SeaWorld Launches ‘Believe,’ the Most Ambitious Killer Whale Production in the Parks’ History

Killer Whale Shows to Continue During Construction at Shamu Stadium Venues in Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio

ST. LOUIS, Oct. 12 /PRNewswire/ — SeaWorld parks across the U.S. have embarked on the most ambitious entertainment project in the brand’s 41-year history, a show production called “Believe” that blends new killer whale behaviors with elaborate set pieces, music, choreography and state-of-the-art multimedia.

Construction is scheduled to begin next week at SeaWorld Orlando and SeaWorld San Diego. Much of the existing above-water stage structures at both parks’ Shamu Stadium venues will be removed to make room for complex mechanical set pieces, the world’s largest whale tail (more accurately, a “fluke”), fountains, and multimedia equipment that includes video cameras, LED screens and sophisticated sound design. “Believe” will be presented several times daily in all three SeaWorld parks when construction is complete next spring.

“This is without question the most ambitious project we have ever undertaken,” said David R. Smith, corporate vice-president of entertainment for St. Louis-based Busch Entertainment Corp. (BEC), the family entertainment division of Anheuser-Busch Companies, Inc. “While we are building on almost four decades of experience in showcasing killer whales in SeaWorld parks, this show will be unlike anything our guests have ever seen or heard.”

In the two largest SeaWorld parks, SeaWorld Orlando and SeaWorld San Diego, the centerpiece of the new set design is a 3-story tail fluke flanked by four 200-square-foot moving video screens. Those screens provide guests at Shamu Stadium with views of the whales and trainers from above- and below- water cameras. The LED screens are designed to operate independently, and to come together, forming a single panoramic screen at center stage.

The audio system for “Believe” is one of the most sophisticated ever constructed for a Busch Entertainment show, Smith said. “The design will create soundscapes for ‘Believe’ with music that has been composed exclusively for this show and with killer whale behaviors that have been choreographed to it.”

At SeaWorld San Antonio, construction is already underway to replace elements of Shamu Stadium’s signature domed roof. The park is open weekends through Nov. 27 and construction will not interrupt the current “Shamu Adventure” show. “Believe” premieres in San Antonio when the park opens for its 2006 season March 4.

“Believe” at SeaWorld San Antonio will feature a camera suspended from the ceiling of Shamu Stadium, providing guests, “incredible overhead views during the show,” Smith said. The project also will include enhancements to the stage and video screen area and a completely new set section at the south end of Shamu Stadium.

Thad Lacinak, BEC’s vice-president of animal training, said marine mammal trainers have been working on new behaviors with the park’s 24 killer whales for nearly two years.

“Killer whales have an amazing capacity to learn,” Lacinak said. “The behaviors in this show will reflect not only the experience and imagination of our trainers and show producers, but more important, the close relationship we have with these animals. We hope to do much more than entertain with ‘Believe.’ We want our guests to be inspired by it; to recognize that if we can build this kind of relationship with an animal like a killer whale, there’s nothing our guests can’t do.”

Lacinak said that an adult killer whale may know dozens of discrete behaviors. Trainers have developed a repertoire of nearly 160 killer whale behaviors, 100 of which will be part of the new show. “Our training philosophy is built entirely on positive reinforcement,” he said. “With animals this large and powerful, relationships built on trust are critical.”

Killer whale shows will continue at SeaWorld Orlando and SeaWorld San Diego until the new show premieres, Smith said.

“During construction at SeaWorld San Diego, killer whale shows will be offered either in the main show pool or in a separate part of Shamu Stadium known as Shamu Close Up,” Smith said. At SeaWorld Orlando, killer whale shows will continue in the main presentation pool. “Construction will occur around the show schedule,” he said.

The three Shamu Stadium facilities are among the largest marine mammal habitats in the world. Each of the pool complexes at Shamu Stadium in Orlando and San Diego contain nearly 7 million gallons of continually chilled and filtered saltwater. Shamu Stadium at SeaWorld San Antonio contains 4.5 million gallons. The stadiums seat between 3,800 and 5,500 SeaWorld guests.

In addition to SeaWorld, BEC operates Busch Gardens parks in Tampa, Fla. and Williamsburg, Va.; Discovery Cove in Orlando; Sesame Place in Langhorne, Pa. near Philadelphia; and water parks Adventure Island in Tampa and Water Country USA in Williamsburg. BEC and its parks employ nearly 20,000 people nationwide.

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