Sea World killer whale (aka orcas, aka Shamu) shows never change the most important part. While Sea World can adjust themes, rebuild stages, and add new music, it matters little. Guests want to see a 10,000-ton mammal leap from the water like a ballerina and belly flop like an overfilled water balloon, spraying the first 20 rows of guests in the process. In “One Ocean,” the Orlando Sea World show that debuted on Earth Day 2011, the same holds true. It combines music, majesty, and giant mammals in a show that can be presented only a few places on earth.
“One Ocean” portrays killer whales as the ambassadors of the sea, and the sea as the center of the natural world. It has a strong we-are-one-with-the-world ecology theme that is not all hype. Sea World has a long history of animal rescue, picking up injured ones along Florida’s coasts, rehabilitating them, and sending them on their oceanic way. And while Sea World is a money-making corporation, the employees who train and care for aquatic mammals get into that line of work because they actually care about animals – not because it pays well.
Sea World continues to struggle with allowing people to get into the water with killer whales, however. Crowds want it but it’s too dangerous. While the shows makes killer whales seem like amiable aquatic elephants happy to perform for humans, their first name is still “killer.” In the wild, these orcas use cunning tactics to corner and kill prey, and messy table manners to share and devour it. Unfortunately, instincts can be tamed but not terminated. In a February 2010 event that made worldwide headlines, Sea World Orlando’s largest breeding male killed a 40-year-old trainer, Dawn Brancheau. Sea World immediately took humans out of the water. In “One Ocean,” humans get close to Shamu when he’s out of the water, however.
Beyond that one limitation, it’s technologically the best show Sea World has so far produced.