, World Travelers! Is Soarin’ Over California Better Than Soarin’ Around the World?

Welcome, World Travelers! Is Soarin’ Over California Better Than Soarin’ Around the World?

by James Coulter

Welcome World Travelers

In celebration of Disney’s 100th anniversary, Soarin’ Over California has returned to Epcot for a limited time. Disney fans have long debated which version of the ride is better: Soarin’ Over California or Soarin’ Around the World. So, which is the superior attraction?

Wikipedia image
Wikipedia image

Soarin’ Over California premiered as an opening day attraction at Disney’s California Adventure in 2001. The ride was essentially an IMAX movie paired with a then state-of-the-art “flying theater”, giving riders the sensation of flying. The show proved so popular that a clone was created for Epcot’s Land Pavilion in 2005.

Originally, Soarin’ Over California, as the name implied, showed aerial footage of various California locations. However, in 2016, a new version, Soarin Around the World, replaced it with aerial footage of various international locations spanning nearly six continents. Cloned versions of the ride later opened at Shanghai Disneyland and Tokyo DisneySea.

Since then, Disney fans have engaged in heated debate about which version of the ride was better. Some fans claimed the original “Over California” was the superior version, while others claimed Around the World was just as good, if not better. But which side is right?

Well, all opinions are subjective. However, since this is my column, my opinion is evidently the correct one. As such, having ridden Around the World multiple times and recently riding Over California, I can objectively conclude that—Around the World is the better version.

Soarin Around the World

No offense to Over California fans. I’m sure you all have fond memories of the original show. But since I don’t have that same nostalgia goggles, riding Over California after riding Around the World for the longest time feels like a real downgrade. And I have two big reasons why. (Well, technically three!)

First, the landmarks. Soarin’ Around the World, as the name implies, features various iconic landmarks from around the world: the magnificent Taj Mahal, the awe-inspiring Great Wall of China, and the ancient majesty of the Great Pyramids of Giza. Chances are, for many riders, especially Americans, these sights will be the closest they will ever have to experiencing these wonders of the world.

In contrast, Over California, as its name also implies, features scenes from California. To be certain, there are plenty of notable landmarks like the Golden Gate Bridge and Yosemite Falls. Unfortunately, everything else appears relatively mundane in comparison. Sure, seeing snowboarders skiing down snowy mountains and water rafters rowing down white-water rapids is interesting, it’s not as enthralling as flying over a herd of elephants on the African savannah or the floating icebergs in the Antarctic. (But hey, who needs the Pyramids or Taj Mahal when you have golf courses and suburbs?!)

Second are the transitions. Around the World features many actions that serve as transitions between scenes: elephants kicking up dust, a kite flying over the Great Wall, a plane or balloon flying toward the audience. All work effectively to help seamlessly transition from one scene to another.

In contrast, Over California has no transitions. At most, you’ll have once scene fade into another. But other times, you simply have a scene cut to the next one. Such a lack of proper transitions ruins the immersion and makes you feel less like you’re really flying over these locations and more like you’re watching an IMAX movie.

But perhaps the biggest advantage Around the World has over, well, Over California is the theming and location. Honestly, the Over California version works much better in Disney’s California Adventure. It’s literally a movie about California in a park about California in California.

At Epcot? Not so much. Not to point out the obvious, but what’sa ride about California doing in Florida? Say what you want about Around the World, but the attraction fits the more international theme of Epcot’s World Showcase (even if the ride isn’t in World Showcase).

To be fair, I wanted to know why some fans preferred Over California over Around the World. So, I posed the question in a Disney fan group.

The group’s administrator answered that they liked the California version better: “because it shows you an expansive variety of the types of places contained within a single state, as opposed to Around the World, which shows you a reductive look at the same damn landmarks every other reductive travelogue shows you.”

Another user admitted that Over California wasn’t as good in some places compared to Around the World, but while the attraction isn’t “perfectly done”, Over California feel better: “I do think when [you’re] going over naturalish [environments] it does read better then landmarks.”

So, to each their own, I guess. If you love the original version, good for you. Me, personally? Well, I think I’ll just wait until the “better” version eventually returns.

What do you think? Which version of Soarin do you prefer? Over California? Or Around the World? Leave your answers in the comments on Facebook.

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