SeaWorld is trying really hard to beat the bad rap that “Blackfish” has given it, and close to 200 of the company’s employees weighed in on a local media outlet’s poll asking readers if the documentary changed their perception of the aquatic theme park.
As of midday on Thursday, the Orlando Business Journal poll reflected roughly 99 percent of the participants chose “no,” but then skeptical reporter Richard Bilbao did some digging. Turned out 54 percent of the votes — or about 180 of the total 328 votes — were linked to a single SeaWorld IP Address.
When Bilbao contacted the company, a spokesman didn’t deny it, and instead emphasized that the park’s employees are “encouraged” to defend their employer.
“Our team members have strong feelings about their park and company, and we encourage them to make their opinions known,” SeaWorld spokesman Nick Gollattscheck said. “We have three parks and our corporate offices in Orlando. You would expect that we would have a lot of team members in Orlando — and throughout our company — who would vote. If a poll goes up regarding SeaWorld, our team members have as much a right to vote as anyone else, and vote they did.”
Gollattscheck added to TheWrap: “We’re unsure why that’s being questioned here. In this case, each of the votes that came from a SeaWorld domain were cast by team members who are passionate about the incredible work SeaWorld does and the experiences our parks provide.”
Bilbao noted that the company didn’t have to participate in the poll for it to swing in its favor at the time, since taking out the 180 votes from SeaWorld employees would have still left the poll at 95 percent in favor of the park.
That number figure, however, has changed dramatically in a day.
75 percent of the site’s 3,481 poll participants currently say, “Yes,” the documentary has changed their perception of SeaWorld. 25 percent say, “No.”
“Blackfish,” directed by Gabriela Cowperthwaite, investigates three deaths at SeaWorld — including top trainer Dawn Brancheau — linked to killer whale Tilikum, who was captured off the coast of Iceland in 1983. The film explores the whale’s aggressive behavior to highlight the negative effects of captivity, including a shortened lifespan compared to killer whales that live in the wild.
The film premiered at the 2013 Sundance Film Festival, and has since been released in theaters by Magnolia Pictures and then aired on CNN.