National Geographic is certainly one of the world’s top brands, never mind its status in travel. Founded in 1988, the National Geographic Society is one of the largest non-profit scientific and educational institutions in the world, though most people are mainly familiar with the iconic yellow-framed magazine. But there are also notable spin-offs: other magazines, TV channels, a tour program called National Geographic Journeys, and plenty more. In fact, National Geographic Partners, which is a joint venture with 21st Century Fox, reaches over 730 million people globally in 72 countries and in 43 languages.
However, even with all that, the organization is poised to break new ground in October with the opening of National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey in New York. Certain to become one of the top attractions in a city that doesn’t lack for them, the entertainment-educational experience will command 60,000 sq. ft. of prime real estate in Times Square with a promise of transporting audiences on “an incredible, never-before-seen undersea journey” to the depths of the Pacific Ocean.
Blending entertainment with science, National Geographic Encounter called on a stable of experts, plus renowned scientists and Academy, Grammy and Emmy Award-winning technicians and designers to create what is being called a “first-in-kind immersive entertainment experience” that utilizes innovative technologies such as video mapping, 8K photo real animation, mega projection screens, immersive sound and interactive “real-time” audience tracking, which will allow guests to virtually interact with sea lions, play with rays and dolphins, come face-to-face with humpback whales, Humboldt squids and great white sharks, all culminating in a 40-foot dome finale.
“We developed a new way of combining immersive cinema with science and entertainment, using interactivity and photo-real animation,” says Lisa Truitt, Chief Creative Officer and Partner of New York entertainment developer SPE, who told Canadian Traveller/CT, “It feels just like taking a ride. The sea lions are almost AI (artificial intelligence) – people think they’re real!”
National Geographic Encounter: Ocean Odyssey is a timed ticketed walk-through experience that lasts approximately 90 minutes. Tickets go on sale this week (July 11 for reserved timed-entrance slots. Prices are US$39.50 plus tax for adults, $36.50 plus tax for seniors 65+ and $32.50 plus tax for kids aged six to 12. Groups of 10 or more receive 15% off.