Audioanimatronics It Ain’t

I’ve been to Disney,” people will tell you, “But y’know what I think is the best thing they’ve got down there in Orlando? SeaWorld!” I heard it over and over again. In a way this reaction was somewhat surprising. After all, compared to the Magic Kingdom or Universal, SeaWorld is downright modest, with only a smattering of thrill rides.

Of course, this “I-liked-SeaWorld-best” attitude may be one-upmanship — that quirk of human nature that makes us want to look superior. After all, SeaWorld is educational and how much more flattering it is to depict yourself as someone who prefers educational nature shows to mindless carnival rides that merely provide “fun.” I’m just enough of a cynic about human nature to give some credence to this theory.

However, I think the real reason lies elsewhere. No matter how well imagined and perfectly realized the attractions at Universal or Disney might be, the wonders on display at SeaWorld were produced by a creative intelligence of an altogether higher order. The animated robotics guys can tinker all they want and the bean-counters in Hollywood can give them ever higher budgets and they still will never produce anything that can match the awe generated by a killer whale soaring 30 feet in the air with his human trainer perched on his snout. No matter how much we are entertained by Universal and Disney, at SeaWorld we cannot help but be reminded, however subliminally, that there are wonders in our world that humankind simply cannot duplicate, let alone surpass.

It’s a feeling of which many visitors probably aren’t consciously aware. Even if they are, they’d probably feel a little awkward trying to express it. But I am convinced it is there for everyone — believer, agnostic, or atheist. It’s the core experience that makes SeaWorld so popular; it’s the reason people will tell you they liked SeaWorld best of all. To paraphrase Joyce Kilmer’s magnificent cliché about human inadequacy,

I think that Walt will never do
A wonder greater than Shamu.

(Excerpted from The Other Orlando.)

This video gives some idea of what it’s all about.

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