SeaWorld has taken its final steps in distancing itself from Shamu, and the accompanying legacy of animals in captivity; earlier this year, it was announced that the water-centric theme park has rebranded its last remaining Shamu-themed attraction.
The Shamu Express — a whale-themed roller coaster found at SeaWorlds San Antonio and Orlando — has been rebranded as Super Grover Box Car Derby, Orlando Weekly reported. The change comes as part of a Sesame Street attraction currently being built in the Orlando park, while San Antonio has long had a Sesame Street theme in the area around the former Shamu Express. In fact, it has long been speculated that SeaWorld will soon become a Sesame Place entirely.
The latest — and final — move to rename the ride has come after several other moves to distance SeaWorld from the Shamu brand; last year, Orlando rebranded “Dine With Shamu” as “Dine With Orcas.” Additionally, in Florida, the “Shamu Emporium” has been reintroduced as the SeaWorld Store, a much more fitting name for the gift shop. In San Diego, the former “Shamu Stadium” housed shows featuring Orcas. Not only did they drop the Shamu moniker from the name of the venue, but also the focus of the show has shifted to be much more educational.
Pressure has been on SeaWorld since the 2013 release of the documentary Blackfish, which focused on Tilikum, a captive orca who performed at SeaWorld Orlando. The exposé on the treatment of the killer whales made many people protest SeaWorld, and during the aftermath, the then-CEO stepped down as a result of a decrease in profits, which many saw as a response to the outrage following the critically acclaimed documentary.
The name Shamu has become almost synonymous with the captive whales, which explains why the company has sought to eliminate the name from the attractions. The original Shamu was caught in 1965, and died after six years performing at SeaWorld San Diego. After trademarking the name, SeaWorld kept promoting Shamu and Shamu performances with “baby Shamus” until 2016, when they announced their plans to end their orca breeding program.
Despite the changes in breeding, SeaWorld still keeps animals in captivity — which is why PETA has long encouraged people to not support SeaWorld by abstaining from attending the parks. “SeaWorld — which owns all but one of the orcas held in captivity in the U.S. — has a long history of mistreating animals. In the wild, orcas are intelligent predators who work cooperatively in search of food. They share complex relationships in a matrilineal society. In some populations, they rarely leave their mother’s pod, but at SeaWorld, they have often been separated from their family. They have group-specific food preferences and behavior,” PETA explains on the site for their anti-SeaWorld campaign. “These attributes, along with wild orca pods’ unique dialects, are considered a form of culture that is unrivaled by any species other than humans. Free orcas are among the fastest animals in the sea — they can see as far as 140 miles in a day and dive deeply. But at SeaWorld, they swim in endless circles in small barren concrete tanks.”