This morning, SeaWorld held a press event to unveil for the very first time Infinity Falls, a first-of-its-kind rapids raft ride that will anchor a brand-new river village area in SeaWorld Orlando. This “family thrill” attraction will arrive in the summer of 2018, and the company is very obviously hoping it’ll herald a new era for both it, generally, and its Orlando park, specifically.
But what to do until then? How does one combat Universal’s Volcano Bay and also-announced-today Harry Potter Christmas celebration, and Disney’s Pandora: The World of Avatar? SeaWorld thinks it has the answer: offer two new experiences that, hopefully, you can’t quite get at any of the other Orlando-area vacation destinations.
Originally announced last September, the virtual-reality upgrade to SeaWorld Orlando’s highly popular Kraken roller coaster has just gotten a new name: Kraken Unleashed.
The really interesting part of this development, however, has to do with everything else surrounding the ride. For starters, there’s more to the VR component than just generating new scenery around you as you swoosh along the coaster track – there’s an actual story, and it sounds pretty involved, comparatively speaking (then again, Universal’s own efforts in this regard – The Incredible Hulk Coaster and Dragon Challenge – really don’t pack much in the narrative department). Riders become explorers living on the bottom of the ocean (the coaster station is transformed into the sea base), and when unusual seismic activity is picked up, they board their trusty mini-sub (their coaster car) to go check it out – with a group of other submersibles running wingman, of course. A giant rift in the ocean floor is the cause, and when guests dive down into the subterranean caverns below it, they discover a land-that-time-forgot, filled with giant versions of sea creatures both real and imaginary – such as the titular kraken herself. The result should be an “action-packed cinematic coaster experience,” something which neither Universal Orlando nor Walt Disney World currently offers.
Even better, the company is placing a huge emphasis on what Universal refers to as a Virtual Queue. Although specifics weren’t offered up this morning, SeaWorld says it’s the best way to counter the lowered capacity that the added VR element will create – it takes time for each and every passenger to strap on his headset and headphones, after all, which will significantly slow the ride’s throughput.
Kraken Unleashed will have its grand opening on Friday, June 16, 2017.
Supplementing the “new” ride this summer will be an original show. Called Pop, it revolves around “bubble master” Fan Yang, a 19-time Guinness Book of World Records-holder, as he does crazily unbelievable things with bubbles, such as shaping them into various forms that are inspired by the natural world. (If you’ve never seen a jellyfish bubble, you’ve been surprisingly – and sorely – missing out.)
The premise is simple, but the actual execution on stage is mesmerizing – as we can personally attest to, thanks to a (lengthy) demonstration SeaWorld provided for us this morning. (You can check it out for yourself by viewing our Facebook livestream.) And, what’s more, the company is clearly betting big on this natural-world-meets-spectacle performance art by upgrading the Nautilus Theater, installing a brand-new surround-sound system (to blast an “epic and majestic original score”) and two huge video monitors (to allow everyone to get a good view of the bubble action).
Pop will debut on Friday, May 26, 2017 – a highly unusual date, given that it’s right smack dab in the middle of Volcano Bay’s and Pandora: The World of Avatar’s openings (those would be May 25 and 27, respectively). SeaWorld, apparently, isn’t kidding around – especially with Infinity Falls and, potentially, other “cutting-edge” VR experiences right around the corner.