By ATD’s Florida Experts, Susan and Simon Veness
What do sea monsters, raft rides, and the iridescent beauty of a perfectly blown bubble have in common? They’re all coming to SeaWorld, and they’re going to blow you away!
We recently attended a special media preview to introduce an exciting new attraction, a jaw-dropping new show and a mind-blowing addition to a long-standing coaster favourite that herald ‘What’s Next Is Now’ for the park.
The big headline news for 2018 is Infinity Falls, a new family river rapids ride that will break ground soon in the Sea Garden area of the park. Brian Morrow, the VP Theme Park Experience Design at SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, told us the attraction will have the world’s tallest drop for a water rapids ride. “It also tells the story of the earth’s fragile ecosystems,” he said, “including habitats for sloths and other animals, notably several breeds of birds and reptiles. We developed Infinity Falls to tell new stories that showcase the beauty and sheer power of water and the amazing wildlife that lives around it. They will be part of a very important story about the fragility of this environment.”
What makes Infinity Falls different to other water park raft rides? Morrow explained: “We are reinventing the river rafting adventure. These rivers are full of adventure, exotic locations and high thrills. We are going to build the best-in-class river rafting ride, reinventing it for modern times.”
The message of ‘help save the rivers’ will be mixed with a thrilling ride, including that BIG drop, in an exotic jungle setting. It will also have a unique vertical lift, last for 4 minutes, simulate a Class IV white-water rapids and culminate in a splash-down that lets out in Harmony Village, where guests will encounter a strong environmental message. Infinity Falls will have a 42-inch height requirement, and it is expected to open in Summer 2018.
But that certainly isn’t the only thing coming to the park. Morrow went on to tell us about Kraken Unleashed, the new 360-degree Virtual Reality version of the popular Kraken coaster, which will open June 16 of this year.
The basic idea is that riders are visiting a special submarine base for a major underwater adventure which, of course, goes badly wrong and plunges riders (via a crack in an undersea volcano) into a treacherous world of sea creatures and hidden dangers, culminating in a hair-raising meeting with the Kraken itself.
Each seat will be fitted with a harness that holds the strap-on headset, with the visuals then synchronised to the ride vehicle and its position on the track. If you have concerns about your comfort when riding, there is a test seat available prior to entering the queue. And you won’t have to experience the virtual reality version if you would rather not. Simply ride without wearing the headset for the ‘traditional’ Kraken experience.
We were given a ‘sneak peek’ of Kraken Unleashed, and were able to try out the headsets and new seats. The stunning 3-D visuals are really startling just standing still, and we can only imagine how dynamic they will be once you are hooked up to the ride itself!
Being virtual reality, we were able to look up, down, and all around at the underwater environment, and even without the added motion of the video and the coaster, it was totally convincing and incredibly exciting. The ‘static’ version of the experience utilised still pictures instead of video, but we can attest to the fact it should be a major thrill once the movement comes into play.
Next, Morrow introduced Steve Welch, Creative Director for SeaWorld Entertainment, who had another surprise up his sleeve. “Shows and live entertainment are an essential part of what SeaWorld is all about,” Welch said, “and we are delighted to introduce a show unlike any other this summer; a show inspired by the natural world in the bubbles of the ocean, one that transports the viewer into a whole new world.”
He asked us to imagine the bubbles whales make when they’re bubble-net feeding, bubbles left by penguins when they dive and swim, and other bubbles common to the ocean environment. Then he introduced Fan Yang, or The Bubble Man as he is better known, who took to the stage and gave us a sample of his incredible artistry.
The 30-minute set he will bring to SeaWorld was previewed with the Vietnamese-born star showing off his bubble artistry in a 15-minute showcase of amazing dexterity and imagination. From small bubbles that filled the stage to enormous bubbles so wide he could stand in them, Yang worked his magic, right down to creating bubbles filled with smoke that he was able to ‘insert’ into clear bubbles and manipulate in ways that seemed impossible.
The Bubble Man will bring his brand of unique entertainment to SeaWorld’s Nautilus Theater from Memorial Day (May 29) to mid-August, with six shows a week (but not on Mondays), four times a day.
Finally, we were able to interview Steve and Fan in the Sea Garden after all the demonstrations, and we asked Steve why they chose Fan as SeaWorld’s next big stage presentation, and what he thought it would mean to the park. “If you are looking to do a bubble show, there is only one person to go to, and it is Fan Yang. There was no one else we wanted to work with. We are going to use a LOT of bubbles – about 100 gallons with each show – and we want everyone to experience it.”
Fan Yang, who has performed on Broadway, chimed in: “It is such a simple media to work with but this takes it to the next level. I was fascinated as a kid, to make bubbles last longer, and get bigger, so you could actually stand inside one. It has taken me years to find the right formula, and I have put a lot of passion and imagination into the world of bubbles. I have been doing this now for 35 years and I was able to bring the world of bubbles to a whole new level.”
He has certainly achieved that goal, and we were mesmerised. If you’re in Orlando this summer, make it a priority.
PS: Also watch out for the new Dolphin Nursery this summer, which is currently undergoing a major renovation and will re-emerge as a more educational exhibit in June.
If there’s anything else you want to know about Florida, be sure to visit the fab ATD forums, right here.
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