The realm's ride is still hush-hush. Brian Morrow, creative director, confirmed that it's a sit-down ride, and that it's the coldest theme-park attraction in the world -- they're not just being "cool, man" poetic there. The cool-down will progress in stages.
"We can't dump people into the cold for enormous amounts of time. They'll be in shorts, and it IS Florida," Morrow says.
The ride experience will tell the story of a small penguin, he says.
"We're going to be seeing this experience through his eyes how he sees the ice, which isn't how we see the ice," he says. Morrow also made reference to stretch above the surface of the ice and below as well. And there's a feel-good touch.
"There are a lot of similarities between the penguin colony and their family structure and the human community and family structure, which we're going to tie together," he says. "It's not about us experiencing things alone. It's about us going through these challenges together to help us survive. That is what we're producing on the ride experience."
The ride is in planning stages but far enough along that the SeaWorld team is "riding prototypes," Morrow says. Construction walls will go up this January, and Antarctica is scheduled to open in the spring of 2013. It will be going up on the site of Penguin Encounter and the adjacent Penguin Plaza.
Opening much sooner -- as in spring 2012 -- is TurtleTrek (yep, the name is all mashed together as if one word. Sigh.) The first segment of the attraction, currently under construction at the site of Manatee Rescue, will feature saltwater and freshwater habitats and be home to sea turtles, manatees and about 1,700 fish.
Next is the 360-degree, domed 3-D movie that will follow the life of a female sea turtle -- right from birth.
"We transform the theater into the egg of a baby sea turtle. The first thing you see is this egg hatching as the theater cracks open and we start to crawl out of our egg onto the beach to make our way to the ocean," Morrow says.
The first part sounds a bit harrowing: buried alive, abandoned by mother, left with siblings, how to survive? "And that's just the first 32 seconds," Morrow says. The film is 6 minutes long.
There's a circle of life element to it, where the turtle travels through oceans and shipwrecks and dangers and returns to her birth beach, where conditions have improved.
"It's quintessential storytelling," Morrow says.
It will be the first time for a 3-D film to be in a fully domed theater, with CGI action all around, even overhead, SeaWorld says.
Random film and dome by-the-numbers facts via SeaWorld: the film is show at 60 frames per second, twice as fast as the human mind can register movement; the film features 12 species of sea animals; the dome requires 34 projectors; and the film is actually two films running simultaneously. "One is for the left eye, the other for the right," explains a SeaWorld news release.
Also opening in spring 2012 is the Freshwater Oasis at Discovery Cove. Most of the water along this attraction with be waist-deep or shallower. New to the area will be marmoset monkeys, which live in family groupings, says Julie Scardina, animal ambassador.
"We'll set up trees for them to live in, and they'll be in a community, basically," Scardina says. "When people swim up through the whole oasis, they'll see these animals as they would be living in the wild."
There also will be Asian otters, but I'm thinking they won't be named Clyde or Seamore.
"This will be an opportunity for the otters to just be on exhibit, not to be a part of the shows.," Scardina says. "They also will be in family units. You'll be able to swim up to right up to where they're doing all their things -- nose-to-nose."
Meanwhile, back to future attractions: Scardina visited Antarctica last year, which she described as an otherworldy experience that SeaWorld wants to bring to Florida.
"When we landed there and we got out of our ship, and you're looking at the landscape, you go 'We are on another planet,' " she says.
"I think a lot of people when they think of Antarctica are thinking of think 'It's like the arctic.' But the arctic has plants, and it's got mammals are land mammals that live there. It gets fairly warm in the summer, and it changes," she says.
"Antarctica is 98 percent ice -- 98 percent ice! How do you even describe it?"