After a couple of days of canceled shows because of the tragedy with SeaWorld trainer Dawn Brancheau, SeaWorld’s Believe shows returned this morning with the trainers not performing in the water.
Shamu Stadium was about half full on this cold and rainy morning. Many of those in the audience were friends and co-workers of Dawns. Many tears and hugs could be seen before and after the show.
Just before Believe began, a slideshow tribute to Dawn played on the large screens. It was short but very moving, showing Dawn with a smile on her face as she was interacting with the killer whales.
A loud cheer was given to the trainers as they first entered the stage. Then the show began as usual. It was essentially the same Believe show as always, minus the tricks performed with the trainers and whales in the water together. A few new funny parts were added to the show, such as the whales spitting water and “demanding” larger fish from the trainers.
The trainers only entered the water once, to swim to the other side, as they always do in Believe, but the whales weren’t in the tank at that time. When feeding the whales after each trick, the trainers were careful to stand back and toss the fish into their mouths. There was no petting the whales.
Merchandise was on sale as usual with team members walking the isles before the show selling Shamu toys and towels. The signature Believe wooden fin necklaces were readily available after the show as well.
I talked with Head of Animal Training Chuck Tompkins after the show. He said the show would continue to be tweaked and evolve, with the trainers eventually being able to get back in the water with the whales. (Notice the ribbon Tompkins is wearing in support of Dawn.)
Here’s a video of the memorial, highlights from this morning’s show and a clip of one of the television networks interviewing Tompkins.
For a comparison, here’s a highlight video of the regular Believe show, recorded in late January.