SeaWorld Makes a Splash with Sea Rescue
April 7th, SeaWorld premieres its first ever television show, Sea Rescue, in the family-friendly Litton’s Weekend Adventure Saturday morning block. The show’s host is famously environmentally-concerned Sam Champion, the weatherman on ABC’s Good Morning America. Sea Rescue is a series of vignettes featuring one of SeaWorld’s biggest initiatives: the rescue and stewardship of our planet’s marine animals.
SeaWorld is taking an enormous leap bridging into an entirely different, and equally costly branch of entertainment. But entertaining is precisely what the company has been doing for half a century and this isn’t its first foray into the moving picture scene.
Five years ago, SeaWorld’s Saving A Species: The Great Penguin Rescue took the Outstanding Children/Youth/Family Special Emmy at the 34th annual Daytime Emmy Awards. In April of 2011, SeaWorld announced the formation of the SeaWorld Pictures movie division. Its first release, Turtle: The Incredible Journey, a digitally-enhanced documentary that trails the loggerhead turtle’s journey through the perils of the Atlantic Ocean, hit theatres last year to positive reviews.
The SeaWorld franchise has a solid public identity with fifty years of experience in the development and maintenance of nine parks, as well as a well-sustained non-profit, SeaWorld & Busch Gardens Conservation Fund (SWBGCF). That sense-of-brand-self is precisely what allows the SeaWorld team to remain calm and poised at the breadth of such an enormous new venture. Becca Bides, Director of Communications at SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment says, “Nobody else does what we do. We straddle these two worlds [of family entertainment and animal conservation and rescue].”
SeaWorld’s bold attempt to extend their brand beyond theme parks into transmedia is the photo negative of another trusted family brand. Decades after the birth of Mickey Mouse, and seated at the top of a motion picture and television empire, Walt Disney turned his attention towards creating a more interactive, recreational entertainment experience for families. In 1955, confident that this new venture would offer families an entertainment opportunity they could mutually enjoy, he opened Disneyland.
We believed in our idea - a family park where parents and children could have fun- together,” read Disney’s words on the base of Blaine Gibson’s “Partners” statue at Disney World.
Scott Helmstedter, Chief Creative Officer of the new SeaWorld division and also a 14-year Walt Disney Company veteran, acknowledges this. “They know their brand well,” he says, “I think there’s a parallel…We’re the same in essence in that they know their brand and so do we and they don’t stray and neither do we.”
When you’re in the business of entertainment, live performance and cross-platform pre-recorded media are really two sides of the same coin.
According to Helmstedter, “We haven’t been producing animated series or kids television per se, but we do tons of filming in our parks and we have our own internal DVDs and our [Emmy-winning] Saving A Species Series…so we have that knowledge base - we just haven’t done it in those platforms.”