Seaworld’s Empire of The Penguin Ride Creator

Brian Marrow is obsessed with icebergs, wind patterns and cold-weather penguins. All for good reason, too. For the past three years, he’s been part of the creative team that conjured up SeaWorld Orlando’s latest attraction, Antarctica: Empire of the Penguin, which opened last week.

As the senior director of attraction development and design at SeaWorld Parks and Entertainment, it’s his job to make this new “realm” feel like a tantalizing tundra, from the shimmering faux glaciers to the 2,500 handblown icicles made of Pyrex.

“We wanted to take guests somewhere that they might not go on their own,” he said. “And there is no greater adventure than a journey to the bottom of our planet.”

It’s an elaborate adventure, indeed, that includes a first-of-its-kind family thrill ride, an expansive penguin habitat, underwater viewing area, gift shop and restaurant. With a footprint of nearly 4-acres, it is the largest expansion project in the park’s history.

First up: the newfangled high-tech ride. But before hopping aboard, guests shuffle through rooms where the temperature gradually drops, preparing them for extreme temps at the end of the ride. Meanwhile, an animated pre-show introduces the star, a baby penguin named Puck. Then, guests choose their level of adventure: “wild” or “mild. “

“The ride had a sensation of gliding over ice just as a penguin would,” said Lake Mary, Fla., resident Susie Guyers, who experienced the ride at a preview event. “We didn’t know which direction was next; it wasn’t a set path.” That’s all thanks to a trackless system, which allowed engineers to create 32 different ride scenarios.

Even cooler, though, is what comes next. The ride exits into a 30-degree penguin palace with varied levels of fake rocks, a swimming area and a 2-foot wall that serves as the only barrier between guests and birds. The 6,125-square-foot habitat is home to 245 Gentoo, Rockhopper, Adélie and King penguins, which were the main attraction for Guyer.

“We were so close we could have gotten splashed,” she said. “The penguins were really active; they were diving up out of the water and back in. It truly felt like we were no longer in Florida.”

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