The SeaWorld 50th Anniversary MiceChat Celebration

Written by Norman Gidney. Posted in SeaWorld San Diego


Published on March 25, 2014 at 2:00 am with 20 Comments

MiceChat recently visited SeaWorld San Diego during the SeaWorld 50th Anniversary Celebration, Sea of Surprises.  Throughout the day a group of very talented photographers took pictures of the event.  A special thanks to Michael Greening, Andy Castro, Dustysage, and Daniel Lew for their wonderful work throughout the day.

It was a cool overcast morning along the shores of Mission Bay as MiceChatters gathered at the brand new front gates of SeaWorld San Diego for the 50th Anniversary Celebration of the park by MiceChat and our Unofficial SeaWorld Podcast.  As the attendees gathered, Dustysage and Eric Davis greeted all with a warm smile and open arms. Just before the park opened at 10am, a very special guest, Creative Director for SeaWorld Parks Brian Morrow, introduced himself to the group.





A selfie by Dustysage (left) featuring Eric Davis and Creative Director, Brian Morrow




Brian thanked everyone for being there and began to explain his process in creating the brand new entrance to this 50 year old park. The idea was to immediately make guests feel a sense of adventure and wonder.

As you approach the entry, it feels a bit like a beach. The entry gate is a giant wave.



Original music plays an adventurous theme over the sound of waves crashing on the shore.  Crossing the turnstiles we seem to dive under water to explore the fascinating ocean world.  Brightly colored coral reef inspired touch pools confront guests and immediately, inviting them to engage in the oceans wonders.













A variety of tidal pools hold fish, sharks and horseshoe crabs. Staff are on hand to explain the animals and their ecology.



A variety of small shops pepper the area and have an open and breezy feeling.



Cleaner fish are happy to see you. They nibble safely at your hands.



The beautiful vegetation throughout the entry area mimics a colorful reef.




The water-wise hanging baskets look like jelly fish!




We love the organic feeling of the new entry and the return to the classic 60s style lettering on this store.


We gathered on the lawn behind the new entry where Brian Morrow shared with us the concept evolution for the new entry complex.  What a fascinating exploration of ideas.









Following our amazing hour long meet and greet with Brian Morrow, we had just enough time to catch the first daily showing of One Ocean staring Shamu.






It was then time to enjoy a custom created all you can eat buffet in our own private event space in Shipwreck Jungle.  Executive Chef, Axel Dirolf, crafted an amazing and beautiful buffet for our guests.  We enjoyed a sampling of tastes from around the park along with some tasty surprises.











Lunch ended and we were then visited by two adorable Animal Ambassadors.



This three month old Penguin can handle the outdoor temperatures of Southern California because she’s native to Argentina. She seemed to love meeting everyone and wasn’t frightened or timid in the slightest.


This little hedgehog was absolutely adorable. But not to be petted. Those quills are a sharp reminder of nature’s defenses.


After this enchanting visit by SeaWorld’s animal ambassadors, there was still one big surprise awaiting us.  We were escorted to Shamu Stadium and led to the side gate.  We were taken into the empty stadium and seated front and center.  Once seated, we were asked to turn around and face the back of the stadium and not look back toward the pool.  Behind us, three of the beautiful Orca positioned themselves and a large group picture was taken.


The amazing Orca, Makani, Kasaka, and Kalia pose with the MiceChatters.


We then sat back down and were treated to an educational seminar on how the trainers care for the orca. As long time trainer John spoke, the whales played and cavorted behind him in the large tank.  It was readily apparent that John and every one of the trainers care deeply for the animals they work with.







These whales are constantly stimulated and worked with in a loving environment.  Despite popular belief, they are not starved into performance.  The whales are fed regardless of whether or not they go out on any given day. In fact, the wales themselves decide if they want to perform or not. There are 10 Orca currently at Shamu stadium. Some shows may feature all 10, others might have just 3 or 4. It’s entirely the choice of each individual animal if they want to play in front of a crowd or not.



After an amazing hour of one-on-one time with John and the three majestic Orca, the formal portion of our day was over and guests were free to enjoy the shows and attractions in the park.  Our tickets allowed us front of the line access to Manta, Shipwreck Rapids, Wild Arctic, Journey to Atlantis, the Sky Tower,  the Sky Buckets over Mission Bay and all of the shows.  After finding Manta temporarily closed, the group wandered over to explore the Shark Encounter.

But we couldn’t leave the Manta area before visiting the massive pool of bat rays.  These guys are so amazing.  Extremely social and, to a degree, affectionate, they swarm the permitter of the tank.  You could also purchase little fish to feed them too.  A little pricey at $6.00, but the Manta really enjoy the treats.



Along the way we also wandered through the Sea Turtle Aquarium and the Sea Lion enclosure.




We decided to take a break from walking around and watched the beautiful, Blue Horizons show.










Finally, it was time for something thrilling and many of the folks in our group had never been on Journey to Atlantis.  The problem was that the ocean breeze was beginning to kick up and the weather was getting a little cool. “Well”, we thought, “it’s not like we’re going on Shipwreck Rapids.  We won’t get too wet.”


We’re number 1!


Completely and totally soaked!

With that final soaking we decided to take a ride on Manta to dry off.  That is such a fun and zippy little coaster, which really packs a thrilling punch.  Truly a lot of fun.  They just need to theme the back half of the ride and it would be practically perfect.


To close out the day, some of us wandered on to the Sky Tower for a final look at the park.


It was a an absolutely wonderful event and all had a great time at SeaWorld San Diego.  We’d like to extend our thanks to the fabulous staff at the park who make every little detail so exciting and fun.  To be in and amongst folks that really, truly care for the well being of these animals and strive to teach guests about the preservation of the oceans is absolutely magic.  We left feeling the need to cultivate a greater understanding of these remarkable creatures and how we can all preserve their ocean habitats.  Awareness, education, and conservation are key to the progress we are obligated to make.  SeaWorld, perhaps better than any other entity, has led the effort to do just that . . . and they have done so for hundreds of millions of guests over these past 50 years.


In the wake of oil spills in the Gulf of Mexico, Alaska (and everywhere else you find oil rigs and shipping vessels); global warming killing the coral reefs; boats endangering the Manatees; whaling vessels in Asia killing huge numbers of wales, dolphin and sharks; and the carless dumping of trash and chemicals directly in the oceans, it’s amazing that there is any life left in our seas. And on land, we may see the end of Polar Bears in the wild in our lifetime as well as many less well know species. Who will morn them? Who will try to save them? Without the education and intervention of the good folks at SeaWorld and educational institutions like them, we all know what the outcome will be. Corporations will keep dumping toxins, cities will keep discarding trash, individuals will continue to be careless and nations will fail to protect the fragile liquid space which occupies more than two thirds of our planet.  It is up to ALL of us to preserve the planet. If SeaWorld can inspire us to be better people, we will all benefit from the result.


A reminder in the comments to adhere to MiceChat’s code of conduct. Be kind to one another and respect the opinions of others. If you make threats, attack each other, the authors or this site, you will be removed from the conversation. There are lots of places on the internet where folks are allowed to be horrible. This isn’t one of them.  ;-)

About Norman Gidney

Norman Gidney, also known as Fishbulb, produces and edits many of the articles on MiceChat. Tune in every Tuesday for the Orlando Parkhopper and every Friday for In The Parks. But you'll also find his photos in the Weekly Round Up, SAMLAND, and numerous other columns on the site.

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  • stamphead

    I am glad you guys had a great time. Later on in the evening, SeaWorld hosted an alumni party. It was so wonderful seeing old friends again!

  • Chris101

    Seeing killer whales and dolphins up close is amazing, but the shows they create to display them are degrading, embarrassing and stupid.

    • CreepyMonkey

      Respectfully Chris, you really should learn more about this subject. If you really read this article it tells you the truth; the orca themselves decide when OR if they perform. If they don’t feel like it they don’t…how is it degrading? If you have ever seen one of these shows they are powerful and emotionally moving. There is nothing degrading or demeaning about them; they always leave me in awe and wonder at the power and majesty of the orca and motivate me to take positive action to protect our oceans.

      Stop listening to the rhetoric and open your heart to what these animals really represent…ambassadors to remind us of what we need to protect.

      • Dusty Sage

        In fact, our showing of Blue Horizons (the Dolphin show) was delayed by about 10 minutes in the middle because a pilot whale decided that she wanted to join the show at a point she shouldn’t be there. They stopped the show and just let her swim around and jump. She clearly was enjoying the audience response. Then she finally swam off and they resumed the show. A trainer came out to explain that she just wanted to be in the show. They should rename her Lucy.

    • Hastin Zylstra

      Not especially. I really thought the same thing too, until the trainer John explained that they use mental and physical engagement to keep them exercised, moving about, and active for the day (even when not in shows). I had no idea how much they interact with the whales when they are not in the show.

      The trainers also explained that they have “on” and “off” days, and they are not forced to perform on any given day (they can generally tell when the orcas are not interested). They get fed their up to 130 pounds of fish no matter if they perform on a day or not – they still have to eat.

      SeaWorld is now about 4 generations in for Orcas that they have bred right inside SeaWorld. That’s amazing, and this is the life that they know. Yes, it’s terrible that Orcas were taken from the wild almost 30 years ago, but that was a product of it’s time. They don’t have to do that today. I couldn’t imagine that any of these whales of the current generations could be released into the wild, just as with our house pets, they wouldn’t know what to do.

      If I were SeaWorld, I would alter the Shamu show to really show the care, love, and relationships that these whales get from their trainers. Explain some of the same things that John did for us at this event. I think it would dispel some of the negative press going around, and give a better idea of the care that goes into these animals – and deemphasize the splashing, tricks, and step down the ‘shows’ and make them more about education.

  • WDWfanBoston

    Good on you all at MiceChat for not stopping your coverage of the SeaWorld parks!

  • jcruise86

    I’m glad you guys had a wonderful day!

    Long Beach’s Aquarium of the Pacific
    and the smaller Cabrillo Marine Aquarium in San Pedro
    are both outstanding places to take your kids! I urge Micehatter parents to check out the Cabrillo Marine Aquarium–we recently had such an excellent day there.

    I hope Sea World is still going strong in San Diego 30 years, but I hope it’s very different too.

    • Justonedream

      I liked the movie but agreed it was completely one-sided. I also commend SeaWorld for their rescue efforts. I also believe that the trainers love these animals and have their best interests in mind.

      However, why is it so hard to understand that these tanks are too small and shallow? These are animals that travel many miles a day. Anyone can see how unnatural this is.

      • Hastin Zylstra

        However, we always reduce the size of animals living quarters when they are in captivity. How many people own ‘indoor’ cats that are only allowed to explore a 1 bedroom apartment? That’s unnatural as well.

        I would love to see SeaWorld expand the Orca tanks, and give them more room to move and be engaged.

      • Justonedream

        Yeah I agree it is hard not to be hypocritical here, or to know where to draw the line. But cats are domesticated, I don’t know if this has anything to do with it or not.

    • Marko50

      Really? Cats are domesticated? I don’t think they know that.

      • Marko50

        Eh, sorry. Replied under the wrong post.

  • Disney Analyst

    I am definitely not a “Blackfish crowd”. So keep this in my mind with this comment.

    I have been to Sea World, I enjoy it. But the shows never sat right with me.. especially when I was working at Disney World this summer and went to Sea World Orlando (first time being to Sea World as an adult.) I am all for education, and conservation… but I feel as if all people care about at Sea World is going to see the show… Without the show… would Sea World even exist, would it be able to survive? The Vancouver Aquarium (where I am from) has Beluga whales, and a Beluga Whale “Show”… But in reality all the show is is trainers showing you the Beluga whales, the sounds they make, and how they have trained them for veterinary checks and such… It’s all educational, and not about making them perform… That is what I think Sea World should focus on.

    • GDub80

      SeaWorld does not “make them perform.” They never have, and never will. They are asked to perform, and it is the animals choice to do so or not. Regardless of their decision, they still get fed, and still receive the same loving care.

      • Disney Analyst

        I realize this, and it is not what I stated. What I stated is Sea World is all about the show, the performance… and I want them to focus more on the education. I feel as if they just have the whales a much larger space to swim around and play in, and didn’t do these shows… it could improve living, and help show American’s and human beings what is important. It’s bizarre seeing hordes of people raving mad over a whale jumping out of the water… I would be happy with smaller shows, showcasing the whale, how they work, as opposed to training them to do stunts and make people cheer and buy merch.

  • Michael Greening

    I was really impressed with all the improvements Sea World has made and the wonderful way they treated all of us.
    Even though I live in San Diego and am a big aquarium fan, I only visit Sea World once every 6 or 7 years. Every time I did I always left there feeling like I had no desire to go again for at least another 6 or 7 years.
    After this event and seeing how much Sea World has changed and really beautified the whole park, I can’t wait to go back and Diane and I will be getting annual passes there as well as Disneyland.
    HUGE KUDOS to Sea World!

  • dmxarnold

    I wanted to add my thoughts in here. First, I have seen Black Fish and dont agree with many points of it and I also have been going to SeaWorld since I was a child. However, I cant agree with how SeaWorld keeps their large sea mammals in such small spaces. If they are not performing, dont they stay in their pool? If any of you have been to the San Diego Safari Park, you can see that animals such as Rhinos and Hippos never bred while in captivity (San Diego Zoo). When they were brought into the Safari Park, keepers were able to create successful breeding programs. Whales shouldn’t be kept in pools just like animals shouldn’t be kept in cages, this has nothing to do with Black fish.

  • simride

    Thanks to the MiceChat team for putting together this great event. Lunch was amazing and the whole family thoroughly enjoyed the private time with the whales and their trainers. My only criticism would be the presentation of concept art at the grassy knoll. It was difficult for several of us to see the presentation. And it was made worse by a few attendees who felt their cameras gave them the right to cut in front of the kids (rudely) to take pictures. That aside, it was a once in a lifetime event. Many thanks.

  • thjbriggs

    Focusing on Sea World’s current state of the park, and not the argument surrounding Blackfish, I think the park looks beautiful right now!

    I’m a former employee myself (I worked at Shipwreck Reef Cafe! I was the guy at the center of the food line, grilling salmon.), and it’s great to see how much the park has improved over the years. When they first added Atlantis, I worried that it would become another “amusement” park with thrills rather than theme-ing, and while both Atlantis and Manta both could use a bit more back story and such, they’re tremendously fun and unique rides. Atlantis in particular is like nothing I’ve experienced before. And Manta is as smooth as a coaster could possibly be.

    I love seeing Sea World continue to improve the look of the park. There’s certainly limitations on what they can do in San Diego (height restrictions), but it’s prime real estate, and Sea World is a huge part of our culture and economy. It’s almost impossible to live in San Diego and NOT know someone who Sea World has employed. I wish them the best.

  • Disneyfan58

    New Rumor: SeaWorld will be renaming their marine circus parks. Their new name will be SlaveWorld.