SeaWorld Orlando is awash in Christmas, with 7 unique Christmas shows and decorations around the park, it’s easy to get completely swept away by the Christmas spirit.











We also have an interview with SeaWorld Orlando President Terry Prather about why Christmas at SeaWorld is the must experience event when visiting Orlando.

So put your Santa snorkel on as we dive into a SeaWorld Christmas photo update.

Clyde and Seamore’s Christmas Countdown

I love the Sea Lion shows, because they are hilarious and they never quite go they way they are planned.  This show, features everyone’s favorite Sea Lions as they are assisted by an elf to get ready for Christmas and Santa Clause


















Polar Express Overlay of Wild Arctic

Every year the Wild Arctic simulator is overlaid with a Polar Express theme based on the movie and book of the same name.  This year SeaWorld added a fun a cappella group out front singing pop versions of Christmas classics.





Sea of Trees

Twice nightly on the lagoon, Bayside Stadium and the Waterfront guests can watch a beautiful dancing light show with fountains and synchronized lighted trees on the water, all set to orchestrated Christmas music.









Shamu Christmas Miracles

Shamu Christmas Miracles is not your average Shamu show.  This performance is one that I look forward to every year.  This show is powerful and larger than life, with a beautiful story that speaks to the everyday and extraordinary miracles found in our daily lives. Beautiful graphics, jumping whales, an incredible finale, gospel singer, saxophone player, fire balls, and fountains send the crowds to their feet clapping along as the whales drench the audience. This show alone is reason enough to visit SeaWorld Orlando for Christmas.








Winter Wonderland On Ice

Bayside Stadium, which was originally used for for their water skiing shows, is set up for an ice skating show with different vignettes are full of pageantry, and beauty.



























Christmas Reflections – Fireworks

Guests at the Bayside Stadium and at the Waterfront have front row seats for the fireworks at the end of them night.  The end results is a great way to end a very merry day!














Interview with Terry Prather

Terry Prather, the President of SeaWorld Orlando was nice enough to sit down with MiceChat to discuss why Christmas at SeaWorld is unique and special.

MiceChat: What do you want the guests to experience and takeaway from their visit to SeaWorld Christmas?

Terry Prather: It is an extension of our park, and takes the people, the animals and the attractions, and repackages to help celebrate Christmas.  When people come out, what we hope they walk away with is a sense of connection, a sense of celebration, and a greater sense of Caring.  And Caring not just for the Holiday, but also the natural world!

MiceChat:  If we can ask, of all the shows you offer for Christmas which show is your favorite?

Terry Prather: Oh I can’t pick, they are all different and they are all good.  Each show touches you in a different way!

To hear the rest of the interview with SeaWorld Orlando President Terry Prather, and a special exclusive interview with Kelly Faherty Clark about the temporary Shamu show that will be offered from January – April click play below and listen to the Unofficial SeaWorld Podcast where we discuss SeaWorld Christmas at SeaWorld Orlando, San Diego and San Antonio with your host Eric, Mike and Erin.

That wraps up this update. We’ll be swimming back to SeaWorld again soon.

  • almandot

    While I enjoy Sea World’s Christmas stuff, I’m fairly annoyed at how limited they were in offering it this year. It was weekends only from very late November through this week in fact. Christmas week it’ll be every day at least. Park’s been closing at 6pm on weekdays for the most part.

  • soletrain

    shamu christmas miracles….so sad it makes me sick.

  • Country Bear

    Thanks for this report Eric.

    Great pictures as always. It looks very colorful. The shows look professional and the lights are certainly nice to see. I experienced this a few years back and they didn’t have all of these great things there as yet. It was beautiful to walk through for sure. I thought the Polar Express overlay was really well done and we loved it. It stands out in my memory.

    I’m really impressed with the unique seasonal offerings that most Orlando area parks are presenting this year. They’re like reborn facilities.

    Is this an extra ticket item or included with daily entrance?

    Thanks again for the great coverage.

    • It’s all included with your ticket. A great value for families.

  • tooncity

    The Whales are beautiful, but it’s hard, thinking about enjoying them after watching Blackfish. I think these animals are suffering for the sake of entertainment. To use them to celebrate Christmas, with the knowledge, that they separate the mothers from their born in captive babies is cruel. The family unit seems to be paramount to the life of these whales. Yet, they’re all from different groups so they speak a different languages, stuffed into a little tank and perform for food; all seems so wrong and depressing.

    I use to dismiss the protesters of SeaWorld, but I cannot get past my conscience, so I don’t expect I’ll ever go to a Sea World park again.

    • Malin

      This is such a stupid comment…

      • Country Bear

        Followed by such a disrespectful one.

      • BigThunder

        Wow, I’m really impressed with your debating skills. Your nuanced use of facts to make your points is only surpassed by the polite and respectful manner in which you make them. In other words, go to your room, junior, the grown-ups are talking.

      • Malin

        I think what is being disrespectful is using the comment section on an article about SeaWorld’s Christmas event to further discuss an issue which has nothing to do with the subject and for which has been addressed by Eric on this site and the Unofficial SeaWorld Podcast several times before. Every time this site post an article about either SeaWorld orlando or San Diego someone has to bring up Blackfish. If its within the context of the article fair enough but in the above post this is not the case. The above post is flawed adds nothing to the discussion and is not even worth debating.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        Hey Malin, the entire business model of SeaWorld is based around the captivity of marine animals. Currently, that’s a controversy, so anything they do is going to be commented on from that slant. Which is to say that it’s not disrespectful for someone to note that they won’t be going to SeaWorld for the Holiday celebration because of Blackfish. Relevant, topical, and interestingly, uncovered on MiceAge.

        What is disrespectful is someone who attempts to belittle or shut down another commentator with a pithy response.

    • Tiny Mermaid

      I’m with you, tooncity.

      I’ve been an avid reader of MiceChat for years, but am disappointed lately in its continued coverage of these SeaWorld shows. That disappointment is only eclipsed by the reaction of commenters who plug their ears and try to out-scream those who question the practice of keeping orcas in captivity in order to pad a theme park’s pocketbooks.

      • Malin

        Who gives you the right to tell MiceChat what it should and shouldn’t Post. I suggest if you don’t agree with the SeaWorld content simply don’t read it!!! The fact you don’t want to see the site support SeaWorld and yet are still reading the articles is rather puzzling to begin with unless you only came to the page to force your Blackfish agenda against people who would prefer to not get involved in a one sided debate. It’s simple don’t agree with MiceChat covering SeaWorld then boycott the articles. Just don’t come on here after an article is posted using Troll like tactics. The same goes for anyone else. The only reason if you have already made your mind up after seeing Blackfish to be commenting on here is to cause trouble and stir up tensions. You clearly have zero interest in the subject of SeaWorld at Christmas.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        Malin, the subject of SeaWorld at Christmas is marine life in captivity. The subject of SeaWorld in February is marine life in captivity. That’s their business model. It just so happens that a movie came out that is highlighting that (despite you repeating “one sided” a lot, the movie is quite nuanced.)

        If every post about WDW brings up the controversial MyMagic+ program, then every post about SeaWorld can and should bring up animals in captivity, as it’s their very BUSINESS MODEL.

  • JCSkipr79

    It would be kinda hard for whales to be separated from their families when they’ve all been born in captivity since 1985.

    • Country Bear

      Hey JCSkipr79.

      Not sure if you’ve seen Blackfish or not, but orca children (in nature) will stay with their mother for their entire lives. Blackfish reports that SeaWorld has split children from their mothers (born in captivity) to ship to other parks and has shown the impact of that social upheaval on the mother. It doesn’t appear to be fiction because the stories come from former SeaWorld whale trainers with video to back their comments up.

      SeaWorld has not denied that practice.

      • Malin

        Its done to stop interbreeding. Was this not mention in the Blackfish documentry or are you just being ignorant to the facts?

      • derekburgan

        I can’t reply to Malin so I will quote the comment here:
        “Its done to stop interbreeding. Was this not mention in the Blackfish documentry or are you just being ignorant to the facts?”

        Even SeaWorld’s own assertions – none of which held up to even the briefest of scrutiny by the way – say that young killer whales are taken away because of mother’s rejecting them.

        There’s a reason SeaWorld repeatedly refused to be interviewed for the film. There’s a reason they don’t want anyone to read Dawn Brancheau’s autopsy report (which is almost a horror film script once you realize what “avulsion” means). And there is a reason why all the support SeaWorld has from people defending them bring up points that have absolutely nothing to do with the movie, as if there is anyone in the world is against SeaWorld helping animals across the globe. It’s a straw man argument. I work in Jupiter, FL and see wonderful things SeaWorld does to help the turtle population as they work with a turtle sanctuary in Juno Beach, FL nearby. Does that give them the right to do whatever they want? Sorry, the world doesn’t work that way.

        What happens in January if Blackfish, which is already shortlisted and a clear favorite, is nominated for an Academy award? What if it wins in March? Oscar winning films get whole new levels of exposure, especially for documentaries which most people don’t watch in the first place.

        My biggest problem is the “You’re With Us or You’re Against Us” stance by several of the more high profile SeaWorld defenders. I love SeaWorld. Always have. But this movie opened up my eyes to several things I was not aware of before. It’s a nuanced issue and to say “I support SeaWorld no matter what” is something I consider pretty flippant considering people and animals have been killed over the years. What is so wrong with looking further into the issue? How can it hurt to examine or ask the question “maybe there is no safe and humane way to exhibit orcas?”

      • Eric Davis


        While I can appreciate your sentiments, I disagree wholeheartedly. I do not give SeaWorld nor any organization a blank check of support, however until SeaWorld proves otherwise, they have my support.

        Regarding the death at SeaWorld which was tragic, and sad, it is not an anomaly in Animal Care. Just this past October in Missouri a Zoo Keeper was killed by an elephant. Yet you aren’t out advocating for all zoos to be shuttered.

        Whenever a person works with large and wild animals, they assume risk, and over the past 50 years that SeaWorld has worked with large marine mammals they have had millions of safe interactions.

        SeaWorld is also the world’s LARGEST Zoological organization on the planet. They care for and rescue more animals than another for profit or not-for-profit organization.

        I believe in the good they do, and as long as they continue to do good around our world, I will support them.

  • kjorgensen43

    I am with you Tooncity and Tiny Mermaid. I can’t see going there anymore and would like Micechat to stop covering this establishment. The past treatment of the animals was deplorable. The present conditions are deplorable as well given how unnatural these conditions. If people keep going, then this company will continue to breed these animals to live awful lives.

    Thank you for posting your dissent and reminding everyone that Sea World is not a good place to support. Maybe one day Micechat will see this as well and stop supporting this organization. .

    • Eric Davis

      A Note on why I love and support SeaWorld:

      Over the past year Mike Madsen and I have embarked on a journey where we have become advocates for an organization that has been taking a lot of heat. That organization is SeaWorld, here in Orlando, San Antonio and San Diego. Since my first visit to SeaWorld San Diego when I was 7 years old I have been inspired by the animals of the ocean. There is no way I would have understood the size and scale of whales, and the need for their protection without SeaWorld.

      It is simple to just jump on a band wagon, and file petitions, and tweet at people, and sit at home and post in any forum, website, comment box possible about how “evil” a place is, simply because you wanted a biased documentary.

      SeaWorld while not perfect is a place of incredible good. Over 12 million people a year visit all 3 SeaWorld Parks, and are inspired. While SeaWorld is a for profit company, they support organizations around the world that seek to protect and save endangered and threatened species. SeaWorld itself has been credited with saving the Asian Small Clawed Otter from extinction in China.

      SeaWorld funds research, and conservation programs on every continent around the world. Since opening SeaWorld has rescued, rehabilitated, over 23,000 animals.

      SeaWorld San Diego has been working to save the White Sea Bass where it has just bred the two millionth of that species and introduced to the wild. Sadly pollution, over fishing, and habitat destruction ruins most of SeaWorld’s work.

      Again it is easy to tweet the “evils” of a company without doing any real research, and talking to the people who love and care for these animals. I am heart broken when I see people hate an organization which I feel is one of the very few that is working tirelessly day and night to save animal species from the destruction we as the human race are causing all around the world. I would invite everyone to visit SeaWorld to see how incredible it is with their own eyes, and I invite them to listen to our podcast the The Unofficial Seaworld Podcast to learn the inside stories about the #SeaWorld parks. And I ask that if you are tempted to become a “copy and paste advocate” that you take a minute and think of all the programs around the world, and the 23,000 animals that have been given a 2nd chance at life by SeaWorld and look and celebrate the good that they do.

      Best Regards,

      Eric Davis
      Creator and Co-Host of the Unofficial SeaWorld Podcast

    • Malin

      Blackfish is produced with a one sided agenda. If SeaWorld had agreed to comment on the claims made by the documentary the footage would have been edited out of content and made to make SeaWorld look bad in the process. SeaWorld refusing to participate in the movie is more about them being too smart to fall into the trap that would have been set up for them by the film makers. Blackfish is made to show the World how horribly treated these animals are by SeaWorld. So it would not have given SeaWorld a fair chance to respond to the claims made. To think otherwise is to fail to grasp the way many of these Documentary’s are made and for what purpose. You are also foolish to think SeaWorld are running scared by not officially responding to the claims made. But this makes little sense because you and other have already made your minds up.

      For anyone questioning SeaWorld’s care for its Animals should do one of the behind the scenes tours. Not only will you get a first hand look at all the good work the parks do but will also have the opportunity to ask several questions and discuss with members of staff any concerns you have to the well-being of all its Animals at the Park.

      • Malin

        Also in regards to my personal views on SeaWorld holding Orcas captive. I’m not in favour of it and would much prefer the Park spent the money on providing quality Animal exhibits like the one that opened this year for the Penguins. But my view is not enough to make me think SeaWorld are an evil organisation and I don’t buy into all the claims made by Blackfish. I will see the facts and evidence and come to my own conclusion. And I would appreciate people respecting this and not bombarding the comment section here with more angry pro Blackfish propaganda. If you want to speak out against SeaWorld then MiceChat has three separate SeaWorld boards for you to express your anger and sadness over. Just please don’t use the article which is about SeaWorld celebrating Christmas to further get across this message.

      • AaroniusPolonius

        Malin, what I think is missing from your thesis is the idea that SeaWorld IS marine life in captivity. Their for-profit business model is built upon that conceit. They can’t, for example, merely change out audio-animatronic figurines to be more politically astute and correct for the times, like Disney can (and has, and will.) They are the marine life display industry.

        So, while this is a post about SeaWorld’s holiday celebration, SeaWorld wouldn’t be HAVING a holiday celebration without the captivity of marine life. There would be no SeaWorld to decorate without that central, business conceit and model.

        I respect your annoyance with Blackfish raising a louder set of voices with regards to the ongoing controversy of keeping orcas captive for any purpose: educational, profit, whatever. But, in the first place, there have always been people against the practice of the captivity of orcas (to say nothing of those that take that further into all wildlife.)

        In the next, since the central business model of SeaWorld IS the captivity and the display of marine wildlife (paired with circus tricks, no less,) ANY article on SeaWorld should relate to that central business model.

        Because if you’re a full-on PETA-associated animal activist, this isn’t a neutral assemblage of holiday decorations and special events…because of the business model of SeaWorld.

        And if you’re someone who has been impacted by “Blackfish,” perhaps the prism of perspective has shifted, and so one can no longer look upon this as a benign celebration of the holiday season, due to the central business model of SeaWorld itself.

        With all due respect, I’m truly sorry the ‘pro-Blackfish’ and ‘anti-SeaWorld’ posts irritate you, but considering the central business practice of SeaWorld, every single one of them is relevant on the boards. You may not want to explore them, and perhaps feel the need to defend the SeaWorld organization (I think I have a “shades of grey” view of SeaWorld my damned self,) but if it says “SeaWorld” in the title of the post, “Blackfish,” the issue of orcas in captivity and so on is relevant and viable to discuss…

        …as there wouldn’t be a SeaWorld with holiday decor without orcas in captivity.

        Cheers! Happy Holidays!

  • CreepyMonkey

    This is the one and only statement I will make on this subject. I will not respond further to this because I feel everything I’ve needed to say can be found in our podcast on this subject.

    While I agree that animals in captivity as a general rule is not desirable or probably the best thing for them, I recognize that human beings are quickly poisoning our world, killing off entire species and destroying their habitat.

    Our oceans are dying.

    Many aquatic species, such as river dolphins, are either extinct or quickly will be.

    SeaWorld is one of the best organizations out there to bring awareness to people what magnificent and wonderful creatures are present in our oceans, and makes people feel compassionate towards them. SeaWorld has also rescued thousands of marine creatures, returning them to the wild, and continues to do so. For these reasons alone, I support SeaWorld and will continue to do so.

    Until someone comes up with a plan to help people connect with marine life on a massive and incredibly emotional scale such as SeaWorld does, (other than the ridiculous responses I’ve seen so far such as, “watch youtube videos” or “take everyone on whale tours”…can you imagine taking all six billion + of this planet’s citizens on whale watching tours? Yeah, neither can I) I cannot condone or even understand the vicious attacks that are done on this organization. I have seen again and again people villainizing SeaWorld because it is a ‘for profit’ entity. This is silly, saying that just because an organization makes a profit its intentions must be nefarious, just as silly as assuming because something is non-profit makes that organization benevolent.

    I judge anyone and anything by the sum total of its actions. Not by individual acts or isolated incidents.

    SeaWorld has proven over and over it has the best of intentions in what it does and wants to do for animals, our oceans and our planet. This is what I judge SeaWorld by.

    Thank you for your attention.

  • solarnole

    “Whale of a business” on PBS by front line came out years ago about the history and practice of the Whale trade that Sea World does. Blackfish is a rehash with less facts and reporting.

    The funny thing to me is that all Zoo’s are a part of this trade even Disney, yet Sea World is only one that people attack. The Living Seas/Nemo caught most of their fish off of the Florida Keys and has Navy dolphins that were caught from the wild. Animal Kingdom has lots of animals caught from the wild.

    Bands are fine playing at Disney but not at Sea World. Free Willy from every park lets have some equality.

  • tooncity

    I think many people here have missed my point. As a consumer, I have the right to spend my money where I want to. I don’t have to have a great debate about it. I don’t have to have my facts corrected by individuals who have anointed themselves as the internet Condo board thought police. I don’t have to be right or wrong. It’s my money.
    If I feel that my money is contributing towards something I don’t like, then I simply won’t spend my money there. SeaWorld, like any other business is about dollars spent by customers. I encourage them. Make as much money as you can. But if I don’t like what they’re doing, then I won’t spend my money there, because in doing so, I would be an accomplice. My point was, I don’t want to be an accomplice in what I feel is the needless suffering of these animals. It is my prerogative to feel that way; I don’t need to be BULLIED by those with keyboard courage. Are all the animals as Sea World suffering, of course not! But Killer Whales are not the same as Penguins, Turtles, Sea Urchins, Sea Bass, Gold Fish or anything else. They are helpless; emotional creatures that are incapable of emotionally dealing with the unfair treatment of confinement. Born in captivity or not.
    Now, I’m sure I’m not the only one who feels this way. Here in San Diego, Sea World San Diego is on leased public land. That means the public does have a say in the operations and treatment of the animals that SeaWorld owns. I think it is easy to confer that public scrutiny from the voters of San Diego, ‘’could?’’ make Sea Worlds existence untenable. Furthermore, since the airing of Blackfish, SeaWorld attendance is down 30% year over year. They won’t be able to stay open if that trend continues. This leads me back to my original point. If the consumer feels turned off by the treatment of these animals, then it won’t matter how pretty Shamu Stadium is with Christmas lights.

  • AaroniusPolonius

    I think “Blackfish” falls a little bit into the same category as a Michael Moore documentary, like F-9/11, which is that to a large degree, it caters to a receptive audience. Not to discredit the film director of “Blackfish,” as Moore displays his bias wholeheartedly and doesn’t remotely attempt to show a balanced view (which I think “Blackfish” does,) but I think that those who either already believe that the marine mammal display industry is wrong, and those who are on the fence about the marine mammal display industry…which is to say, those with a sentiment against orca captivity already built in, are those that will actually watch “Blackfish” and find movement and traction in their own lives. Moore’s F-9/11 had the same issue: it preached to the choir: all of us who already believed that Bush and his nutbags were evil oil men determined to reshape the world had our thoughts parroted back at us. So, I find it amusing that the online response to a detractor has often been “watch Blackfish,” as if the advocates and the supporters of SeaWorld don’t have the opposing bias, and thus, wouldn’t view “Blackfish” through the same lens as those who have been so very moved by the documentary.

    I noted this over at “behind the thrills,” but being against the captivity of orcas in the wake of “Blackfish” is a really, really easy protest, a really easy cause to get behind, because one merely needs to adjust one small-to-non-existent lifestyle behavior: don’t go to marine display industry exhibitions. As mentioned above, the harder protest, the longer and more involved protestation against oceanic environmental destruction, is too hard for most of these people. Also of note: its places like SeaWorld that will have to deal with the “hard” aspects of a protest against captive orcas. They will have to release them, or stop breeding them, or lose money because of them, so on and so forth. I’m not saying that tose who have been moved to not attend a SeaWorld style park because of the movie “Blackfish” are wrong, but that’s literally the least one can do with regards to “standing up for captive orcas.” It’s EASY and that’s why it’s appealing. Try getting some of them to give up the car-centric, suburban-SUV lifestyle to protect the denuded environment and secure a sustainable civilization not based on petroleum and automotive transit…you know, a HARD, significant lifestyle change, versus a mere “going to Disney instead of SeaWorld” change, and you might understand the difference.

    To put this another way, it’s EASY to be for AIDS research when all you have to do is put on a red ribbon. It’s much harder to be for AIDS research when under the threat of arrest, you chain yourself to the steps of Congress, covered in fake blood, and stage a protest.

    Having said that, I do find several arguments against “Blackfish” online disconcerting, as well as this seemingly unified “support SeaWorld” stance from the theme park enthusiast sites. Perhaps that’s to be expected.

    One of the more baffling arguments, presented upstream here as well, is the “SeaWorld does a lot of good, too” argument. You know, so does the Catholic Church. Should one overlook all those abused and raped kids at the hands of the priests just because good is done elsewhere? No, of course not.

    A more nuanced version of the argument might be that SeaWorld, as a for-profit industry, is dependent on the captive orcas as their main draw, and that without those live, captive orca showcases, the for-profit company will have less money to donate to other causes. I think that accurately makes a strong case for the continuance of the orcas in captivity from a “SeaWorld does good” viewpoint.

    The next stupid argument is that “seeing these animals at SeaWorld makes people love and care about them more.” Please. Has seeing these animals created a mass movement to save their natural aquatic environments amongst attendees? Nope. Moreover, I’m totally into astronomy, and I’ve yet to touch the moon. SUCH a spurious, infantile argument. That’s like the folks claiming that people will be less interested in ancient Rome if they close off the ruins near Pompeii for protection and renovation. As if.

    Another argument that has driven me crazy is the “SeaWorld really cares and loves these animals,” implying that SeaWorld is a person with feelings and not a for-profit company making its billions in the marine life display industry, as well as leaving out the end of the sentence, “in captivity.” If we, the people, en masse, decided that the captive marine life display industry is passe and “wrong,” much like a large chunk of the population decided that the circus was a generation ago, the folks at SeaWorld would go and find another industry to make money within, the caring and the loving of the animals be damned.

    Mind you, I’m not blaming this on SeaWorld. SeaWorld is in this for the profit. They’re a business. And now, as a public corporation, it’s against the law for them as a business to take any action that might hinder their ability to generate shareholder profit. Now, some of their workforce and some of their attendees may very well care and love marine life, but at the end of the day, this is a business. If “Blackfish” makes it not profitable to do business with captive orcas, SeaWorld won’t display them, either under shareholder pressure or the viable dent in attendance at the parks.

    But, armchair activists, this is where you need to get off your couch and stop streaming the movie on Netflix (shameless plug: it’s on Netflix; buh-bye, SeaWorld.) Get up and go and protest at your local SeaWorld park, so that people who could care less about captive orcas but “don’t want to deal with that Blackfish nonsense on vacation” choose a different venue to spend their vacation dollar. Do the HARD things in lieu of the EASY things. I suspect that’s not in the cards, and that if SeaWorld rides it out, they’ll be viable, but a much smaller, less visited theme park company. But still existing, nonetheless. Barnum found Bailey and Ringley and they all combined to survive as a circus.

    Furthermore, I’m confounded at the PR department over at SeaWorld, and have been since Brancheu’s death. They had EVERY opportunity to get out in front of this situation, pre-and-post “Blackfish,” and all they’ve done is sound petulant, as if everybody who has seen “Blackfish” is a crazy loon of an activist, attempting to free roaches from the walls. The “Blackfish” backlash is on that team as much as its on the captive orca industry. I’d fire every single last one of them. The marketing/PR team should really be sent walking away from Shamu Stadium immediately, as they’ve also done a piss poor job with damage control, as well. (Seriously: I’m a professional in this industry, and they’ve made mistake after mistake after mistake. If SeaWorld fails, it’s on them.)

    Honestly, if SeaWorld would end circus orca acts, would end people in the water with the animals, and would cease breeding them, allowing them to die off in captivity, they’d be fine for the next 20 years. They’d of course have to figure out a new cash cow beyond Shamu, but they’d end a loooooooooottttttt of this public debate.

    Finally, having seen “Blackfish,” it reinforced my beliefs while establishing my “lines” regarding animals in captivity.

    My first line not to be crossed is the circus tricks and acts, so I wouldn’t have been going to SeaWorld anyway. I’m OK with most animals in zoos and aquaria, provided they don’t play the banjo for food. It’s why I don’t go to the circus (and haven’t been to SeaWorld in 18 years or so? It was college in Florida. I was high.)

    My next is that while I’d prefer the animals to be in a natural habitat, if that habitat erosion and/or hunter danger is truncating their lives in the wild, I’m for animals being made captive. Orcas in the wild, on average, live 2.5 times longer than those in captivity. Ergo, they might have a longer, better life in the wild. (And considering that the cruise line industry will also provide a buffet while you see the orcas in Alaska, I’m not sure why this is even an issue. Natural environment. Longer lives. BUFFET.)

    But, everyone has to find their level of distaste. Perhaps that’s what “Blackfish” does best: it makes viewers look into themselves to find their level of acceptable behavior regarding captive orcas. “I’m OK with them in the pools but not getting jerked off by the staff,” might be a line for some, for example. (I was A-OK with that: where’s my masterbatory staff?)

    I’m curious as to how this all plays out, frankly. It would be refreshing to see an American Public get off the couch and get into action over something.

    • CreepyMonkey

      AaroniusPolonius, as an add on and to clarify my post…. I think the point you are missing in my post and what I was saying is that it is all about individuals. To put that in perspective – SeaWorld reaches individuals, changes individuals, makes them care more. I see it and hear it every day in our fans. I constantly hear from our fans how their awareness of the oceans and animals started by visiting SeaWorld. Listen to our podcast and you will hear from our fans constantly. My own awareness and love of our oceans and ocean creatures started at SeaWorld.

      Mass movements, as you say, are started and comprised of individuals. This is not a spurious argument but a real, measurable and powerful reality.

      SeaWorld is not an individual, no, but again, it is made up of individuals, who all care about the animals. You need to think about this on a different level. SeaWorld employees, especially those in animal care, are comprised of individuals who care for and love the animals. Most of them got their start in loving these animals by visiting SeaWorld.

      Also, ironically, many of the individuals who now protest and are anti capture began their awareness of these beautiful animals by visiting SeaWorld. Their compassion for them began because they connected with these amazing creatures at SeaWorld.

      One last note; SeaWorld is AZA accredited. It is not easy to gain AZA accreditation. It takes dedication and hard work. Rigorous animal care standards have to be met along with many other criteria. Do yourself a favor and go check out exactly what it takes to be AZA accredited. It is a difficult process. If I ever had any concerns about animal care, the fact that SeaWorld was able to gain accreditation and keep it (you have to renew your accreditation every five years) would alleviate those concerns.

      • AaroniusPolonius


        I’m well aware of the benefit the SeaWorld provides, as well as how hard it is to gain an AZA accreditation. I’m also against this image of SeaWorld as a monolith of “bad” because of the orca situation, because the situation is vastly more nuanced than that.

        Having said that, it demeans the intellectual capacity of both yourself and fans of SeaWorld to suggest that individuals need a SeaWorld to be touched and amazed by marine life. That without SeaWorld, we’d all be shooting orca for fun and eating dolphin meat every 4th of July. I’ve never seen, nor been to the Amazon to understand that we need to protect and enrich the Amazon, for example.

        And again, in my view, SeaWorld just needs to modulate a couple of practices at their parks to mitigate what’s going on with “Blackfish.”
        -End the circus acts.
        -End the orca breeding programs and let the captives die out.
        -End the trainers in the water with the orcas, at least.

        You know, SeaWorld is as helped financially as it is hurt in mindshare by the circus acts of its captive marine life. One doesn’t need to see a seal blow a horn to be amazed at the seal itself, if that makes any sense.

        Since SeaWorld has been adamant via the case with OSHA and the courts along the way to continue with the circus acts and the trainers in the water with the marine life, one has to wonder where the line between “respect and wonder for marine life” ends and the “generate profit via cute circus acts” begins.

        Is there really that much danger in just letting the animals be? Will the drop in profit be that severe if Shamu and the rest of the orcas don’t backflip on command? If so, what does that say about the business model, and the attendees of the SeaWorld parks, that “wonder” for the “individual” is wrapped up so intricately in “profit” via “cute circus acts?”

        Look, I’m a native Floridian. I’m well aware of just how much SeaWorld has done and continues to do for marine life. The Florida manatee may very well have died off without SeaWorld and their rescue and rehab program, for example.

        And the manatee provides another illustrative example of how, while SeaWorld “touches individuals” it hasn’t yet “fostered action.” Which is to say that it’s EASY to go to SeaWorld and learn about the gentle sea cows that are Florida manatees. It’s EASY to be moved by their plight in the wild, and how speedboats are chopping up those cows into mince meat. It’s HARD to stop the speedboat industry from speeding along, and moreover, people don’t want to give up a pleasure they enjoy for the sake of a manatee.

        One can easily apply this to global warming and climate change: it’s EASY to see and agree with “An Inconvenient Truth.” It’s HARD to make structural changes at the individual and the societal level to mitigate that change.

        And so, that brings us to “Blackfish.” I’m not going to lie: the movie moved me. As stated, it reinforced my specific lines as to what I view to be acceptable regarding captive wildlife (no circus acts, longer life in captivity versus the wild.) But not going to SeaWorld is an EASY answer to the issue of the captive orcas. Punishing SeaWorld via a lack of attending is an EASY answer to not approving of circus acts involving wildlife. Do I think that people are willing to do the HARD stuff, either to ruin SeaWorld or to end captive marine life? I’m a cynic, so no.

        But…I also don’t think that they’re willing to do the HARD stuff that SeaWorld, for-profit or not, is at least attempting to do, which is change our relationship with the oceans, rivers, lakes and streams and the animals that live there. It’s EASY to bitch about the perceived inadequacy of the SeaWorld marine mammal environment. It’s super HARD to do what it takes to make the SeaWorlds of the world unnecessary, which is to protect and preserve the natural marine environment. The orcas are something of an exception to the rule, in that they lead longer lives in the wild, but the rest of the captive marine life? Not so much.

        There’s another documentary out there, something about Freedom in the title, where the Canadian government ceases to allow beluga whale captures in some sound, a sound so polluted that beached, dead belugas wash ashore as toxic stews. So, the Canadian government took the EASY solution: no more beluga captures by the Shedd Aquarium because the footage was just revolting to the viewers of the CBC. But…no cleanup of the sound where they’ll just drop dead of chemical poisoning? Come on.

        I think SeaWorld has every possible ability to be a part of the solution, and indeed, in many ways, SeaWorld IS a part of the larger solution. But I also understand how they create problems for themselves along the way. The appeal of the “no trainers in the water” ruling. The need for circus acts with the animals. And so on. SeaWorld, at least from a PR standpoint, is a few easy policy changes away from being the premier oceanic wildlife organization, for-profit or not, ever. They just have to be unafraid to make those changes.

        I’m sorry if my post came across as uniform: SeaWorld=enemy, although I think that Netflix streaming the movie, paired with a public not exactly into getting a balanced education, into completing the circle, isn’t going to help them. (They should hire me! I’d whip that PR and marketing department into shape in a week.)

        Totally random: I’m a theme park map nerd. Could SeaWorld in Florida drain and rework that massive lake at the center of the park into a massive orca ‘ocean?’ It seems that at least SOME of the aggression problems with the orcas are caused by space or lack thereof. Or is that cost-prohibitive? Or is that merely a well-disguised Floridian ‘canal,’ ‘water feature,’ drainage ditch?

  • CreepyMonkey

    I would LOVE it if they were able to make that area a giant cetacean ‘ocean’. Unfortunately I’m almost sure there has to be some kind of concern about saltwater contamination of groundwater, which is why maybe it hasn’t been done already…?

    • AaroniusPolonius

      I’m sure it’s expense: in order to not contaminate groundwater, they’d have to seal and cement the area, making it one giant pool of sorts. Having said that, a lot of the “not enough space” issues would be significantly mitigated in the debate, which is to say that a great many ‘Blackfish’ viewers would be sated by such an investment.

  • fnord

    I’m going to boycott Malin’s posts starting now.

  • fnord

    aaronius polonius is spot on on this issue.

    • AaroniusPolonius

      I appreciate the vote of confidence, fnord! Not just a pretty face.

      And Malin is just annoyed that the controversy surrounding SeaWorld’s central business model is taking over all discourse regarding SeaWorld. (She’s the person that a true activist would have to make a SeaWorld vacation “not worth all that political nonsense” for, via HARD versus EASY work.)

      If SeaWorld had a better, more effective marketing and PR department, this conversation would be going much differently, and furthermore, if they used some marketplace muscle with some of their affiliated partners (notably, the Polar Express money that SeaWorld forks over to the conglomerate which also made “Blackfish” via CNN,) this might not even be an ongoing story at all.

      SeaWorld’s mistake was in thinking that all of this would just die down, but when a model trainer dies, and has her skin separated from her body, to say nothing of the arm eaten by the orca, that’s a story that just won’t die as easily as the trainer did. Now, I’m not especially naive; when one adds the word ‘wild’ in front of ‘animal,’ that animal has non-predicative behavior. It’s like the Vegas brother (lover?) who got mauled by the white tiger: you work and ‘train’ wild animals, you take this risk.

      SeaWorld, however, has engaged in a multi-year, multi-decade, multi-generational marketing and PR campaign regarding the killer whales they hold and display in captivity, where the ‘wild’ aspects of these animals have been tempered by a ‘gentle giant’ image, that’s certainly part reality and part marketing to (a) mitigate the danger of these animals to the public (b) trounce down most concerns about the captivity of these animals; if they’re as easily trained and housebroken as a horse or a dog, what’s the big deal? and (c) to sell a whole bunch of plushies and T-Shirts with a cute, cartooned version of the whales themselves.

      “Blackfish” certainly doesn’t end the idea of cute, smart, gentle giants of the ocean, but it most certainly brings the idea of both “bored in captivity” and “fundamentally independent, wild animals” into the public mindshare. The moment where this orca that the trainers have a supposedly personal relationship with, where they just say BLEEP it, and go and do what they want, as fundamentally independent, wild animals.

  • SWRocks

    Just adding my 2 cents in here. My first visit two SeaWorld was in 1992 and it changed me then and its the place I loved in Florida the most. Seeing the grace and beauty of these animals were amazing. When I moved to Orlando in 2009 my first passes I bought was a platinum pass to SeaWorld. It was now I started an even better understanding of the company and started learning. SeaWorld is a very educational park if you want it. Educators are all over ready to tell you everything you want to know about the animals. I slowly started learning who each whale was and how to tell them a part. I have since built relationships with the trainers and other workers in the park to where most people know me now. But with this new understanding it taught me an even bigger appreciation for the sea and marine life. I started participating in Beach Clean ups. I stopped using plastic bags and plastic straws. My apartment complex does not have a recycling program so I started a petition among the complex and actually got them to start one. SeaWorld taught me how one person makes a difference and it has influenced me so much. Top this off with SeaWorld’s rescue programs, conservation and more. I am PROUD to say I am a SeaWorld fan.

  • I have a solution that’s a win/win for everyone. Sally Corp or Garner Holt manufactures animatronic orcas, which are secretly switched overnight with the real ones. The real orcas are then shipped to the Philippines, where they’re chopped up into whale meat and fed to those displaced by Typhoon Haiyan.

    SeaWorld will still have performing orcas, guests can enjoy them, the real orcas are no longer in captivity, and the humane byproduct is that starved Filipinos get high protein meals.

    On a serious note, I’ve been following the captive marine mammal industry and the arguments for and against the issue for 27 years. They’ve always pretty much been the same. The difference is that now, these arguments are more numerous and readily available due to social media. Over the years, I keep seeing the same trends. Distorted or inaccurate information are continually being argued by both sides. Regarding comments on Blackfish (throughout the net, not just here), quite a few make statements about content they assert to be in the film that actually does not appear in the film, but rather comes from other sources, such as DVD supplements, television and press interviews, animal rights sites, etc…

    I’m curious how many people who posted comments here stating they’ll never go to SeaWorld again are Disney fans and regularly visit Disney parks. I’m also curious how many of them continued to visit Disney parks after 1989, when Federal and state charges were filed on Disney and five keepers at Discovery Island for the alleged killing and torture of wild vultures. One of the allegations in the charges involved beating vultures to death while they were still in vulture traps.

    The management of Animal Kingdom is NOT the same group that managed Discovery Island at the time of the vulture incident. Just like the owners of SeaWorld are not the same as the ones who owned the parks when almost all of the incidents profiled in the film took place, and the early park management that did conduct inhumane capture and husbandry practices during the 1970’s and 1980’s no longer have a say in how SeaWorld’s animals are treated.

    The problem with an issue like this is that it’s treated as if it only has two options. It’s black or white. It’s like the polarized two party system we currently have in Congress, which is why it’s almost impossible for them to get things done. There’s a grey area, a point of compromise, where everyone gets something positive as a result. You have to look for it and encourage others to embrace it. But until we all start getting on the same page, all that we’ll see will be anger. And with anger comes loss for everyone.

    And regarding Shamu Christmas Miracles, I personally would rather have these orcas, who would need to be trained to be returned to the wild with no guarantee they could succeed on their own, performing a Christmas show, where they remain active and stimulated, instead of just floating around a pool doing nothing.