Reimagining the New SeaWorld
By Anthony Esparza, Chief Creative Officer, SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment [NYSE:SEAS]
Our big picture is not necessarily to think of ourselves as just a theme park company, but as a company that can help guests connect to animals and the wild wonders of our world. This includes looking at all aspects of how we innovate, design, and build our theme park attractions, create and produce our events and entertainment, target and align our media content, and new opportunities to pursue resort and hospitality experiences.
We are a purpose-driven company and that purpose can be interpreted in a lot of interesting ways. It can be an up-close animal experience, a big ride that is wild and wonderful, a digital environment, or a different kind of undersea experience. We are interpreting SeaWorld a little bit more broadly now.
That new interpretation was the basis for Deep Blue Creative, a new team designed to harness and drive innovation and creativity within the company. Bringing together talent from both inside and outside the organization, the six divisions of Deep Blue Creative enhance every aspect of SeaWorld’s business and bring to life innovative new experiences that are fun and meaningful, including the introduction of new virtual reality platforms.
Our extension in the virtual reality space is really exciting, as it will allow us to tell our story in a very different way. Our guests will now get to go “behind the barriers” to places that were once off-limits, and also meet endangered and extinct animals. This concept of Digital Wonders lets us deepen our connections through interactive exploration, delivering impactful experiences to inspire the next generation of explorers and conservationists.
The addition of Kraken VR this summer at our SeaWorld Orlando park— the company’s first foray into virtual reality—is a game changer. Guests will embark on a deep sea mission alongside sea creatures inspired by extinct and legendary animals of the past, including the mighty Kraken. A custom digital overlay with uniquely designed headsets fully integrated, mechanically and electronically, into the coaster train for a new one-of-a-kind adventure—giving guests a new, exciting way to enjoy one of SeaWorld Orlando’s most popular coasters.
A new VR experience at SeaWorld San Diego, also debuting this summer, gets guests virtually up-close to majestic orca whales.
The five-minute “Orca One-on-One,” opening in the new Ocean Explorer realm, gives a 360 degree live action underwater view of SeaWorld’s killer whales.
"Our extension in the virtual reality space is really exciting, as it will allow us to tell our story in a very different way"
The new Electric Ocean nighttime spectacular, debuting at SeaWorld Orlando and San Diego this summer, is another example of integrating emerging technologies to enhance and energize the guest experience. This unique nighttime event will transform the parks into a canvas painted with light as part of a “goodnight” show. Lasers and lights will create a fantastical simulated underwater experience similar to the Northern Lights, with “bioluminescent” animals floating through the sky. It is a reinvention of what a nighttime experience in a theme park can be.
In addition to VR technology, our new vision is reflected in new rides and attractions. SeaWorld and Busch Gardens will take guests on some amazing journeys in the coming year with Wave Breaker: The Rescue Coaster, opening at SeaWorld San Antonio. It is the first of its kind jet-ski style ride in North America, combining the thrill of the sea, the adrenaline rush of a multi-launch roller coaster and the inspiration of animal rescue. Inspired by the Emmy award-winning program, Sea Rescue, the coaster enables riders to feel what it’s like to race alongside SeaWorld’s heroic animal care team and veterinarians as they spring into action at a moment’s notice to help rescue animals in distress.
Submarine Quest is the signature ride of Ocean Explorer, a new 3-acre realm combining aquariums, rides and technology coming to SeaWorld San Diego this summer, and San Diego’s Orca Encounter will introduce SeaWorld’s new approach to presenting killer whales, in a live documentary-style format rather than a theatrical show, focusing on their behavior in the wild: how they move, what they eat, how they hunt, how they navigate, even how they communicate. These offerings mark a new beginning and are a great example of what the industry can expect from SeaWorld in the years to come.
As part of our continuing strategy to expand our brand and position our company for future growth, we also recently announced details of our first international expansion—SeaWorld Abu Dhabi in the United Arab Emirates (UAE)—projected to open by 2022. The new park will be the first park without orcas, and will integrate up-close animal experiences, mega attractions and a world-class aquarium—bringing the latest technology in visitor engagement. This will also include the UAE’s first Marine Research, Rescue, Rehabilitation and Return (R4) Center with world-class facilities and resources for the care and conservation of local and international marine life.
Our new culture has SeaWorld partnering with organizations that will help further its research, rescue and conservation goals, like world-renowned artist and marine conservationist Guy Harvey, and with rescue partners that help make the company the largest rescue organization in the United States. Over the last 50 years, SeaWorld has helped more than 29,000 ill, injured and abandoned animals, with a goal of returning them to the wild.
We are still focused on inspiring our guests to help save the planet that we all share. The world needs places like SeaWorld, now and even more so in the future. And we are poised to be that place for the world.”