Soarin’ Over California is returning to DCA for another limited run beginning on February 28, 2020. This will occur simultaneous with the new Magic Happens Parade across the Esplanade at Disneyland. It will return for at least the duration of DCA’s Food & Wine Festival, which runs through April 21, 2020. However, an end date has not yet been confirmed–meaning it could run through the summer, or even indefinitely.
The return of Soarin’ Over California returning makes sense and the timing would not be coincidental. The same thing happened last summer with OG Soarin’ returning to Disney California Adventure as counter-programming to draw people away from Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge. In retrospect, that was unnecessary, but it was nonetheless a nice win for both locals (who are partial to the “Over California” version) and DCA, as it provided a nice boost to the park for the summer.
We had the chance to experience the OG Soarin’ several times last summer, even racing over to Disney California Adventure to rope drop and ride the attraction (and only Soarin’) one last time before heading home. I’m relieved that we’ll be able to experience it again, but the question a lot of Walt Disney World fans have been asking on social media is, “what about Epcot?!”
This might seem silly. After all, the original is Soarin’ Over California and Walt Disney World is located in Florida. Moreover, Epcot is a park celebrating the various cultures of the world, not a particular state. Fair points, but I think there are a couple of worthwhile counterpoints. (Note: the remainder of this article is simply our rehashed commentary from the return last summer–but nothing has changed and we’d love for the OG Soarin’ to return to WDW.)
First, Soarin’ at Epcot is located in Future World, not World Showcase. Moreover, it’s shoehorned into the Land, a pavilion that is ostensibly dedicated to human civilization’s interaction with the Earth. California is not just the most biodiverse state, it’s one of the most biodiverse places in the world. With such a range of ecosystems, it’s hard to believe California is a single state. (What a place!)
This range of ecosystems is on full display in Soarin’ Over California, which primarily highlights the Golden State’s natural wonders (few of which scream “this is in California!”). This is what made Soarin’ a sensible location for the Land pavilion in the first place. Its farm, desert, coastal, mountain, etc. scenery makes it a natural counterpart to Living with the Land.
On this note, it’s worth pointing out that most guests to Epcot during the time it ran the original Soarin’ (with “Over California” dropped from the name) didn’t even realize the locations were exclusively in California. Unless you’ve visited Anza-Borrego, Yosemite, Tahoe, Malibu, Camarillo, etc., you probably couldn’t identify where the footage was shot. You might’ve just assumed the desert, waterfall, rushing rapids, ocean, orange groves, etc. were simply generic–but stunning–locations.
Most of the places in Soarin’ Over California are not nearly as readily identifiable as those in Soarin’ Around the World. Orange groves and coastline tend to blend together. The Eiffel Tower, Taj Mahal, and Great Wall of China…not so much. If Soarin’ returned to Epcot in exactly the same presentation as when it left, I’d hazard a guess that 90%+ of first-time guests would simply assume it’s a flyover of the United States.
While Soarin’ Around the World also highlights the natural world, it focuses more on landmarks. There’s a reason distortion isn’t as pronounced in the original Soarin–because instead of architecture and linear elements, the attraction primarily features geography that can mask distortion better.
I’m not particularly averse to Soarin’ Around the World, but the CGI, cheesy animals, and distortion has worn on me over time. Moreover, I think Soarin’ Over California is not showing its age at all. If anything, it benefits from its footage being real, whereas the extensive CGI of the new version will inevitably date itself much sooner.
That’s pretty much my ‘case’ for bringing Soarin’ back to Epcot. (There’s also the third option of running OG Soarin’ in one theater, and figuring out a logistical way to let people choose.) Okay, let’s review: that is more on-theme to the Land pavilion, less distortion, no CGI, California > the World…anything else? Oh yeah, have a nice flight!
For those keeping score at home, we totally called the extension of Soarin’ Over California at DCA. From our update last month: “I wouldn’t be surprised if this run is extended ‘by popular demand’ beyond this summer…Most Californians recognize that the Golden State is better than the rest of the world. I’ll certainly be heading to Guest Services after riding to register my ‘vote’ in favor of retaining the Soarin’ Over California version of the attraction.”
It’s also worth noting that wait times for Soarin’ spiked last summer, which was an anomaly as compared to the rest of the attractions at Disneyland and Disney California Adventure. The local audience went wild for the return of the OG Soarin’, with applause upon seeing the Golden Gate Bridge and at the end of the Disneyland flyover.
The attraction itself is largely unchanged. The film was updated to a digital projection shortly before being retired, and it still looks crisp and clean. (DCA never had the problem with dust and debris on its film that plagued the Florida version.) The scents, including a new one, are as delightful as ever.
Personally, I hope the run of Soarin’ Over California continues indefinitely. Like Impressions de France, this is one film that simply stands the test of time. Actually, unlike Impressions de France, you never get an up-close look at any people (and their dated attire), so there’s not much to date the footage. Basically just the Los Angeles skyline, which has grown tremendously since ~2000. To my knowledge, almost everything else is virtually unchanged (actually, I think the particular orange grove is now a housing development–but you wouldn’t know from looking at it), which is the beauty of filming the natural world.
Are you excited about the extended run of Soarin’ Over California? Do you hope that it returns indefinitely? What about at Epcot? Would you prefer to see Soarin’ or Soarin’ Around the World…or both? Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Any questions? Hearing your feedback—even when you disagree with us—is both interesting to us and helpful to other readers, so please share your thoughts below in the comments!