Wednesday February 24th Sea World Orlando suffered a terrible loss with the death of one their most experienced Killer Whale trainers, Dawn Brancheau while working with the largest Killer Whale in Captivity, Tilikum. In response, Sea World canceled Believe shows at all three Sea World Parks until Saturday and All Dine with Shamu experiences until further notice. The Believe show came back with a few changes today.
For the first show Sea World started out with a tribute to the fallen Trainer that pulled at the heartstrings of all in attendance. It remembered Dawn doing what she loved to do, work with the amazing large creatures. The stadium was far from packed as the weather took a nasty turn, going very cold and rainy. Most of the people sitting in our section were staff and PR from Sea World Orlando, and a lot of family and friends of Dawn.
The show felt very somber, as it probably should have. The normal excitement level of the trainers was nowhere to be found. This was the first one back after this enormous tragedy in which one of their own was lost, and you could feel their loss as they went about their normal show, with loads of changes.
The biggest change was that no trainer entered the water while there was an animal in the tank. This comes because of the ongoing investigation to find out why the incident happened in the first place. Until Sea World figures out what happened, why it happened, and how to avoid it, the trainers will not enter the water with the animals. It is great to see such a keen eye on safety. However, Believe was a show built around the relationships between animal and trainer, and to see the trainers giving commands and not interacting as closely with the animals as the show leads you to “Believe” gives it a very shallow and meaningless feeling. At some points, where trainers were feeding the animals, it looked as if they were frightened of the animals. I’m sure that’s not the case, but its all about impressions and feelings in this show, so much so that it extends out into the audience. At one point all the divers jump into the water in unison, something they’ve done from day one. At this point, those sitting around us gave a small gasp, then realized the whales weren’t in the water with them. As they were swimming, one trainer (while smiling) kept looking over her shoulder. Is the trust of these animals gone?
[flickr-gallery mode=”photoset” photoset=”72157626579577782″]
On the other hand I do understand the business side of it. Shamu and the Believe show is the main draw. Shamu is the icon of the park, and it does no good for the park if the star of the park is nowhere to be found. Perhaps, though, another week could have been spared and then bring the show back to full force right before the busy Spring Break season. The line can be very difficult to see and even more difficult to walk.
The show had very special meaning today, and I commend Sea World for doing it. However, I say too soon. Not for the memory of Dawn, because from what everyone we spoke with said, she would have wanted the full show to go on. But because of the fact that Believe is such a personal show. If you can’t have the full effect, then wait until you can. I’m glad Sea World isn’t even entertaining the idea of destroying Tilikum, or releasing him, and it makes me proud to be a guest that they do not give into the crazy cries coming from all over. The show must go on. But let the whole show go on, not just a fragment.
Be sure to stay tuned to Behind the Thrills for a video showcasing the highlights of the new show.