Wednesday, November 02, 2016

Review of Soarin' Over The World

This news report indicates the changes and advances done for the new Soarin' attractions. The one new thing I learned from it is that each of the Soarin' attraction will have different endings, depending on where it is shown.

“Each of the venues that we created for we a custom ending so you end up where you start. In Shanghai, you end up in Shanghai. In Epcot you end at Epcot. At Disneyland, you end up over Disneyland. It’s interesting that someone commented after the Epcot ride: ‘Does everybody else around the world end at Epcot?” I don’t think they had thought that we could have the ability to alter the endings for each site. It was not difficult to do but I think it just personalizes it for the audience and says: ‘This was designed for you and it was designed for this location.’”

That's a nice touch. But how does it compare with the old film?

First of all, let's get this out of the way. The images are spectacular. Certainly, there is no doubt that the footage they got were astounding. Secondly, the image and movie quality were jaw-dropping. It is undoubtedly way better than the old film. The clarity and resolution of the images is one of the best that I've seen, especially considering that in this attraction, the audience is still quite close to the screen.

But in the end, it is the content that dictates how successful it is. Is it better than the old Soarin' Over California? In my opinion, NO.

There are a few problems with this. Let's start first of all with the technical aspect.

When we saw Soarin' on our trip last week, we saw it three times on the same day (in fact, twice within half hour, and a total of 3 times by lunch time). We sat at three very different locations. The first one was the prime location, center aisle, center seat, Row 1. The second time, far left in Row 2. Final time, far right in Row 1. We notice SEVERE DISTORTION in both the the far right and far left seats, due to the curvature of the screen. Both the Taj Mahal's towers, and the Eiffel Tower, had an unnatural bent to them that were quite disconcerting and distracting. There were other instances where this distortion became distracting.

I'm sure this type of distortion were there in the old Soarin' movie, but they were less noticeable. The new movie had a lot of "straight, vertical structures", and when these are seen to curve, they become quite noticeable. I think that I was a bit disappointed at how bad the distortion was. I didn't realize it was this severe for someone in those seats. My guess is that this distortion will probably be less obvious for those in the middle area, and for anyone beyond the center seat on the left and right seating section. If you are unlucky enough to get these extreme seats, you might just to see some familiar landmarks doing some unnatural bending.

I am extremely disappointed by the digital enhancement and addition they added to the movie. I'm not talking about superimposing or creating those fireworks and stuff at the end. Those we all know are "not real". I'm talking about the digital enhancement that you can't tell, but suspected. I mean, the whale just happened to be jumping out of the water at that exact moment? Really? And the elephant throwing dirt right over as we flew by?

The problem with this is that, it made me suspect and questioned everything that I saw in the movie, and made me wondered if these are real. Are those people  walking along the Great Wall of China real, or were they added digitally? Are those ships and  boats in Sydney Harbor real? etc.. etc.

Again, I know that these were done in the old film (eg. the golf ball coming at you), but in the old film, this were done judiciously, and also, they were not that obvious. In this new film, they were done enough that it made you questioned on the authenticity of the scenery that you are seeing. This takes away from the "awe" of what you are seeing, because in the back of your mind, you wondered if it is real, or is it Memorex? I certainly did.

The "get in your face" transition from one scene to the next got very tiring after the 2nd one. I don't know if the Imagineers got too enamored by the audience reaction to the "golf ball coming at you" in the old film, but they are overdoing it in this new film. The transition from one scene to the next is just not as smooth and seamless as the old film.

But in the end, the overall effect for me is quite obvious. I had goosebumps the first time I saw Soarin' Over California. The images and music worked very well together. After seeing Soarin' Over The World, I was left with a bit of a disappointment. No goosebumps, no "Wow!". Maybe I was expecting way too much, but I found that I was being distracted by things that I shouldn't be paying attention to in the first place.

It affected the overall experience, and the disappointment at what has happened to one of my most favorite attraction just couldn't be ignored.


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