Jacob Sundstrom

Published: March 24, 2010 at 11:52 AM

That's a great idea, Robert. Perhaps a little farther reaching than Sea World needs, but certainly is plausible.

I miss the Shamu Twitter account, and I still wear my Shamu T-Shirt with something that resembles pride. I think it has been long enough, bring back my favorite mammal!

Greg Maxwell

Published: March 24, 2010 at 12:05 PM

Robert, I also think this would be a good idea. I would love to have a Shamu video podcast on my desktop/iPhone each week/month however often that would come out. I too miss the twitter.com/shamu account.
Joshua Counsil

Published: March 24, 2010 at 12:32 PM

I had an idea, but I like yours better, Robert.

However, I disagree that SeaWorld has cut back on its promotion. I visit a comedy website titled, "CollegeHumor," nearly every day. In the five years I've been visiting the site, I have never seen a SeaWorld advertisement. About a week after the Dawn incident, SeaWorld ads played after every video. Since college kids in my generation tend to be pretty irreverent, you can imagine the comments that came up.

Jeff Elliott

Published: March 24, 2010 at 12:35 PM

The thing to do with Shamu is to open up a new restaurant at the various Sea World parks.

The name of it should be the "Bad Animal Grill". I'll let your imagine decide what the menu selections should be called, but I will suggest "I Bit My Trainer n Chips" & real otter pops.

The idea isn't as bad as it sounds...it teaches recycling...

Anthony Murphy

Published: March 24, 2010 at 1:05 PM

I like your idea Robert. As far as I remember (I am a casual visitor mind you), I never thought that killer whale jumping in front of me as THE Shamu. Maybe because I saw the whale as a real individual, not a character. I have done that Meal with Shamu (where Dawn was killed)and the whales were called by their real names.

Perhaps this also speaks about why Disney is very very careful about their image of Mickey Mouse and why his appearences are tightly regulated.

Personally, the Shamu twitter was fantastic and, in my opinion, was the best of any theme park organization because they made witty tweets with imporant information.

In all, you can not get rid of Shamu. He is too much like Mickey Mouse or Shrek or Bugs Bunny: a theme park Icon. Anyway, I enjoy my Mickey and Shamu Ice Cream bars!

Andrew Holden

Published: March 24, 2010 at 1:07 PM

Here goes a potentially crazy idea, but it could work. Ditch Shamu for now, not just how Robert suggested, I mean completely. Stop advertising with Shamu, take "him" out of the spotlight. He's been "bad", so punish him.

Who then, you ask, should we replace him with? Shine some light on the Dolphins! I have always liked the dolphins a little more anyways. Start heavily advertising SeaWorld using the dolphin side of things?

As for the kids and the fuzzy cartoon animals with names? You could bring back Dolly Dolphin (a name which I have never liked), or come up with a new name. Maybe use one of the names of a current dolphin. You know, Shamu was once an individual whale at a theme park!

Other animals work just as hard as Shamu and get 50% less credit. Start using them and giving them the credit that they deserve! Maybe you could even use the amazingly cute sea lions. Who knows?

Brandon Mendoza

Published: March 24, 2010 at 1:26 PM

I too agree Robert. Sea World should keep Shamu as a walk around character and animated entity, but not name any of the living Orca's Shamu anymore.

Shamu is an icon of Sea World... anyone sees a "Killer Whale" they think Sea World... or Free Willie? Anyway, Shamu should stay... I don't think the Sea Lions can hold up the name of Sea World. =)

Will Chilcote

Published: March 24, 2010 at 1:41 PM

I agree with you, Robert. They should make Shamu into a character like the other parks do. I also like the idea of advertising the park more like a zoo/aquarium.
Brian Bauer

Published: March 24, 2010 at 1:57 PM

Very good insight. I also just read that the original Shamu was retired from performing because of a similar but non-fatal incident.
Derek Potter

Published: March 24, 2010 at 7:59 PM

When the general public sees a killer whale at Sea World, most will refer to said whale as "Shamu". When an accident such as the recent trainer's death happens, the name Shamu takes a hit. At least for a while, nobody wants to see a killer whale on Twitter or on TV advertising for Sea World after a tragedy such as this one. It causes confusion and negative vibes, and comes off as distasteful in some respects. That's the reason that we aren't hearing much from Sea World right now... because the face of their company is so closely associated with a tragedy that was heavily covered by the media. They almost have to lay low right now because they've really only ever used Shamu and not much else to market Sea World. Laying low and advertising don't mix at all.

That said, I agree with a lot of Robert's ideas. I have no hard data from market research, but I think I know this business pretty well. Here's a rough idea

1) Make a real effort to separate the name Shamu from the actual orca in the show by using the whale's actual names to the point of saturation. Shamu, as Robert said, is the host of the park, not an actual whale.

2) Emphasize Shamu as a character/host. Make him a cartoon, put him out at the front gate in the form of a character so that kids can encounter him. Have him host the orca shows. There always has to be complete control of the "face" of the franchise. When that face is an actual animal, there is no complete control. Make him a caricature or a cartoon.

3) Expand the character stable and use it as a supporting cast. There is more to Sea World then Shamu. There are dolphins, sea lions (Clyde and Seamore), and other animals at the park that can also be "cartoonized" for the sake of marketing and for kids entertainment in the park. Every park has a stable of characters for the kids. Kids like Sesame Street, but there's nothing aquatic about it, and even in the beach show format, it doesn't really tie in to the theme of the park at all. Develop characters using the various animals featured in the shows, and use them as much as the new Shamu to market the park through TV and other visuals. The Sesame Street characters should eventually take a backseat to the aquatic characters.

4)Retire Believe- The bottom line is that a trainer was killed at the show "Believe". That show is also associated with tragedy. Nobody, not the trainers, employees, fans of the park, or casual tourists want to be reminded of that even in the least when they are watching or working the show. Repackage the show or at least change the name.

It will take time for the name Shamu to regain the public confidence. The name of the game is control and diversify. Control the name Shamu by setting him apart from the actual whales, and give him some help in the form of other characters.

JL Salaz

Published: March 24, 2010 at 8:07 PM

It is evident to me that as President I would need to save Shamu. How would I do this equipped only with my awesome wisdom? By making a movie on Shamu!

The Plot:
Shamu the friendly orca is minding his own business one day when Mexican captors capture him. They capture him for the sole reason of making him feel bad. Then comes a quirky kid with his chubby friend, and they free him by training him to jump over the fence that contains him. He then lives out his dream by getting a gig at SeaWorld performing every night. Credits roll here accompanied by rock music (kids like it).

A whole array of video games and mediocre sequels will follow. Attendance will soar as kids will want to go to SeaWorld "to see the REAL Shamu." Of course, the names used for all the orcas would be Shamu, with the only exception if there is more than one orca in the show. Then we will joyously declare that Shamu has brought along his "family" for this particular show.

This idea took a long time to come up with, and as President I would be too busy spending money to think of another one. If another tragic incident were to occur, a resignation would be in place.

Bruce Lane

Published: March 24, 2010 at 11:34 PM

Robert, I am impressed! What you've suggested is almost exactly what I've been saying (for at least the last couple of decades) SeaWorld should do.

I think, though, SeaWorld is actually afraid of individualizing any of their animals to the general public, mainly because they want to avoid questions of "What happened to...?" if an animal someone knew by sight (or by contact, in the case of the dolphin petting pool) happened to get moved to another park or die.

Their position on this has a lot to do with their insane obsession with political correctness. They don't want to offend ANYbody (and, ironically, manage to offend quite a few people by taking that very position), and they will go to great lengths to avoid saying or doing anything which could be construed as offensive to a guest.

Bit of trivia for everyone. Back in the mid-1980's, and well into the 90's, the names of the individual animals was considered a closely-guarded secret. Any Animal Care staffer or narrator who revealed actual names ran the risk of getting reprimanded, if they were caught doing so.

Along those same lines -- It was absolutely verboten back then (and it may still be to this day) to tell any guest who asked about a specific animal that said animal had died (even if they had!) The staff's stock reply, no matter the degree of truth (or lack thereof) was to say the animal had been 'moved to another park.'

In any case -- I certainly can't come up with anything better for what SeaWorld should do.

Happy travels.