Keeper’s Tales:The Warm and Fuzzies of The Polar Express


Greetings…you may call me …Keeper..for I am the keeper of theme park tales.

Our adventure today took us far from the familiar beacon of light we call home. To a place where the sea reigns supreme, where dolphins fly and sea lions sing….umm that might be a bit much…we went to Sea Wold, ok?

When the little keeper was younger we spent a lot of time at Sea World to visit fishies, birdies, and horsies but haven’t been in probably about 10 years. Although it’s actually the closest park to home base it’s never been a “must see” kinda place to me. I enjoyed the walk-thru exhibits and displays but grew tired of the main shows. There was a time when the entire Sea World experience was see a show in huge steel seating bleacher….walk to next show…see a show…walk to next show, etc. A good place to bring Grandma but not exactly my speed. With the additions and expansion under the watchful eye of Busch it’s no longer fair to stick this park with this label. I would hazard to say that you can spend close to a full day there now without sitting for a single show.
We have not had Sea World AP’s for about 10 years and they finally came up with a deal we couldn’t pass up. (15 months for the price of 12 —good till the end of the year check it out!). We went out for a brief visit to soak in the atmosphere and “wander”, something that is always a pleasure for your pal Keeper.

Another thing I’ve been dying to see is the Polar Express experience. Although the rest of Sea World’s Christmas presents will be arriving November 26th the Polar Express had already pulled in and that ended up being our target for the day. I’ve been a huge fan of the story and it’s message long before the movie came out and have been dying to see what Sea World has done with it for a few years now. Although I loved the “cheese factor” of Mission Bermuda Triangle I always thought Wild Artic was an interesting meld of ride and show that helped showcase the polar bears and beluga whales. Since I never heard any raving reviews of the Polar Express enhancement I assumed the worst. Imagine my surprise when I walked up and beyond the huge Polar Express entrance signage saw the actual Polar Express train, complete with steam, out front, as a photo opp! Even the que directional sign for “walking” vs “riding” had the image of a train on it now… I was cautiously optimistic.

We walked in the pre show and I noticed even the hall LEADING to the room had different wall treatments and photos from the movie on the wall. As the pre-show unfolded we watched the early portion of the movie where the boy was woken up by the arrival of the Polar Express. As the scene played out I noticed the plane hanging in our room, the big radiator under the screen, the wood paneled walls – we were not at Sea World watching a pre show – we were IN the boy’s room. The conductor asked if we were coming or not…the door opened and we actually felt the same anticipation as he did. In front of us was the Polar Express. The entire load area had been changed so much that with the exception of the lines of light up circles it was completely unrecognizable. Our conductor made us watch the obligatory safety video (possibly the only low point of our journey) and we boarded the train car. At this point we were in the movie, the kid and I had talked Mrs. Keeper into bypassing her usual land approach and she was glad she did. The train ride was much more mild that its predecessor, no doubt due to the younger target audience, but we were so deep in the story by then that a bumpy motion simulator would have ruined it. We WERE on a train, the inside exactly duplicated the films version of the train car. We played thru the travel to the North Pole and the perils of the journey including the sliding on ice and barley making it thru the channel. There were some odd choices on movement as it seemed that although most times the car mimicked the train’s movement it occasionally seemed to want to be the run-away ticket and even a wayward, but important, bell.

As the train ended its journey another conductor welcomed us to Christmas Town. We walked out into the dusk-filled sky to see Santa Clause himself along with his sleigh with a bag overfilled to the ceiling with all manner of gifts. It was not just any run of the mill theme park santa this was the Polar Express looking Santa who even had the voice nailed perfectly. The elfs were perky, the sleigh amazing, and Santa made even me feel like a kid. As we left that area there was a sign that said “leaving Christmas Town” and I felt a little sad. I never thought the whales and polar bears would be anti-climatic. Towards the end there was a hot chocolate station, again with attendants that had costumes to perfectly match the movie. As we approached land (and more Polar Express and Christmas gifts than should be allowed in one gift shop) we saw a holiday greeting from our friends at Sea World above a GIANT ticket that took up the whole wall. The simple message: “BELIEVE”.

Well I gotta admit for this sentimental old storyteller that gives me a feeling deep down inside that’s as rich and thick as melted chocolate bars…and at this time of year…just as filling.

Every Day’s An Adventure
Keeper is a guest columnist for Behind The Thrills. If you would like to contribute please contact us!