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August 12, 2014

What will replace Clyde & Seamore sea lions show at SeaWorld Orlando?

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On Sunday, SeaWorld Orlando's longest-running show, "Clyde & Seamore Take Pirate Island," sailed off into the sunset. After 15 years, the theme park decided it's time for its beloved sea lions, walruses and otters to embark on a new adventure.

"It's bittersweet," said Todd Coffman, assistant curator of animal training. "I love this show, but I'm ready for the chance to do something new and different."

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Coffman spoke with reporters and bloggers on Friday about the pirate-themed production's last performances and gave us a few hints about what we can look forward to when a new show debuts in 2015.

What can you tell us about the new show that is coming to Sea Lion & Otter Theater?

You can expect the same amount of humor and laughs that you get with this current show. At Sea Lion & Otter Theater, the thing that makes us great is that people get a chance to laugh. When they go to see Shamu, there is the wow factor. When they see "Blue Horizons," there is an emotional connection. At Sea Lions, it's all about laughter.

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Are there other successful elements that will translate to the new show?

I think one of the things that makes "Clyde & Seamore Take Pirate Island" so popular is that we have the ability to change our segments to keep it fresh. We can take a lot of things that are happening in the news and in the world and we can make jokes about those and put them into the show. So it's always fresh for the audience. That will happen in the new show, as well. We'll never get away from that. That's the staple of what the sea lions show does. What keeps people coming back is that this is a place for laughs. ". Even when the animals don't do exactly what they're supposed to do and we have to improv, we love that. We have fun with it, and of course, the audience has fun with it. So, all those elements together make this a winning recipe.

SeaWorld is known for its ability to entertain crowds who are waiting in its stadiums for its big shows to begin. Will the new sea lions show have a pre-show, similar to the mime at "Clyde & Seamore Take Pirate Island"?

We're still working on the whole concept -- the scope, the characters -- so it's kind of too early to talk about that, but our plan is to make it every bit as enjoyable as our current show. We're not going to go backwards.

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Will Sea Lion & Otter Theater remain open while the new show is being developed?

No. We're going to tear down this entire set, and we're going to rebuild it with a brand-new themed show. (The construction means that there will not be a Christmas sea lions show for the 2014 season.)

During that time, what will the sea lions be doing?

They still will be in their pools out back, participating in all their usual activities, plus training for the new show. It takes three to five years of training before a sea lion will perform in a show. We have gotten to the point where we train all sea lions to do all the behaviors. We have 12 sea lions in our collection and, discounting our pups who aren't quite there yet, we've got about eight sea lions who can do Clyde or Seamore.

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How do you train the sea lions?

Having a relationship with the animals is vital to training. Not anyone can just go out and start teaching them to do tricks. We build the relationship through a number of ways, including sessions where we just hang out. A target ball, though, is used to teach almost all behaviors. And the sea lions are rewarded with fish, whisker scratches and rubdowns. Sea lions are not just food-motivated animals, they're also motivated by their own curiosity. They love to learn.

What is the most difficult behavior to train?

Some of the harder behaviors that we train are the ones when we have to train them to do nothing. They have to sit there and wait and watch. For me, my favorite is always the dinner segment, where the sea lions steal fish off the plate. It's a very behaviorally crisp segment. The animals are really responsive. If you watch them, they wait for very simple, subtle cues from us and the responses are quick and sharp. That's been one of the hardest things to maintain here. We have a large cast of trainers here -- 17 people -- and multiple people play the same role, so we have to make sure that everyone is doing it exactly the same way.

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While Sea Lions & Otter Theater is closed, where can guests see the sea lions?

Pacific Point Preserve will remain open for feeding and viewing while the new sea lion show is being developed. Guests will continue to be able to see them, hear them bark and feed them. The up-close experience will change slightly, however. The separately priced hourlong tour will focus on an Asian small-clawed otter and trainer rather than the sea lions.



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June 27, 2013

SeaWorld's Summer Nights offers old favorites, plus a few surprises

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Summer officially began last weekend, and with it, SeaWorld's Summer Nights festivities. Through August 11, the theme park stays open later hours and offers two popular nighttime shows and a character dance party.

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A perennial favorite, Sea Lions Tonite has returned, and my family and I think it's one of the best shows at SeaWorld. Talented sea lions, otters and a walrus parody favorite SeaWorld shows and attractions with a little help from their trainers. The popular show is laugh-out-loud funny, and even includes an Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin joke and a gentle poke at The Mouse, too. Be sure to arrive at least 30 minutes before show time to get a decent seat. The wait passes quickly, though, because a mime hilariously interacts with the audience, keeping everyone entertained.

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Shamu Rocks, SeaWorld's unique combination of a rock concert and a killer whale show, has been updated for the 2013 season. The audience still will experience a high-energy show with catchy, classic-rock music and colorful lighting. The hair-band rocker with the Shamu guitar returns, too, and the animal trainers do more dancing than at the One Ocean daytime event.

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The change, though, comes at the end of the park's signature show, when fireworks have been added behind the stadium and in view of the spectators. The pyrotechnics certainly blend in with the concert feel of the show and are beautiful behind Shamu Stadium. Unfortunately, this addition is at the expense of the Reflections: Fireworks and Fountains Show Finale at Bayside Stadium. That water, lights and fireworks show is not being offered this summer, which is a disappointment in some ways because it was an enduring crowd-pleaser and one that my kids enjoyed seeing every chance they could.

Shamu Stadium typically opens 45 minutes before the show, and lines will form on the ramps, so get there early. The splash sections seemed to fill up first. Pre-show entertainment consists of live, camera-captured scenes of audience members, which never fails to amuse.

With SeaWorld open until 10 p.m. during the summer, guests have the opportunity to ride the new Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin at night. That section of the park is beautifully lit up after dark and the queue did seem shorter when we were there. Guests can cap off their evening with a dance party with the SeaWorld characters from 9 to 10:30 p.m. in the Village Square (adjacent to Guest Services).

On July 4, there will be special additions to the Summer Nights lineup. Fans of the retired fireworks show will be excited to know that a patriotic Reflections show is scheduled for that night only. Beforehand, the SeaWorld Celebration Singers, an ensemble group of singers and a nine-piece band, will perform a variety of popular music, including traditional marches and patriotic tunes. The concert starts at 9:30 p.m. and the fireworks are at 10 p.m.

Also, in celebration of the national holiday, SeaWorld will be hosting a Bayside Cookout from July 3 through 6. Along the Bayside pathway, guests can purchase a one-third-pound bacon cheeseburger, footlong hot dogs, BBQ pulled pork sandwiches, kids' meals and five flavors of Dippin Dots. Bayside Cookout will be open 11:30 a.m. to 6 p.m., with the end time extended until 8 p.m. on July 4.

SeaWorld is open an extra hour -- until 11 p.m. -- the Fourth of July.

DISCLAIMER: I was a guest of SeaWorld Orlando during its Summer Nights kickoff. My opinions are my own, and this did not influence my review.

August 4, 2012

What to know before you go to SeaWorld Orlando

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If you're heading to SeaWorld Orlando with kids in tow, there are a few things you might want to consider before you reach the turnstiles. Here are some tips for newcomers to help you enjoy your day to the fullest.

** Food: Everyone likes to eat, right? This can be an expensive part of your day at any theme park when you're feeding a family, but there are ways to minimize the expense. First, know that SeaWorld's policy is to restrict outside food and beverages from the park. The only published exceptions are for special diets or baby food.

SeaWorld does offer an All-Day Dining Deal, which allows guests to choose unlimited food from six restaurants, with a few exceptions. Adults pay $32.99, and kids ages 3 to 9 cost $17.99. This can be a good value if you're going to be in the park for more than one meal. My favorite deal, though, is the refillable soda cups, which can be used on the day of purchase and any subsequent days. The price of the cup is based on the style, but all refills are $1. And SeaWorld Orlando now features Coca-Cola products.

** Shows: There are so many amazing animal shows at SeaWorld Orlando that you could spend the entire day moving from stadium to stadium just to see them all. (Extra shows have been added, too, for Summer Nights, which runs through Aug. 12.) Most families don't take that approach, however, so you'll need to prioritize the shows and then work the rest of your day's plans around that schedule. The two Shamu shows -- One Ocean and Shamu Rocks! -- and the Blue Horizons dolphin show are among the most popular, so plan to get to them at least 30 minutes early. (For more on the summer shows, please see my previous blog post.)

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** Roller coasters: If your children like roller coasters, make sure you check the height requirements to avoid any disappointment in the park. For the two biggest thrill rides, Kraken and Manta, kids must be at least 54 inches tall. Journey to Atlantis has a height requirement of 42 inches.

** Additional costs: Some experiences at SeaWorld Orlando are not included in your admission. For animal feedings, such as dolphins and stingrays, you'll have to buy the food. (More details about the dolphin feedings in another post.) There is a $5 charge per 20 minutes in the paddle boats, and up-close tours also are a separate price. If you would like to skip the long lines for popular attractions, you can purchase Quick Queue for one visit per major attraction or get the unlimited version for the day. Prices for Quick Queue vary, based on the option you choose and date of your visit. Currently, Quick Queue one-time is $14.99 per person and Quick Queue Unlimited is $24.99.

** Photos: If you're used to relying on Disney's PhotoPass photographers who are dispersed throughout the parks, you may be surprised to find only a handful of professional photographers at SeaWorld. They usually are concentrated near the entrance to the park and by the Dolphin Cove pool. So, if you want a lot of photos from your day, be sure to bring your own camera.

** Extra clothing: SeaWorld has more opportunities for guests to get wet than other theme parks -- from water rides to animal feedings to splash zones at the performances. There is even a water play area in the Happy Harbor kids section. If you are concerned about your kids walking around in wet clothes, you'll want to bring extra outfits or maybe rain ponchos.

Forgot something? Don't fret; it happens to all of us. SeaWorld is more than likely to have what you need for sale. Even this theme-park veteran had to buy sunscreen on her last visit.

July 21, 2012

SeaWorld Orlando features fun summer-only entertainment

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SeaWorld Orlando celebrates summer the way some theme parks celebrate the holidays -- with new shows and experiences, plus longer hours. Through Aug. 14, the park stays open until 10 p.m. as part of Summer Nights, and guests can take in performances planned just for the season.

The park's iconic killer whales perform in a nighttime high-energy show, Shamu Rocks!, that is set to music and colorful lights. Water fountains from the daytime show, One Ocean, have been added to Shamu Rocks! Perhaps the best way to describe this experience is that it's a blend of a concert of classic rock hits with marine animal performances. There's even a performer pretending to play a Shamu guitar, and the animal trainers do more dancing than their usual shuffling to the beat.

Shamu Rocks! is only performed once each night in the summer, so if you want good seats, be sure to get there early. Shamu Stadium typically opens 45 minutes before the show, and lines will form on the ramps. Surprisingly, to us anyway, the splash sections filled up first.

My elementary-school age kids really enjoyed this show. Even the wait was entertaining thanks to the big-screen entertainment, showing live scenes of audience members in Shamu Stadium.

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When the show ends, it's an easy walk over to Atlantis Bayside Stadium to see Reflections: Fireworks and Fountains Show Finale. On the night my family attended, we arrived and were pleased to find the stadium sparsely filled and we had our choice of seats. Once again, there was pre-show entertainment, this time in the form of an energetic drum corp and acrobats on stilts. This show encouraged the kids to dance in the aisles, so they weren't preoccupied with when the show would begin. Reflections is a water, lights and fireworks show and its new soundtrack includes segments from the killer whale show, "One Ocean." The pyrotechnics are contained to the space over the bay, no doubt for the safety of guests and to not disturb all the animals.

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The third summer show is Sea Lions Tonite, in which the park's talented sea lions, otters and walrus parody favorite SeaWorld shows and attractions. This year, a new spoof based on the latest killer whale show, One Ocean, has been added.

In addition to shows, SeaWorld hosts Summer Nights Central, a party on Bayside pathway. The fun begins at 6 p.m. each night with family friendly music from a DJ during the week and live music from bands on the weekends. Adults can purchase beer, wine and frozen drinks at the party, and the young and the young-at-heart might enjoy seasonal treats of cotton candy and Blue Bunny ice cream.

Looking for a thrill? Head over to Manta roller coaster for a moonlit ride that's only possible seasonally. My daughter is still at least an inch shy of the height requirement, so I haven't been forced to confront my Manta fears yet.

SeaWorld also offers guests a summer guided tour of the park at an additional charge that includes front-of-line access to the most popular rides, an opportunity to feed dolphins and reserved seating at Shamu Rocks! and Reflections. This Summer Nights VIP Tour also takes guests to the Makahiki Luau dinner show.

Even with the summer crowds, SeaWorld Orlando is easy to navigate. From my perspective as a frequent Disney World visitor, this is largely because the park and number of visitors are so much smaller than what I usually expect when I go to an Orlando theme park. It's a welcome change of pace.

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About Sea Lions Tonight

This page contains an archive of all entries posted to A Mom and The Magic in the Sea Lions Tonight category. They are listed from oldest to newest.

Sea Lion & Otter Theater is the previous category.

SeaWorld Rescue Team is the next category.

Many more can be found on the main index page or by looking through the archives.