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SeaWorld Celebrates 50th Anniversary Despite Blackfish Drama

Despite anger created by the Blackfish documentary, SeaWorld launches new entertainment for the park’s 50th anniversary and prepares to possibly expand internationally.

Blackfish be damned: SeaWorld is celebrating the 50th anniversary of the opening of the first SeaWorld park in a nationwide celebration.  On Friday, March 21, 2014, all three SeaWorld parks in Orlando, San Diego, and San Antonio kicked off the Sea of Surprises 50th Celebration.

Reminiscent of Disney’s “Year of a Million Dreams” campaign in 2006, over the next eighteen months, guests at SeaWorld Orlando will be able to experience a variety of new features, from new show to new interactive experiences, including:

SeaWorld Surprise Squad: A team of excited employees will roam the park and give away free souvenirs and experiences, from Shamu stuffed animals to behind-the-scenes tours.

Shamu’s Celebration: Light Up The Night: Starting on June 21, guests will experience a new evening orca show, replacing the previous “Shamu Rocks” show with new music and routines.

Madagascar Live! Operation: Vacation: For the little guests (and those of us who are older but not quite grown up), SeaWorld Orlando will begin a new show starring characters from the Madagascar movie franchise.

More Animal Ambassadors: Scattered throughout the park, guests will be able to see up close, learn about, and possibly touch various orphaned or injured wildlife rescued by the SeaWorld Rescue Team including eagles, anteaters, penguins, and flamingos. At other times, a group of flamingos may wander the park with trainers following behind.

Surprise Entertainment: SeaWorld’s walkways will be filled by random roaming entertainment troupes, from acrobats and drummers to clowns ready to soak guests. Special entertainment will be featured in the children’s play area, Shamu’s Happy Harbor, including bubble machines that create bubbles of all sizes.

In March 1964, the first SeaWorld park opened in San Diego, California. Since then, four other parks opened around the world. While three of the parks are still open, the SeaWorld park in Aurora, Ohio closed in 2001 due to low attendance and an inability to remain open during the cold winter. That park was initially taken over by Six Flags before being shut down completely 2004.

Overall, SeaWorld has not seemed to suffer from the Blackfish documentary, a 2013 film that documents the death of SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau in 2010 by orca Tilikum  and explores the controversy surrounding captive killer whales. The film and people’s reactions to it caused many of the bands lined up to play at SeaWorld’s annual Bands, Brew, & BBQ event to cancel out of personal choice or fear of losing fans.

SeaWorld has since responded to Blackfish, calling it “propaganda” on a website dedicated to refuting the film as well as buying eight full-page ads in major newspapers refuting the films claims.

Despite protesters outside the parks, while attendance at SeaWorld has decreased in the fourth quarter and the last financial year overall, revenue was up 3 percent for both the quarter and the year. Attendance was down 4.1 percent for the year. During a financial report with investors this March, SeaWorld has said they are considering working with partners to expand their theme parks internationally.

In the last fifteen years, SeaWorld has chosen to focus their efforts on animal rescue and rehabilitation. As said by President and CEO of SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment, Jim Atchison, in SeaWorld’s “Celebrating 50 Years of SeaWorld” video, “We do something no one else does. We connect people with nature in a way that inspires them and entertains them, and maybe leaves them to care a little bit more after they are done, and that is something very special, and it has been a great privilege to do that for so long.”

SeaWorld’s Sea of Surprises will continue through August 2015. Discount tickets can be purchased at OSIL’s desk in the campus center across from the Bieberbach-Reed room.


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