ANAHEIM, Calif. — In a way, it seems fitting that Rick Rothschild's favorite movie growing up was "Peter Pan."
There was always something captivating watching Peter Pan, Wendy and the other children fly through the air, Rothschild said.
When Rothschild grew up, he gave people that sense of flying wonder.
Rothschild, who lives in Newhall, is a former longtime Walt Disney Imagineer and the original creative director of Disney California Adventure's Soarin' Over California attraction.
Rothschild left Disney more than 10 years ago. But as the creative director of his own themed entertainment company called FAR Out!, he's helped develop other Soarin’-type experiences in Canada, Minnesota and Iceland.
Most recently, he launched a new flying simulator attraction on the Las Vegas Strip.
FlyOver Las Vegas is a new flight simulator ride that takes visitors on a ride vehicle with their feet dangling in the air inside an enclosed dome in front of a 52-foot spherical screen and glides over iconic Western destinations, including parts of the Las Vegas Strip.
"I honestly believe people like to fly," said Rothschild to Spectrum News. "In our dreams, a lot of us like to do that."
The $40 million ride, which opened in September, is the newest attraction from Viad Corp's Pursuit division on the Las Vegas Strip. The attraction took over the former United Artists movie theater next to the Hard Rock Cafe on Las Vegas Boulevard.
Like Soarin' Over California and Soarin' Around the World at Disney theme parks, FlyOver Las Vegas is a multisensory and immersive experience.
But unlike Disney's Soarin', FlyOver Las Vegas has a different and upgraded ride system that allows them to make more moves during the ride and a higher definition screen.
The theme of the ride at FlyOver Las Vegas is the Real Wild West, Rothschild said.
Before riders go on the actual ride, there's a bar area that serves alcoholic and non-alcoholic themed western drinks and a multimedia pre-show where they can learn about the west.
Once the show is over, visitors will hop on a ride vehicle where it will transport them to scenes in 22 locations across 10 Western states.
Some scenes include watching stallions ride in Yellowstone National Park, water skiers surrounded by snow-capped mountains at Cascade Lake near Lake Tahoe, the Hoover Dam, the Grand Canyon, fly fishing in Colorado and surfers riding six-story high waves at Mavericks in Northern California. And, of course, the Las Vegas strip is prominently displayed.
As riders glide through and watch the scenes, Rothschild said they'll experience other special effects, like wind, mist and smells of the outdoors.
For example, Rothschild said, tiny drops of mist will gently fall when riders pass through a cloud or a waterfall.
The ride can accommodate up to 46 riders per show.
The whole experience is about 30 minutes. Tickets for adults are $34 and kids $24. Along with Flyover Las Vegas, visitors can also watch the FlyOver Iceland film.
"It's a great way to decompress from the Strip," said Rothschild.
Rothschild said it took about a year and a half to film and develop the scenes for FlyOver Las Vegas.
Rothschild and a co-director specializing in sports action photography sat inside a helicopter with a high-resolution camera and directed every scene seen in the film.
FlyOver Las Vegas is Rothschild's fourth FlyOver attraction since leaving Disney after 30 years in 2009. His Disney resume is stacked.
He was part of the idea team and led the Soarin' Over California project as the director of the movie and the creative director. He doesn't like taking all of the credit.
"It takes a village," he said, adding that he was part of the team that oversaw the development of more than 50 attractions at Disney Parks worldwide.
When he left Disney, Rothschild helped develop and design FlyOver Canada in Vancouver, FlyOver Iceland in Reykjavik and FlyOver America at the Mall of America in Minneapolis.
During the conversation with Spectrum News, Rothschild was on a shoot in Canada to develop another FlyOver experience.
Rothschild said creating these types of FlyOver attractions makes him appreciate the beauty of the world. Sitting inside a helicopter, he has a bird's-eye view of the wonders of nature and loves that he gets to share it with the world.
"What you're seeing are real locations," he said, adding there's little CGI work. "We strongly believe that nature is an extraordinary thing that needs to be viewed and enjoyed, and by understanding it, we are doing our part to help people realize the responsibility that we all have to help maintain these places."