After months of hype about a revolutionary 3D movie dome, SeaWorld Orlando made good on its promise to create an attraction unlike any other around when TurtleTrek recently debuted at the Central Florida theme park.
The whole attraction is officially described as a 30-minute experience, taking guests through two large-scale aquarium viewing areas before ending up in the impressive 3D experience that is the TurtleTrek movie, virtually placing guests underwater (without getting wet) on a journey as a sea turtle, experiencing an abridged version of life from hatching to avoiding the dangers of the deep to being rescued on a beach.
The video below summarizes that whole experience, including the entire TurtleTrek 3D film - presented here in 2D. The wrap-around 3D experience SeaWorld Orlando presents is impossible to duplicate anywhere outside of the park, but those looking to get the general idea of tone and visual style of the new attraction can achieve that through this video. A visit to the park to experience it in person will certainly prove to be a far more rewarding experience.
Video: TurtleTrek experience at SeaWorld Orlando
TurtleTrek moved into SeaWorld Orlando’s former manatee habitat, still retaining that element in its first aquarium scene, followed by a second nearly identical room, this time focusing on sea turtles as a direct lead-up to the 3D movie. Essentially, the two initial aquarium settings are queue entertainment, as there is only one dome theater, guests must wait through at least a couple of 10-minute showings before having a chance to step inside.
SeaWorld is no stranger to integrating a real life element into their attractions, ever-focusing on the nature behind the entertainment. In the second aquarium room, guests are given an opportunity to learn more about sea turtles and their struggles in the wild via a speaker, available for questions while setting up the story that unfolds in the 3D film. It’s SeaWorld’s equivalent of a pre-show video, but live, in-person, and on a grand scale.
While some park visitors are glued to the large-scale aquariums, watching the manatees, sea turtles, and other underwater creatures swim around, others are fixated on the prize at the end, finding these areas to simply get in the way. As graceful and relaxing as sea creatures are, standing in a crowed enclosed area while waiting for a state-of-the-art attraction is not the most pleasant experience. But the air conditioning is a plus.
Ultimately, guests pick up 3D glasses and enter the unique dome that is home to the TurtleTrek 3D movie. At first, it’s rather unassuming, with dim lighting hiding the scope of the tall dome that encircles all who enter. In the middle of the room, a SeaWorld staff member invites everyone inside to take a spot along circular rows of lean rails, emphasizing they are not for sitting.
Once everyone inside, the true TurtleTrek experience begins, instantly mesmerizing all who are watching, wrapping computer-generated 3D imagery completely around the room. SeaWorld opted to use “hyperreal” computer graphics to send visitors on their journey through and abridged version of life as a sea turtle. The 3D technology utilized in TurtleTrek is nothing short of incredible, with floating creatures looking as if they are gliding through the open air above. Traditional flat 3D theme park films often “break the third wall” and send images out from the screen toward viewing audiences. But in TurtleTrek, that standard flat projection wall is replaced by an immersive curved dome, bringing creatures outward from the wrap-around screen and traveling through the space. One particularly noteworthy 3D moment comes as translucent jellyfish pass overhead, truly appearing to be inside the theater. And that 3D immersion is always happening on all sides, enabling guests to turn their heads and watch the action unfold around and above them.
But as impressive as the 3D technology is, the film itself is not quite as groundbreaking. Heavy-handed with a “save the sea turtles” message, TurtleTrek essentially tells park guests that SeaWorld rescuers are part of the natural circle of life. Apparently, after sea turtles on their own have survived close encounters with crabs, sharks, and other aquatic enemies, it’s up to SeaWorld to save them, shown prominently near the end of the 3D film, aiding on a beach. And as believable as the 3D effects are, the “hyperreal” computer graphics are not exactly photorealistic, even sometimes appearing rather fake looking. With the 3D 360 technology offering such a surprisingly immersive experience, a more realistic approach to the imagery would have gone a long way.
In the end the message of saving nature may only sink in with a handful of theme park guests, most of which are simply there to have a good time an experience something new. And TurtleTrek is indeed something new, placing guests inside one of the most surreal 3D experiences available. If kids are quick to grab for characters seeming to pop out from a traditional 3D films, they’re surely going to believe the manatees, boats, and sharks passing overhead are nothing short of real inside TurtleTrek. Seeing this new technology alone is worth taking a trip to SeaWorld Orlando, despite the attraction’s preachy message.
More photos from TurtleTrek at SeaWorld Orlando: