Flying theatres are fun, family-friendly attractions that have been popping up not only in theme parks but also as stand-alone attractions in popular cities and vacation destinations around the globe. There are also many more already announced for the future.
We can track back the creation of the concept to Soarin at Disney’s California Adventure, which was an opening day attraction back in 2001, and has since been replaced by Soarin’ Around the World (above).
Much of the media focus on the new theme park was aimed at the bigger and more visual outdoor rides and attractions. But Soarin’s unique new take on the simulator concept quickly made the attraction one of the most popular new rides in the entire park.
The origins of flying theatre attractions
Following this, Disney built a copy of it at Epcot that opened in 2005.
The basic concept hardly sounds like something that would have caused the creation of the park’s “must-see” attraction. Simulator rides had been waning in popularity with theme park guests for years at the time, after peaking between the mid-80s to mid-90s.
Visually the “flying” style media footage shot for the attraction was also the same kind of concept that was popular at IMAX and OMNIMAX style theatres during the same era. The flying theatre combined the two concepts, but instead of tossing riders around violently, the idea was to use the most gentle of ride motion hardware to create an attraction that would be suitable for the entire family.
Top 13 flying theatre attractions around the world
13) Flying Over America – Window of the World, China, 2010
One of the first non-Disney flying theatre attractions was built in China. Here, Super 78 was tasked with the goal of presenting a scenic tour of the American landscape to a Chinese audience, all in the span of five minutes.
The end result is a glorious representation of some of America’s finest visual landmarks as seen from the air. Guests are also alongside a GCI wingman, flying in an aircraft reminiscent of the first days of flight in America.
12) Flying Dreams – Ferrari Land, Spain, 2017
Using a flying theatre as an attraction in a new theme park all about Ferrari is an interesting concept. But this isn’t the first Ferrari park to have a flying theatre attraction. In 2013 the original Ferrari World theme park in Abu Dhabi opened another flying theatre attraction called Viaggio in Italia.
Four years later, a second attraction was created for the new Ferrari Land park in Spain at PortAventura theme park resort.
Where the media for most flying theatres is shot with cameras mounted to helicopters, the Flying Dreams production team from Mousetrappe chose to use drones instead. This allowed them to get very close to the almost a dozen different model Ferrari vehicles used in the production as they moved down various highways and locations throughout the world. The attraction is from Brogent Technologies.
11) Flight of the Dragon – Happy Valley, China – 2010
Next on my list of top flying theatre attractions is another Super 78 creation. Flight of the Dragon takes audiences on a flight over the wonders and amazing landscape of China.
Guests are also joined in the experience by a highly detailed computer-animated flying dragon character that weaves throughout the various scenes along the way.
10) Krrish: Hero’s Flight – Bollywood Dubai, UAE, 2016
While most flying theatres offer a peaceful aerial tour of the landscape, Bollywood Parks Dubai decided to try something new with the creation of an action experience featuring Krrish. Krrish is an Indian superhero character who features in a number of films, as well as Indian TV, comics and video games.
Guests are rescued by Krrish who then takes them along for an amazing journey over the landscape of India where he battles the forces of evil. Kraftwerk Living Technologies worked on the media and AV systems for the attraction, which is considered one of the ‘must-do’ things to see when visiting Bollywood Dubai.
9) LEextraordinaire Voyage – Futuroscope, France, 2016
For this next entry on my top 13, Futuroscope repurposed the existing Tapis Magique theatre pavilion, previously used an as IMAX theatre, installing a custom flying theatre attraction from Dynamic Attractions inside.
Guests watch the pavilion building itself open up and then send them on a magical journey around the globe to fly over famous wonders. For instance, the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids of Egypt, Dubai, Yellowstone Park and more. Unlike most flying theatres that strive to use real footage as much as possible, it appears that the majority of the footage here is GCI.
8) FlyOver Canada – Vancouver, Canada, 2013
One of the first stand-alone flying theatre attractions opened in a popular tourist area in the city of Vancouver. This stand-alone attraction from Brogent Technologies also became the prototype for a future series of planned attractions from Pursuit.
FlyOver Canada takes guests on an aerial tour of various Canadian landmarks with a focus on stunning places of natural beauty. Guests also leave inspired to continue the journey to see more of this amazing world with their own eyes.
7) FlyOver Iceland – Reykjavik, Iceland, 2019
The latest flying theatre attraction from Pursuit brings the magic of the flying theatre experience to Reykjavik in Iceland. The attraction is from Brogent Technologies and Kraftwerk Living Technologies worked on the media and AV systems.
Reykjavik serves as a popular port of call for various cruise lines as they travel the Atlantic. Here, the attraction serves as a great way to showcase the different scenic locations of Iceland in a short period of time to these visitors who are on a brief visit to the country.
6) FlyOver America – The Mall of America, USA, 2017
This is a follow-up of sorts to the FlyOver Canada attraction in Vancouver. It is inside the famous Mall of America in Minnesota.
Much like the Canadian sibling, FlyOver America takes the riders on a whirlwind tour of the vast American landscape. The attraction from Brogent Technologies features stunning footage at every turn. From sea to shining sea, from the deserts to the mountains, you’ll see it all.
5) Soaring over the Horizon/Soarin’ Around The World – Shanghai Disneyland, China & Disney California Adventure & Epcot, USA, 2016
In 2016 Disney opted to build its third flying theatre attraction as part of the opening lineup of the new Shanghai Disneyland park in China as Soaring over the Horizon. The next day, it also opened nearly identical attractions in its US locations, replacing the original Soarin’ attraction media with the newly named, Soarin’ Around The World.
In each case, the main portion of the ride film is almost virtually the same. The major difference in each is the filming of a localized finale scene showcasing the park each attraction is in. The fourth version of this attraction also opened in 2019 in Japan at Tokyo DisneySea. Here, it operates under the name “Soaring: Fantastic Flight”, along with a more highly themed queue experience.
In this latest version of Disney’s Soarin’ concept, Disney chose to expand from showcasing one region to showcasing the wonders of the world. The overall experience is still beautiful to watch. However, the enhancement of various scenes with GCI animation can be hit or miss. Sometimes it serves the intended purpose, while other times it only served to distract the riders.
4) Sky Voyager – Dreamworld, Australia, 2019
While the opening of this Brogent technologies attraction at Dreamworld took longer than expected, the quality of the final product more than speaks for itself. Much as we’ve seen other top flying theatre attractions bring the rich landscape of their native lands to the screen, this one also does the country of Australia great justice in bringing a visual feast to the eyes of the riders.
It begins with a skydiving experience down to the surface. Guests then visit the sights of the nation, both natural and man-made. From stunning blue water beaches, over lush green lands and rivers, to arid desert landscapes, you’ll see it all.
3) Wings over Washington – Seattle, USA, 2016
Built on Seattle’s Pier 57 next to an observation wheel is perhaps one of the finest themed stand-alone flying theatre attractions ever built. It is more than just a flying theatre ride experience, however. The attraction also comes with an extensive pre-show experience set up. This introduces the story, which ties into the legends and history of the Native American peoples of the North-West.
Once you get to the actual ride itself, the detail in the room is nothing at all like the open sterile or empty industrial-looking theatre space setup you’ll find on most flying theatres. Instead, virtually every inch of space here reflects the overall theming of the attraction experience and the native peoples of the region.
The media created by Super 78 is top-notch. A magical Thunderbird emerges from a mystical Totem Pole and leads the camera on an amazing flight. This focuses on the stunning natural wonderland that is abundant in the state of Washington. Kraftwerk Living Technologies worked on the SFX for Dynamic Attractions.
2) Voletarium – Europa-Park, Germany, 2017
In the Summer of 2017, Europa-Park opened Voletarium, its new flying theatre experience. Inside and out, the park strove to make this new attraction a highly themed experience.
The outside of the attraction building is stunning and highly detailed with the creation of a themed plaza outside. This leads riders into a highly themed interior queue that sets up a story. The story also ties into a new shared storyline created for the park about the Adventure Club of Europe.
The attraction itself features two individual high capacity flying theatres able to run separately, with ride hardware from Brogent Technologies. The stunning ride visuals are by MackMedia, which filmed scenes across 15 iconic locations throughout Europe. This was done with cameras mounted to helicopters and drones. The film was produced by Mack Animation.
The final result produced some of the finest visuals I’ve ever seen anywhere. Guests will soar over Venice, spiral around the inspiring Matterhorn, past the Fjords of Norway and Neuschwanstein Castle and over the famous Eiffel Tower. They also return for a flight over Europa-Park itself for the finale.
Kraftwerk Living Technologies chose to use a multi-channel projection solution from Christie for the attraction to create a more immersive experience.
1) Soarin’ – Disney California Adventure, 2001 & Epcot, 2005
Number one on my list of top flying theatre attractions goes back to also being the first one, with the creation of the original Soarin’ attraction at Disney’s California Adventure. I may be a little biased. But as someone who was born and raised in California, the attraction pulls at my heartstrings. It was able to take me on a journey to see many locations that I had a personal connection with.
In addition to this, the visuals in this original version of Soarin’ are unmatched. As you can see from my ranking, I consider this first version of Soarin’ to be superior to the current edition now running at Disney parks around the globe.
From a cinematic point of view as well as the ability to trigger an emotional response in riders, there was just something almost magical about the experience of riding the original Soarin’ attraction which was entirely focused on the landmarks and locations of the state of California.
More top flying theatre attractions
While researching for this list, I realised that there are far more flying theatre attractions installed across the globe than I had originally thought, particularly in Asia. One project in construction is the world’s first HEXaFLITE®2.0 with 48 seats in China from Simtec Systems, expected in 2022.
Because of this, I’ve also combined a timeline list of all the ones I could find.
While I hope this list is complete, there may be other flying theatres out there that I have missed. So, please forgive me if I’ve forgotten to include one on the list below.
I’d also like to give an honourable mention to the Avatar-themed Flight of Passage at Disney’s Animal Kingdom. This serves as a next-generation version of the flying theatre concept. This is because it also adds in a more dynamic motion base capable of providing a more thrilling ride experience.
Existing flying theatres
- Soarin’ (2001 at Disney California Adventure, 2005 at Epcot)
- Flight of the Dragon (2010 at Happy Valley, Shanghai, China)
- Flying Over America (2010 at Window of the World, Shanghai, China)
- Feeling Taiwan (2010, EDA World,Taiwan)
- FlyOver Canada (2013 in Vancouver)
- Soaring over the Horizon (2016 at Shanghai Disneyland)
- Soarin’ Around The World (2016 which replaced Soarin’ at Disneyland & Epcot)
- Viaggio in Italia (2013 at Ferrari World)
- Hubei in the Air (2014 at Wanda Movie Park, China)
- Fuji Airlines (2014, FujiQ Highland, Japan)
- Batman: Dark Flight (2015 at Studio City, Macau, China)
- Flying Theatre (2015, Liaoning Science and Technology Museum, China)
- LEextraordinaire Voyage (2016 at Futuroscope)
- Fly Over the Strait (2016, Shimao SkyCity, China)
- FlyOver America (2016 in The Mall of America)
- Krrish: Hero’s Flight (2016 in Bollywood Dubai)
- Wings over Washington (2016 in Seattle)
- Agila: The EKSperience (2016 at Enchanted Kingdom, Philippines)
- Fly Venture (2016 at Lotte World)
- Jiangxi in the Air (2016, Nanchang Wanda Movie Park, China)
- Anhui in the Air (2016, Hefei Wanda Movie Park, China)
- Voletarium (2017 at Europa Park)
- Flying Dreams (2017 at Ferrari Land)
- Flight over Russia (2017 at Zaryade Park)
- Heilongjiang in the Air (2017, Harbin Wanda Movie Park, China)
- Alpha Flight (2018 at Wonderla, India)
- This Is Holland (2018 in Amsterdam)
- The Flyer (2018 in San Francisco, CA)
- Beautiful Hunan (2018 in Tongguan Kiln International Cultural & Tourism Center, China)
- FLYOVER CHINA, (2018, Shijingshan Amusement Park, China)
- i-Ride Taipei (2018, Breeze Nanshan Shopping Center, Taiwan)
- Flying Over Indonesia (2019 at Trans Studio Bali)
- Soaring: Fantastic Flight (2019 at Tokyo DisneySea)
- FlyOver Iceland (2019 in Reykjavik, Iceland)
- Masters of Flight (2019 at Legoland Florida)
- SkyVoyager (2019 Dreamworld, Australia)
- Volarium (2019, Rome, Cinecittà World)
- Canton in the Air (2019, Guangzhou Sunac Land, China)
- Jiangsu in the Air (2019, Wuxi Sunac Land, China)
- Yunnan in the Air (2019, Kunming Sunac Land, China)
- Chongqing in the Air (2020, Chongqing Sunac Land)
- Sichuan in the Air (2020, Chengdu Sunac Land, China)
More potential top flying theatre attractions still to come
Masters of Flight at Legoland California & Billund Delayed from 2020 to 2021
Wings of Destiny – Coming to Doha Oasis expected 2020
On The Wind of the Wings – Coming to Dream Island, Russia expected in 2021
New flying theatre Coming to Legoland Windsor in 2021
New flying theatre Coming to Times Square, New York expected in 2021
FlyOver Las Vegas – Coming to Las Vegas expected in 2021
Flying Theater at The Island in Pigeon Forge – Expected to open in 2021 or 2022
Independence Day 2 – Coming to Genting Skyworlds expected in 2021
Evergrande Ocean Flower Island – Coming to Danzhou, China expected in 2021.
First HEXaFLITE®2.0 with 48 seats coming to China in 2022.
FlyOver Canada – Coming to Toronto with a New Film expected in 2023
Changsha Kids’ World flying theatre – coming to China in 2023.
Kaifeng Kids’ World flying Theatre – coming to China in 2023.