Stupid Things I Notice While Riding Soarin’

Like many of you, I’ve ridden Soarin’ a number of times.  I’m talking Peyton-Manning-to-Marvin-Harrison number of times.  Cher-Cosmetic-Procedures number of times.  Maybe not Rednecks-on-COPS number of times, but certainly Jessica-Simpson-Attempts-Fourth-Grade number of times.  I’m telling you, I can recite every line of dialog in the movie word for word (that’s a little Soarin’ joke.  Some of you get it).

I’ve talked before about the Rocky Horror Picture Show aspect of Disney, for those of us that go a lot.  You tend to find little things that you fixate on and quote in your head or watch for.  When the bumblebees start singing in It’s Tough To Be a Bug, I’m the only idiot in the audience watching Flik do his little dance on his way off the stage.  And when Waldo starts bouncing on people’s heads, I’m listening for Beaker’s only intelligible line.

So today I thought I would drag everyone into my own obsessive-compulsive world and highlight all the stupid things that I can’t help noticing as I ride Soarin’.  And in an admirable show of restraint, I will not mention my tendency to lean out over my seat and see if I can spot a baseball cap lying in the pit at the foot of the screen.

Some of these are easter eggs that you’re already familiar with.  Some of them are just things that bother me.  And now that I point them out to you, they will be stuck in your head and you will just have to watch for them also.  You’re welcome.

“Hello, and welcome to Soarin’ (over California)”

You West Coasters can’t find this one, but at Epcot, the ride’s title is just a single word.  The only problem is, it uses the same preshow video as “Soarin’ Over California” at DCA.  So when Patrick Warburton gives his little spiel, there is a very subtle dissolve after the word “Soarin'”, in order to cut out the extra words.  It’s hard to catch, but it’s there.  Blink and you’ll miss it.

Flight attendant Patrick Warburton in the Soarin' preshow

Nice job doctoring the logo behind him as well.

Fly Fisherman Can Bring Down Aircraft

Early on there’s a scene where you fly over a river, containing canoes, kayaks, and one guy in waders fishing.  As the helicopter carrying the camera approaches him, he casts his line, then immediately pulls it back again.

I don’t know what it is about this guy, but I find his action utterly distracting.  To me it looks like he wants the helicopter to get a good shot of him fishing, but at the same time he is terrified that his line might accidentally snag the rotors and bring the whole chopper down.

Fly Fisherman in Soarin'

“Dude!” I silently scream.  “You’re 80 feet away!”

Staged Snowboarders

A sweeping shot of a ski slope, with several skiers passing beneath the helicopter.  As we approach the summit, a snowboard hurdles over the cliff.  And immediately wipes out.  It’s the only genuine laugh in the movie.

But what catches my eye is how the snowboarder is clearly waiting for the camera.  This isn’t some fortuitous shot where the camera just happened to catch some inept idiot in midflight.  He’s perched up on that cliff the whole time during the sequence and decides to shove off just as the camera nears the top of the mountain.

As a bonus, there is another snowboarder doing the exact same thing to the left.  But since he never wipes out, we never see him.  Must be Shaun White.

Snowboarders in Soarin'

Trust me, it’s easier to spot them in IMAX.

The Hang Glider

Nothing really special about him, other than that every time he appears in front of us, I spend the whole sequence trying to figure out if he is CGI, or a real person somehow composited into the shot.

I just find it too unbelievable that they would let a real hang glider fly out in front of a moving helicopter.  They never show the guy’s face. He’s in a helmet and covered head to toe in what looks like a water heater blanket.

CGI or real?  I vote CGI.

Hang glider in Yosemite in Soarin'

Watch out for that fisherman!

Michael Eisner on the Executive Golf Course

Maybe this is just one of those Disney urban legends, but the guy swinging the club on the golf course is rumored to be former Disney CEO Michael Eisner.

He certainly has the country club upbringing, the shiny forehead, and the obvious disdain for Jeffrey Katzenberg.  If it’s not really Eisner, don’t spoil it for me.  Also, I think his caddy is Roy Disney (no, not really).

Michael Eisner golfing in Soarin'

Maybe if he spent a little more time going over DCA’s attraction list rather than hanging out on the course…

Hidden Mickey on the Golf Ball!

At Parkeology, we detest Hidden Mickeys.  That stuff’s for amateurs.  Nevertheless, I watch for the hidden Mickey on the golf ball every time as it zooms towards our screen.

There, I admitted it.  Now I feel dirty.

Note to Cinematographer: Your Shot is Too Dark

It was maybe my third or fourth time before I realized that people were surfing down there in the shadowy waves during that sunset flyover of the ocean.  It’s like the opening scene of Jaws.  Those kids could be skinny dipping with sharks for all we know.

Surfers in Soarin'

If you look closely, you can also find a Munchkin who hung himself on a tree in the background.

Christmas at Disneyland

The movie ends at Disneyland, which is fitting.  But why did they choose Christmas season to film this shot?  That’s the Christmas parade down there.  You can see the big Main Street tree and It’s A Small World is all decked out for the holidays.

This shot is only relative for about two months out of the year, yet it’s your big finale.  You couldn’t wait until January to get a more normal view?

The only thing I can think of is that maybe all the Christmas lights helped the nighttime shot to turn out a little better.  But that explanation feels weak.  No matter, I spend the whole time trying to make out which rides are open (answer: not many).

Christmas at Disneyland during the Soarin' flyover

Apparently in Disneyland, people are allowed to stand in the middle of Main Street while the marching Toy Soldiers came straight at them (lower left).  Unless… could it be this shot was staged??

So those are my obsessions.  What do you fixate on?

Comments (31)

  1. Really old post but on the fisherman. He’s flyfishing and that involves casting forward and backwards sometimes.

    So nothing to do with the camera and everything to do with how he’s fishing 🙂

    • I don’t buy it. Unless flyfishing typically involves leaving the line behind your shoulder most of the time.

  2. I to have rode soaring at Epcot many times. Always wondered what missile cruiser followed the Carrier Stennis CVN 74. Finally figured out it’s the Lake Champlain CG 57. Go Navy.

    • Douglas, that is an observation far beyond even my considerable skills. Good job figuring it out. I would not have even known where to begin.

  3. There is no dissolve after Patrick Warburton says “Welcome to Soarin.” He filmed a new intro specifically for Epcot. Check out youtube videos and compare the slight variations in his delivery. They’re minor but they’re there.

    • Sorry, I just watched it today and there’s definitely a dissolve. Hard to spot on Youtube, but very easy to spot in the ride, which I just rode today (and noticed again). The Epcot video is in the middle of a slow zoom, which helps hide the dissolve, but it’s impossible to miss if you’re looking for it.

      I don’t spot any differences in the performances. Everything from the lighting on his jacket to the lay of his tie to the facial ticks and squints seems to be identical. Tilt of the head, blinks, crinkle in his forehead, Inflection and rhythm of speech is also identical. The only difference I noticed was in the quality of the youtube sound, which might be what you’re catching.

      The background behind him is different, which was probably changed in post (he must have shot the original in front of greenscreen).

      Also, the rest of the video is clearly the same as Disneyland (dead giveaway: kid in Disneyland sweatshirt). Patrick returns to the greenscreen at the end, and once again the performances are identical, right down to the slight head waggle as he walks away.



  4. First of all of the regular parades at Disneyland run in the afternoon and evening before it gets dark and would not show as nice as the Christmas Parade at night and it has to be at night so they can have the CGI fireworks finale. Second the other parades only last three or so years so the film would be out of date after a few years. The Christmas Parade has been basically the same for 20 years or more. Third the colorful lights on small world and the Christmas decorations are much prettier than the all white lights you would see the rest of the year. That’s my opinion as a longtime annual passholder.

  5. As a former flight attendant at the Epcot attraction I have several points for you. First the hang glider is CGI 100%. Disney had to get special permission to film with the helicopter so they edited in the hang glider in post. Second the finale was filmed after hours so most attraction were closed and extras used to simulate crowds. The pared scene took hours to film and the performers reset and did the same short movement over and over. As far as the holiday being chosen it was simply timing and the fact that the lighting in the park translated better for the film. This ride is a fantastic engineering feet and I was proud to work there for several years. Remember that there is an inherent theme of disney magic in the hang gliders allowing them to vcover the vast distances that are seen in the journey. Also there are rock climbers on the left of the screen in the Yosemite scene look for them.
    I never go to Epcot without visiting this attraction. Another insider tip about the experience the que line is themed to famous airports around the world if you are a traveler you may be able to guess which ones. Please ask questions there is a large amount of detaol that isn’t noticed to the untrained eye.

  6. @TheCherlandFamily, that does vaguely ring a bell. Now I’m going to have to look for the crazed climber next time I ride.

  7. I’ve only seen Soarin’ (over CA, I didn’t know there was a Florida one!) a few times, but this past weekend I noticed something. In the bottom Left corner of the screen, during one of the mountain shots (I think it was Yosemite, before the CGI hang glider) there is a person wildly running down a ridiculously steep section of mountain. It looked like he was “falling with style.”

    • I’ve ridden Soarin’ at Epcot a few times, but just this week I first noticed the people rappelling in the Yosemite scene. And if my memories from hanging out at 60s while at North Georgia College in 1988 serve me correctly, they are doing it “aussie” style!

  8. Thanks Beta Mike. wdi33 had also confirmed that. I still think it’s silly. Assuming that the reason was they didn’t want any “normal” guests polluting the shot, they still could have picked a better time than Christmas, right? The shot’s at night anyway. Has to be some way they can plan a Cast party in the spring or fall and run whatever the normal parade is.

  9. The shot over Disneyland at Christmas was chosen because of the logistics of the shoot. It was chosen on one of the select Cast Member exclusive Christmas parties. Many DLR Cast Can pick themselves out in the shot. Now you know.

  10. The Christmas scene was filmed during the Cast Christmas party in ’98 or ’99. It was a way for the company to film a Shot of Disneyland full of guests without ruining a real evening for real paying guests. I was there standing in front of the main street cinema and have to tell you guests might have been freaked out by a helicopter flying so low over main street. It really looked like it was going to take out the tallest tower on Sleeping Beauty Castle!

  11. @Brer
    It was definitely filmed during Christmas. As you can see, “it’s a small world” has it’s Christmas overlay installed which takes weeks to do. I think they filmed during the Christmas season (which runs from November to January) because of poor planning.

  12. for what it’s worth, the hang glider is CG, and the hard cuts are a problem that Disney is attempting to deal with on the new version.

    The VFX house I work for actually bid on the initial hang gliding shot (but didn’t get it)and we’re currently bidding on more creative transtions from one scene to the next for the new installment.

    • Something cloud-like along with blast from a fog machine…

  13. I don’t mind the cuts. They are a little jarring, but at the same time they are timed pretty well with the music I think a cloud transition each time would distract from that coordination with the music.

    Now, the Christmas thing I am bothered by every time. Ugh! The crazy thing is that I swear I read once that they filmed this outside of the Christmas season and had to intentionally install Christmas decorations for a brief time in the Spring or Summer. I’m not going to claim this is true, but if it is….it makes you scratch your chin and wonder “huh?” even more.

    I truly hope that if they ever do create a Soarin’ Over the World that each resort will receive it’s own ending with its own home park as the finale.

    Brer Dan

  14. So that’s 1 vote for CGI, 1 vote for Not-Eisner, 1 vote for no-Christmas, and several votes for better cuts!

    On the editing, I’m kind of torn. I agree with Teev’s point that constantly panning up into the clouds would disrupt the flow. On the other hand, I don’t like the cuts from one location to another. I probably would have preferred disguised cuts like they use in Star Tours. You float over oranges to a hot air balloon which overwhelms the frame, then as you pass the oranges suddenly you are in the forest, or something.

    Maybe we should just be thankful that this is not a ride in which we are Junior Hang Glider trainees, and halfway through the mission SOMETHING GOES WRONG!

    • “Maybe we should just be thankful that this is not a ride in which we are Junior Hang Glider trainees, and halfway through the mission SOMETHING GOES WRONG!”

      And then you’re all given controls and told to land it safely when in truth, you could keep your hands free and land just the same? (e.g. Mission: Space)

  15. You know, I was an outspoken critic when Soarn’ first opened. I did not liek the cuts along with some other issues I felt were corner cutting moves.

    As the years have gone by I have actually softened to the cut thing. Now I still HATE walking in and seeing a giant dark screen, I think the whole load area is in essence an unthemed mess and I know that adding soem hanger doors that would concel the screen… then open for the show would be a HUGE improvement. Have us take off, doors open, we glide through a physical fog bank and into the show… that would be awesome.

    but having us constantly go into and out of cloud banks would be siginifcantly less awesome.

    I used to think the show needed that to be “real” but there is nothing remotely real about it. Breaking the momentum to give as 3 seconds of clouds before th next scene simply serves to distupt the flow of the editing.

    Now if the whole film took place in one general location and it was meant to feel real then that may be different, but we are crossing huge physical spaces in seconds… reality is not the goal. I actually now like the cuts… it keeps things moving, works with the music well and has a sort of cool hybrid of film and ride which is unique… but the doors… give me the doors!

  16. It’s worth it having the XMAS ending just to watch it at DCA during the XMAS season and feel the displacement (“Wait: is this really happening, right now? Oh yeah, it’s just a ride. They had me going there for a minute!”)

    In this episode of the Season Pass Podcast ( Rick Rothschild discusses creating the ride, and the decision about the editing. They tried it with clouds between scenes and apparently it didn’t work. Really interesting stuff.

  17. Interesting as always and I thought I was the only one who ever put Rocky Horror and Disney into the same sentence.

    I have absolutely no confirmation but I read that the golfer is actually the director of the Soarin’ movie. I’ll have to see if I can verify.

  18. I always found the cutting of “over California” odd. I mean, you know it’s California as soon as you see the movie. And plenty of Disney attractions transport you to a specific other geographic area. I mean, it’s “Pirates of the Caribbean” no matter which park you’re in!

    • The one in EPCOT is a different movie entirely though-not the CA version and is supposedly based on flying from an airport (somewhere in the world) TO CA-so makes sense to just call it Soarin’

      • Pardon my saying this, but BULLSHIT! It’s the exact same film in both parks. Over at Mousebuzz we’ve talked about what a Florida specific version would be.

        But speaking of hidden Mickeys, the most glaring one is during the fireworks over Disneyland. It’s a little left of center and you won’t miss it now that you know it’s there.

  19. Since hang gliding is illegal in Yosemite, I’ve always thought the guy was CGI.

    • I’ve been in film production for 16 years. Often films require special permissions to shoot in places or do certain things not allowed by the general public. It is not uncommon for these permissions to take months of navigating red tape, having special insurance coverage, or even meeting with political figures. One very specific example would be Ron Howard’s Davinci Code film shooting in the
      Louvre. Another great story is the politics involved in shooting Ridley Scott’s film Black Rain in communist China.

  20. Since I’ve never ridden Soarin’ any time other than Christmas, I never caught that, so I guess it was real to me. You’re right about that fisherman being weird… I think he might be Al Qaeda.

    The only stupid thing I notice is how jarring the cuts are from scene to scene. You would think they would bank you up into the air and then use the sky to cut to the next scene, instead of just going straight from one to another. They spend a bazillion dollars to design this sophisticated ride and can’t edit a 5-minute movie?


    On another note, I love playing the Soarin’ music in my car, turning up the air conditioner, and driving on the highway while leaning forward for a more panoramic view.

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