Thanks to Harry Potter’s success at Universal, Orlando theme parks no longer expand by adding one multi-million dollar ride – they expand by building a multi-multi-million dollar themed land, with at least one new ride. In the latest development, SeaWorld announced a new Antarctica area, which will feature “state-of-the-art interactive ride technologies.” (For the record, all new rides are “state-of-the-art” in media releases.) Antarctica debuts in spring 2013.
While SeaWorld guarantees one new ride, the section will also include restaurants and gift shops. (For the record, all new lands include gift shops.) Antarctica expands SeaWorld’s existing penguin exhibit, in which visitors walk through a small educational section before seeing a massive glass-walled cage filled with the black-and-white, flightless birds. That building appears to be on its way out, and I, for one, think the birds deserve more showtime anyway.
The company also announced an unrelated new attraction, Turtle Trek, though it’s more of a redesign as manatees move out of their current home and big turtles move in. Turtle Trek debuts in spring 2012.
The ride: Antarctica – Empire of the Penguin
SeaWorld released few details of the new ride and could dole out information slowly before the official announcement.
What we know: SeaWorld says it will take guests to the bottom of the world, and the ride is about “how SeaWorld takes guests there.” That implies that the ride will create a narrative bridge from Central Florida, perhaps as a plane ride or other form of transportation. It’s also about “what animals will be encountered during the journey.” According to SeaWorld officials, visitors will see Antarctic life “through the eyes of a penguin (and) … their sometimes-dangerous habitat.”
What we guess: SeaWorld already transports guests to the North Pole in “Wild Arctic,” and the premise of the new attraction sounds similar. In Wild Arctic, guests board a “helicopter” that is really a motion simulator. (Enclosed cart dips and turns in time to a movie playing in the front.) Once the “helicopter” sets down, vacationers step into a chilled, enclosed area that replicates an Arctic outpost, complete with a frozen shipwreck and tanks of animals found north of Alaska.
The still-mysterious Antarctic ride can’t be a motion simulator if it’s one-of-a-kind, as claimed, but the plot may be two-of-a-kind, albeit one that goes to the opposite side of the world compared to Wild Arctic.
Beyond Antarctica, SeaWorld will expand its marine turtle exhibit beyond its current small pond by moving it into the current “Manatee Rescue” building. The manatee exhibit includes above- and below-water views of the large Florida creatures. (They look a bit like walruses without scary tusks and bad attitudes.) Visitors also can watch a short movie that talks about their endangered status.
However, the new turtle movie, according to SeaWorld, is an upgrade. It has “married a state-of-the-art animated film and powerful projection system with a
fully domed theater, allowing for a seamless, 3-D virtual environment all around guests, even over their heads.”
Translation: It sounds way cooler, at least in media releases.