Right now, TurtleTrek is a dull gray dome in the corner of SeaWorld Orlando. Its future should be much brighter once the 3-D, in-the-round film about the life journey of a sea turtle begins operation this spring.
The attraction has reached a key moment in its construction as its structure including 34 projectors, 344 panels and 22 hidden speakers is complete. Its building was once the 1980s-era Manatee Rescue attraction near the Journey to Atlantis ride.
Creative director Brian Morrow walked members of the media through the dome on Friday and talked about the upcoming attraction.
When guests arrive at TurtleTrek, the dome will be mostly dark.
"The intention is not to show that you're in a theater when you walk in, but actually that you're moving into the beach," Morrow says.
That's where our hero turtle's life begins, and the story will be told from her perspective.
"The sand grandules [seen in the film] on the beach are probably the size of baseballs from a turtle point of view," Morrow says. He wouldn't share her name yet (although she does have one), but we do know that she will sport orange markings and a "unique pattern that appears to be sunshine," he says. Orange has a recurring role in TurtleTrek, which Morrow says represents the color of "everyday heroes" to SeaWorld.
Audience members will follow a 25-year space with the hero turtle and meet some buddies and other creatures along the way, including dolphins, sharks, mantas and jellyfish. There will be drama obstacles that are both man-made and ones found in nature.
"Guests will actually get to experience what it's like to feel like to be attacked by a giant ghost crab, which in this space will be about 27 feet tall," Morrow says.
They'll also get caught in a fishing net and (Spoiler alert!) rescued.
The nature of the computer-generated film previously termed "hyper-real" is overachieving, Morrow says.
"It's much more intense that we expected," he says.
The attraction will hold nearly 200 guests that will stand on a center platform and watch the film, which should clock in at under 7 minutes, Morrow says. Most of the projector are under the platform and use mirrors to reflect onto the dome's panels.
There is no "front" to the screen, with action happening on all sides.
Viewers "will actually rotate and move during the theater experience. It's a very active viewing experience," says Morrow.