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Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin

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Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin
Antarctica Empire of the Penguin logo.png
Antarctica Empire of the Penguin entrance 1.jpg
Entrance
SeaWorld Orlando
Area Sea of Ice
Coordinates 28°24′42.80″N 81°27′35.53″W / 28.4118889°N 81.4598694°W / 28.4118889; -81.4598694Coordinates: 28°24′42.80″N 81°27′35.53″W / 28.4118889°N 81.4598694°W / 28.4118889; -81.4598694
Status Operating
Opening date May 24, 2013 (2013-05-24)
Replaced Penguin Encounter, Friends of the Wild, and Antarctic Market Restaurant
General statistics
Attraction type Motion-based AGV/trackless dark ride
Manufacturer Oceaneering
Designer SeaWorld Orlando
Theme Antarctica
Music "Antarctica: One World, One Family" by Lauren Alaina
Vehicle type AGV/Trackless
Riders per vehicle 8
Rows 2
Riders per row 4
Height restriction 42 in (107 cm)
Handicapped/disabled access Wheelchair accessible

Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin is a theme area at SeaWorld Orlando featuring a motion-based, trackless dark ride[1] and a penguinarium. The attraction opened on May 24, 2013[2] as the largest attraction at any SeaWorld Entertainment theme park.[3] The area was generally well received by critics and the public at its opening.

History[edit]

Rumors and announcement[edit]

In August and September 2011, SeaWorld Entertainment filed trademarks for "Antarctica" to be used for a theme area, and "Empire of the Penguins" to be used for an amusement ride.[4][5] This led to rumors that SeaWorld Orlando would replace its "Penguin Encounter" exhibit with a dark ride. A report by the Orlando Sentinel in October 2011 confirmed these plans, citing "government filings and interviews with people familiar with various elements". At the time, SeaWorld Orlando would not publicly reveal its plans.[6]

On November 8, 2011, SeaWorld announced a multi-year expansion plan featuring the opening of Turtle Trek in 2012 and "Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin" in 2013. Although details of the ride were not released, creative director Brian Morrow said that the ride would be the coldest attraction in the world and would follow the journey of a tiny penguin.[7] On April 24, 2012, the park revealed further details about the attraction: guests would ride in eight-person vehicles, choosing among two levels of intensity ("Mild" or "Wild"). The surrounding area would also feature a new penguin habitat, restaurant and store.[8]

Construction[edit]

To allow construction to begin, SeaWorld Orlando closed Penguin Encounter, Friends of the Wild and the Antarctic Market Restaurant on January 3, 2012.[9] The former attractions were demolished during the first half of 2012, with vertical construction beginning in July.[10] Construction continued into 2013, with construction walls coming down one week before the attraction's opening.[11] The cost of the attraction was reported to be in excess of $40 million.[12]

Opening[edit]

On February 19, 2013, SeaWorld Orlando announced that "Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin" would open on May 24.[13] Unlike many attractions, the ride had no soft opening period; instead, it was open to a select number of employees and their families, travel media and bloggers before its public opening.[14]

On May 24, 2013, SeaWorld Orlando opened Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin to the public. The opening drew thousands of guests to the ride, with some waiting more than four hours to board.[2] On May 25, one of the penguins escaped the open-air enclosure by leaping out of the water and into the public viewing area; it was returned to the exhibit unharmed.[15][16]

Ride experience and exhibit[edit]

Penguin chick, between its parents
Part of the Empire of the Penguin ride's pre-show, where Puck hatches

Guests enter the queue from the Antarctica-themed area of the park. Large groups of riders and non-riders are admitted into a pre-show room, where multiple projections of an Antarctic landscape are blended with 3D exhibits. In a narrated video, guests are introduced to a gentoo penguin colony in Antarctica featuring a newborn penguin named Puck. After the pre-show guests follow a path to a junction. Non-riders watch another, smaller pre-show before entering the penguin exhibit. Riders choose a "mild" or "wild" ride. They are then divided into groups of eight riders before boarding the ride vehicles at one of four stations. Riders are seated in two rows of four, and restrained by seat belts.[1][17]

When the riders have boarded, the vehicle is dispatched. It travels around an indoor Antarctic environment, spinning to view a variety of scenery and projection screens. The story which began in the pre-show continues, with Puck venturing out into the sea. When he is underwater, Puck is chased by a leopard seal before resurfacing on land. The ride's theme song – "Antarctica: One World, One Family" by Lauren Alaina[18] – is then played as guests watch a live penguin habitat behind glass before the vehicles return to a four-platform unloading station.[17][19]

Guests disembark in an open-air penguin habitat with an air temperature of approximately 30 °F (−1 °C). This exhibit has minimal barriers between guests and inhabitants, and is designed so guests can hear sounds made by the penguins.[1][20]

Penguins standing on a rocky shelf
Penguin exhibit at the Empire of the Penguin ride's conclusion

A total of 245 penguins and alcids live in the exhibit; species include gentoo, king, Adélie and rockhopper penguins, as well as their Arctic counterparts, the puffins, and the murres.[21] Lighting in the exhibit allows the park to control the seasons for the penguins.[20] A 20-foot (6.1 m) glass window allows guests to see them in their 45 °F (7 °C) pool from an underwater viewing area.[1] The entire experience takes about 25 minutes.[22] To minimise odors in the open-air environment, SeaWorld staff clean the exhibit several times daily and replace the 20,000 pounds (9,100 kg) of snow each day.[20]

Theme area[edit]

The Antarctica-themed area is spread across 4 acres (1.6 ha) inside SeaWorld Orlando.[2] A 50-foot-high (15 m) entrance archway is adjacent to the Sea Lion & Otter Theater, and a smaller entrance is near the Journey to Atlantis ride.[23] In addition to the Empire of the Penguin, the theme area is home to several other attractions. A looping 45-minute soundtrack is played throughout the area.[22] A "South Pole" is in the center of the area, and penguin carvings decorate the surrounding walls.[23] The Expedition Cafe, South Pole Beverages and Glacial Collections sell food, drinks and souvenirs.[1][22][23]

Production[edit]

Blue-and-white, eight-passenger ride car
Empire of the Penguin Ride vehicle docked at a station

Ride system[edit]

Audience in the Empire of the Penguin Ride's Rainbow Room
Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin Ride at Sea World

Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin features a prototype, motion-based, trackless dark-ride system by Oceaneering International, producer of ride systems for The Amazing Adventures of Spider-Man, Transformers: The Ride, and The Curse of DarKastle.[24][25][26] The ride is the first of its kind in the world.[1][16]

When Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin was announced in November 2011, Oceaneering had already developed a working prototype of the ride vehicle.[7] The first concept art for the attraction was released in April 2012: a circular ride vehicle, seating eight riders in two rows of four.[8][27] On May 11, 2012 Oceaneering filed a patent application for the ride's technology.[28] At the November 2012 IAAPA Attractions Expo, SeaWorld Orlando and Oceaneering International revealed the trackless, motion simulator-based ride vehicle to the public.[24][26]

Each battery-powered vehicle, or AGV, is made up of two platforms. Riders sit on the upper platform, which provides three degrees of freedom. A lower platform provides omnidirectional lateral movement. Unlike previous ride designs, the trackless system and the wheel and motor configurations allow movements diagonal to a rider's perspective. The vehicles use a dead reckoning system developed by Frog AGV[29] to navigate their way through the environment, allowing a vehicle to cross another's path. Each vehicle features a built-in controller, which wirelessly communicates with a central ride-system controller. Movement commands are issued by the ride-system controller, and executed by the vehicles' controllers. A specially-designed battery and charge system allow the vehicles to be quickly charged while docked at the loading and unloading platforms.[28]

Marketing[edit]

SeaWorld Orlando announced Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin as part of the park's largest expansion thus far.[7] With 18 months between its announcement and its opening, the park wished to generate demand for the ride.[14] As part of this campaign, SeaWorld released a promotional video in July 2012[30] and a series of videos (Behind the Freeze) featuring creative director Brian Morrow.[31]

Reception[edit]

Dewayne Bevil of the Orlando Sentinel said that "the hottest attraction in Central Florida theme parks this week is also the coldest." Bevil interviewed several park guests; comments included "I thought it [the ride] was really cool" and "it's beautiful", and some described it as better than the attractions it replaced.[2] Barbara Nefer of Examiner.com said that guests would love Puck, the ride's central character. She preferred the wild version of the ride, describing it as "actually still very family friendly" and saying that the exhibit was a "huge highlight" of the attraction.[32] Robert Niles of Theme Park Insider agreed that the highlight of the attraction was the penguin exhibit. Niles described the dispatch procedure as crucial to the ride: "if SeaWorld can dispatch a quartet of ride vehicles every minute or so, as designed, fans will find this a fun ride".[33] In a later article Niles highlighted some guests' criticisms of the ride, describing it as "lacking an engaging story and not delivering enough on-ride views of the attraction's stars -- SeaWorld's penguins". However, he argues that SeaWorld's promotions were too photorealistic creating "expectations for an experience that the ride did not deliver, perhaps setting up many of those visitors for disappointment".[34]

Lawrence Goldsmith of the Daily Mirror and Susan and Simon Veness of the Daily Mail, shared the sentiment of other reviewers: the penguins are the stars of the show.[35][36] Goldsmith said that the ride options (mild or wild) allowed everyone, from children to thrill-seekers, to "enjoy the experience equally".[35] Susan and Simon Veness described the ride section as thrilling, calling it "one of the highlights" of the attraction.[36] Arthur Levine of About.com gave the ride three out of five stars. Levine gave this moderate rating because he felt conflicted: the animations themselves were good, but the overall storyline was sparse; the ride system was intriguing, yet it was underutilised. He concluded by applauding "SeaWorld for taking the bold initiative to build a major-league attraction", but stated "the ride feels rushed and too short".[37]

From a commercial perspective, the opening day of the area saw guests waiting in line for more than four hours to experience the flagship attraction;[2] SeaWorld had estimated queues of approximately half that time. Dennis Speigel of consulting firm International Theme Park Services expected attendance to increase between five and ten percent. Speigel speculated that this rise would be higher than if a single attraction were unveiled; however, it would be less than the 36-percent increase for Islands of Adventure after the opening of The Wizarding World of Harry Potter.[38]

In November 2013, Oceaneering won a Thea Award from the Themed Entertainment Association for outstanding themed entertainment and experience design, for the trackless ride system developed for Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin.[39][40]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c d e f Bevil, Dewayne (May 23, 2013). "SeaWorld's Antarctica: Cool location designed for warm welcome". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Company. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e Bevil, Dewayne (May 24, 2013). "SeaWorld Orlando's Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin opens". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Company. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  3. ^ "SeaWorld reveals plans for Antarctica". Park World Magazine. April 25, 2012. Archived from the original on May 12, 2012. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  4. ^ Antarctica, United States Patent and Trademark Office, August 9, 2011 
  5. ^ Empire of the Penguins, United States Patent and Trademark Office, September 1, 2011 
  6. ^ Garcia, Jason (October 7, 2011). "SeaWorld Orlando quietly working on 'major' expansion". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Company. Retrieved May 24, 2013. 
  7. ^ a b c Bevil, Dewayne; Garcia, Jason (November 8, 2011). "SeaWorld Orlando announces details for massive expansion including themed land Antarctica". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Company. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  8. ^ a b Garcia, Jason (April 24, 2012). "SeaWorld's Antarctica 'realm' to include ride, penguin habitat, restaurant, shop". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Company. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  9. ^ "Theme Park Hours and Show Schedules". SeaWorld Orlando. Archived from the original on January 20, 2012. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  10. ^ "Antarctica Update: Huge Steel Structure Going Up". Orlando Theme Park News. July 1, 2012. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  11. ^ Bevil, Dewayne (May 19, 2013). "SeaWorld Orlando: Antarctica construction walls down". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Company. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  12. ^ Ruben, Paul (June 2013). "Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin". Park World Magazine: 32–34. 
  13. ^ Bevil, Dewayne (February 19, 2013). "SeaWorld's Antarctica to open May 24". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Company. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  14. ^ a b Garcia, Jason (May 23, 2013). "SeaWorld hopes new ride ready for the spotlight". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Company. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  15. ^ Banks, Jennifer (May 28, 2013). "Caught on video: Penguin jumps over barrier at Orlando exhibit". CBS Atlanta. Retrieved May 28, 2013. 
  16. ^ a b "Penguins Я Us". Park World Magazine: 6. July 2013. 
  17. ^ a b "Full Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin ride with queue, pre-show, and habitat at SeaWorld Orlando". Inside the Magic. YouTube. May 23, 2013. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  18. ^ Bevil, Dewayne (May 9, 2013). "SeaWorld Orlando: 'American Idol' alum Lauren Alaina to sing Antarctica's theme song". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Company. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  19. ^ Bevil, Dewayne (May 22, 2013). "Little Puck steals show in SeaWorld's new wild ride to Antarctica". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Company. Retrieved May 26, 2013. 
  20. ^ a b c Bevil, Dewayne (May 23, 2013). "SeaWorld's Antarctica: Does it pass the sniff test?". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Company. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  21. ^ Sekula, Sarah (May 19, 2013). "The march of the penguins brings them to SeaWorld". Poughkeepsie Journal. Gannett Company. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  22. ^ a b c "SeaWorld's Antarctica by the numbers". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Company. May 23, 2013. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  23. ^ a b c Bevil, Dewayne (May 21, 2013). "SeaWorld Orlando: 5 tips for traveling to new Antarctica". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Company. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  24. ^ a b "Show Daily - Update from Orlando". International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. November 2012. Archived from the original on January 18, 2013. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  25. ^ "Transformers The Ride". Park World Magazine. Datateam Business Media Limited. December 23, 2011. Archived from the original on September 21, 2013. Retrieved March 14, 2013. 
  26. ^ a b "Antarctica comes to Orlando". Park World Magazine: 7. December 2012 – January 2013. 
  27. ^ "SeaWorld Antarctica expansion -- Empire of the Penguin". Orlando Sentinel. Tribune Company. April 24, 2012. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  28. ^ a b WO patent 2012155120, "Trackless dark ride vehicle, system and method", published November 15, 2012, assigned to Oceaneering International 
  29. ^ Fassbender, Melissa (May 19, 2014). "After Jaws, a Ride Designers Dream". Product Design & Development. Retrieved August 3, 2014. 
  30. ^ SeaWorld (July 19, 2012). "SeaWorld Orlando's Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin". YouTube. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  31. ^ "Behind the Freeze – Making of Antarctica". SeaWorld. Retrieved May 25, 2013. 
  32. ^ Nefer, Barbara (May 23, 2013). "Review: You'll love Puck in SeaWorld Antarctica ride and get close to penguins". Examiner.com. 
  33. ^ Niles, Robert (May 23, 2013). "Ride review - Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin at SeaWorld Orlando". Theme Park Insider. Retrieved May 26, 2013. 
  34. ^ Niles, Robert (May 28, 2013). "Could SeaWorld's concept art for Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin have set up visitors for disappointment?". Theme Park Insider. Retrieved October 6, 2013. 
  35. ^ a b Goldsmith, Lawrence (15 June 2013). "Thrills and chills at 'Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin' SeaWorld Orlando Florida's icy new show stopper". Daily Mirror. Trinity Mirror. Retrieved 5 July 2013. 
  36. ^ a b Veness, Susan; Veness; Simon (9 June 2013). "Kings of cool: See the world from a penguin's perspective at SeaWorld's enchanting new attraction". Daily Mail. Daily Mail and General Trust. Retrieved 5 July 2013. 
  37. ^ Levine, Arthur (July 2013). "Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin". About.com. New York Times Company. Retrieved October 5, 2013. 
  38. ^ Thurston, Susan (May 24, 2013). "SeaWorld Orlando makes icy splash with new Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin". Tampa Bay Times. Times Publishing Company. Retrieved May 26, 2013. 
  39. ^ Bevil, Dewayne (November 19, 2013). "Thea Awards: Disney's Enchanted Tales with Belle nabs award". Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved November 20, 2013. 
  40. ^ "Thea Awards". Themed Entertainment Association. Archived from the original on August 6, 2013. Retrieved June 25, 2013. 

External links[edit]