NEW YORK -- National Geographic executives and New York City
officials "cut the kelp" on National Geographic Encounter: Ocean
Odyssey, Nat Geo's first entertainment space. It opens to the public on Oct. 6.
in Times Square.
The 130-year-old company, whose name is synonymous with
nature, made a pointed decision to use no live animals as part of what it calls
a "digital underwater dive" through the Pacific Ocean's Solomon
Islands and the west coast of North America.
"Technology is at the point where you don't need
animals in captivity to experience them," said Lisa Truitt, chief creative
officer of SPE Partners, the company that produced the show along with the
visual effects team behind Game of Thrones.
Ocean Odyssey uses a combination of National Geographic
photography and animation to create a series of underwater experiences using
screens, some as tall as 40 feet, in an interactive exhibit that lets
visitors induce sea creature movement, such as using hand motions to make
sea lions flip and do tricks. It's especially fun for kids.
Other highlights include a battle between life-sized
Humboldt squids on large, opposing screens; a kelp forest maze; and the grand
finale, where guests donning 3D glasses step into a smaller version of an IMAX
theater (which Truitt says feels like being in a submarine when in the front
row) where sharks, a 50-foot humpback whale, and 120,000 fish make three-dimensional
The exhibit includes ocean education exhibits with commentary
from marine biologists.
Nat Geo is touting advanced technology used to create the
exhibit, such as "photogrammetry", a process that used more than
1,300 photos taken of a coral reef on location in the Solomon Islands used to
construct 3D models of coral here.
The experience costs $39 per adult and $32.50 for children,
and takes about 90 minutes to complete.