SeaWorld Orlando really comes out of its shell with TurtleTrek
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SeaWorld Orlando really comes out of its shell with TurtleTrek

SeaWorld Orlando really comes out of its shell with TurtleTrek

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Can it really be three years since Manta -- Central Florida's first-ever flying coaster -- initially came on the scene at SeaWorld Orlando?


Copyright SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. All rights reserved

Yep. To be exact, this Bolliger & Mabillard-designed roller coaster officially opened to the public on May 22, 2009. And ever since then, millions of thrill seekers have made special trips to this zoological theme park just so they could then experience what it was like to dive, twist and corkscrew through the air while riding aboard a giant steel manta ray.

But Orlando being Orlando, there are always new rides, shows and attractions coming along.  And what with The Wizarding World of Harry Potter opening at Universal's Islands of Adventure back in June of 2010 and "Star Tours: The Adventures Continue" coming online at Disney's Hollywood Studios in May of 2011 ... Well, it was obvious that SeaWorld Orlando was going to have to come up with something really special if it was going to stay competitive with Disney & Universal during the Summer of 2012.


Copyright Disney / Lucasfilm, Ltd. All rights reserved

And given that Disney & Universal are both world renown for their films and movie studios, the folks at SeaWorld Orlando decided that the very best way to top the competition was to create a brand-new cinematic experience unlike any that had ever been seen inside of a theme park before.

So the folks at SeaWorld turned to Falcon's Treehouse, that Orlando-based theme entertainment company which had created Thea Award-winning attractions like the Curse of DarKastle ride at Busch Gardens Williamsburg and the Dragon's Treasure multi-sensory film (which has been wowing crowds at Macua's City of Dreams Casino since September of 2009).


Inside of the Dragon's Treasure hemi-ellipsoidal theatre at Macau's City of Dream
Casino. Copyright 2008 - 2012 City of Dreams. All rights reserved

In fact, it was Dragon's Treasure (which is presented inside of a 80 foot-tall & 120 foot-wide hemi-ellipsoidal theater) that kind of provided the jumping-off point for SeaWorld Orlando's next show. When the creative team from SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment saw how Falcon's Treehouse had used 15 different projectors to create a virtually seamless  cinematic experience inside of this dome-shaped theater, they then wondered: Would it be possible to present a 3D movie inside of this same sort of space?

So the folks at Falcon's Treehouse and SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment put their heads together as they attempted to come up with an appropriate storyline for this brand-new 3D movie experience. Which -- like so many of the other rides, shows and attraction found in this zoological theme park -- had to skillfully mix education and entertainment in a way that would then appeal  to tourists. Who typically don't like to be preached to while they're on vacation (Witness what happened back in February when Epcot was forced to suddenly close its new Habit Heroes interactive attraction. All because the media insinuated that this Blue Cross Blue Shield-sponsored show was somehow demeaning to the obese).


SeaWorld Orlando employees return a loggerhead
turtle to the waters just off Cocoa Beach after that
theme park's veterinarians had nursed back
 to health. Copyright SeaWorld Parks &
Entertainment. All rights reserved

The theme that Falcon's Treehouse and SeaWorld's creative team eventually settled on was "Everyday Heroes." As in: Everyone everywhere can pitch in and protect our oceans & the environment. All it takes is people being proactive locally, taking a few small steps every day.

And the film that they used to then sell this concept to the public was TurtleTrek, the world's first 3D 360 experience which just opened at SeaWorld Orlando theme park this past Friday. Presented inside of a 38 foot-tall domed theatre, this 6 minute-long CG film really has to been to be believed. It takes you through 22 years of the life of Maya, a sea turtle. As she journeys from being a hatchling who has to dig her way of a sandy nest and then doing battle with a hungry crab & tern before Maya finally reaches the sea.


Copyright SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. All rights reserved

And then -- thanks to the 34 projectors that are working together to throw a super-clear, seamless image up on the walls of that dome (not to mention the 22 audio channels which help to give new SeaWorld Orlando show a 3D audioscape) -- you really feel like you are traveling underwater along with Maya as she journeys through the world's oceans.

Mind you, there are a few scary moments in TurtleTrek (especially when Maya is briefly menaced by a Great White Shark while she is hiding inside of the hull of a rusted-out old wreck on the bottom of the sea. Not to mention when this sea turtle narrowly avoids getting caught in a drag net that some fishermen are using). But for the most part, this new addition to SeaWorld Orlando's line-up of rides, shows and attractions is downright lyrical. Beautiful even.


Copyright SeaWorld Parks & Entertainment. All rights reserved

Which is why -- once you seen TurtleTrek and then continue on with your Central Florida vacation -- you may eventually find yourself  thinking:  "Gee, that new 3D 360 film at SeaWorld Orlando was really great. I wish that I could go back to that theme park now and experience it one more time."

Well, if you had purchased a Length-of-Stay ticket, then that really wouldn't be a problem. You'd have had upwards to 14 days to not only make multiple visits to SeaWorld Orlando and Aquatica, its companion waterpark, but you could have also journeyed over to Busch Gardens Tampa Bay. Where you could then experience the newish (opened in May of 2011) Cheetah Hunt thrill-ride as well as seeing that coaster's namesakes up-close by wandering through that theme park's Cheetah Run habitat.


Joseph "Reverend Run" Simmons and his daughter Miley visit Busch
Gardens Tampa Bay Cheetah Run habitat area as the Cheetah Hunt
coaster looms in the background. Copyright SeaWorld Parks &
Entertainment. All rights reserved

So if you think that you might be interested in having multiple face-to-snout encounters with cheetahs over in Tampa and/or wish to repeatedly experience the 3D 360 wonders found in SeaWorld Orlando's newest attraction, TurtleTrek, the next time you're vacationing in Florida ... Well, I think I know a few folks who can help you out with those Length-of-Stay tickets.

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