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On May 24, SeaWorld Orlando will debut its newest attraction and largest-ever expansion, titled Antarctica – Empire of the Penguin. Designed to create an immersive experience of the South Pole, this ambitious project employs technology that has never been used in a theme park attraction and that introduces visitors to four principal species of Antarctic penguins.
Realism is one of the major goals of this family-oriented and educational attraction. Drawing from hundreds of photos of the Antarctic topography, the designers of the Empire’s massive structure have aimed at simulating the icy continent’s glaciers and crevasses, even down to such fine details as erosion patterns left on the ice by Antarctica’s famously powerful winds.
While the attraction doesn’t take visitors to the grueling extremes of Antarctica’s harsh, dry, bone-chillingly frigid climate, inside the attraction the temperature does drop from balmy Orlando levels to the low 30s, the range that needs to be maintained for the comfort of the penguins. Four species of Antarctic penguins are represented in the attraction: gentoos, rockhoppers (known for their spectacular spring-like vaults out of the water), kings (the second-largest species in the world) and adelies.
The “star” and “guide” of the attraction is a digitally animated young gentoo named Puck, whose life cycle provides a narrative through-line for the ride. Developed by Nth Degree Design and Visual fx, Puck and his fellow animated creatures are designed to offer visitors, especially children, an educational and exciting introduction to the zoological details of penguin life, including how they feed, care for their young and organize socially.
Not only does the Empire promise closer interaction between visitors and penguins than ever before, but its cars also feature technology new to the theme park experience. The cars, each of which seats up to eight riders, are able to rotate and tilt along several axes of motion, offering an experience not unlike floating on the ocean. The open-cabin design of the cars complements this undulating motion to give riders a more realistic-feeling and immersive sense of their surroundings. The truly innovative feature of the cars, however, is wireless navigation technology that allows for trackless movement across the broad interior space, thus guaranteeing that no two trips through the ride will be identical.
Although the ride itself is the focus of this development, the Empire will also include several other services centered on the penguin theme, including the penguin habitat, a gift shop and a restaurant. In light of this, park executives are calling Antarctica – Empire of the Penguins a new “realm” for the park, offering an array of family-friendly activities designed to offer visitors fun as they are introduced to the great southern continent and its fascinating avian dwellers. www.seaworldparks.com