Orca Encounter will take a “live documentary” approach that emphasizes natural behaviors related to hunting, social interaction and communication, said Marilyn Hannes, president of SeaWorld San Diego.
“You won’t see the whales mimicking human behaviors, kissing each other or shaking their head yes and no,” Hannes said in a phone interview. “If you don’t see a front flip in the wild, then you won’t see it in Orca Encounter.”
The stage in San Diego’s 5,500-seat Shamu stadium will be transformed with a Pacific Northwest theme featuring natural rock work, faux trees and man-made waterfalls surrounding a 138-foot-wide high-definition infinity screen.
“They will still be breaching because whales breach in the wild,” Hannes said. “Whales hunt in the wild, and they do movements where they flap their tail to stun their prey or they splash them or they come out of the water to grab a seal from the beach.”
The San Diego park has 11 killer whales; 52-year-old Corky is the oldest, and 2-year-old Amaya the youngest. After more than 50 years of orca shows, the stadium shows will continue to evolve over the next half century, Hannes said.
“We’re going to have whales for decades to come,” Hannes said. “Society has changed and we have changed with it.”
Submarine Quest, the marquee ride in the new Ocean Explorers land coming to the San Diego park, will take visitors on an interactive exploratory mission through various ocean depths while traveling through the new themed land.
Seaworld officials have been quick to point out that Submarine Quest is not a shoot-’em-up dark ride. Using digital touchscreens mounted in the ride vehicles, riders will play games and score points as they spot ocean creatures during the indoor and outdoor journey.
Other attractions in the new land will include the Tentacle Twirl wave swing, a kiddie drop tower, a spinning flat ride and a motorized swing set. Three aquariums will feature moray eels, Japanese spider crabs and giant Pacific octopus.
An up-charge virtual-reality experience in the new land will allow visitors to virtually swim with orcas and come nose to nose with killer whales. The five-minute “Orca One-on-One” short film uses real footage of SeaWorld killer whales without digital enhancements.
“You’re up so close you can see their eyes,” Brian Morrow, SeaWorld creative director, said in a phone interview.
The new Electric Ocean nighttime spectacular will transform the San Diego park into a canvas painted with light as part of a “kiss goodnight” show.
Lasers and lights will create an underwater experience similar to the Northern Lights, with bioluminescent animals floating through the sky. While still in development, the plan is to use projection mapping technology on the Journey to Atlantis water coaster buildings to tell the story of the rise and fall of Atlantis.
“Electric Ocean is a reinvention of what a nighttime experience in a theme park can be,” Morrow said.
As part of the nighttime experience, the Cirque de la Mer acrobatic show on Mission Bay will transform nightly throughout the summer into Cirque Electrique.
“We’re still going to be focused on inspiring our guests to help save the planet that we all share with these animals,” Morrow said. “The world needs places like this, now and even more so in the future. And we’re poised to be that place for the world.”
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