I hate that I’ve learned too much to support the concept of captive killer whales being made to perform circus tricks. As a kid, I truly believed that Shamu enjoyed jumping through hoops.
The entire SeaWorld brand was built around Shamu, and it’s been a Shamu-fest over there for decades. As such, there is a huge volume of killer whale merchandise, and the more you look, the weirder it gets.
For every pendant, there’s an electronic Shamu toothbrush. For every sticker set, there’s a miniature inflatable Shamu blimp.
So, as the sort-of-sequel to that Jaws article, I spent half a day on eBay, picking out the most interesting pieces of Shamu memorabilia. Below are my five favorites.
(It was really hard to limit this to five, so I’ll open with my sincere apologies to the SeaWorld Barbie doll that came with a Baby Shamu figure and a purse full of dead fish. You deserved to be more than an understudy.)
The only way this could be more ‘80s is if Shamu had a word balloon with a Poison lyric inside of it.
I’m staring at this and wondering if it’ll fit, because it’s obviously the kind of shirt that would alter the flow of fate and put you on a course for an all-new future.
Think of anywhere you could go, and what might happen once you get there. Now envision the same journey, but this time, you’re wearing the 1987 Shamu Fireworks t-shirt. Save for your location, nothing would be the same. Wearing this shirt is like picking one of the obviously bad options in a Choose Your Own Adventure book. You know you’re headed for death, but brother, you just gotta know.
Back in the day, you knew you made it when you got your own Lite-Brite refill kit. Only the biggest and the best kid-targeted brands got those. At least, that’s what I believed until I saw this Shamu version.
Holy hell, how did Shamu end up with a Lite-Brite kit? Those creaking sounds she made had to be incantations, because only the darkest gods of orcadom could’ve caused something like this.
The neat thing was how the typically black picture pages were in detailed color. Even if you sucked at putting pegs into a Lite-Brite, your hatless Vlasic pelican would still look like a hatless Vlasic pelican.
(And yes, some of us did suck at that. It sounds easy, but putting pegs over a Lite-Brite template was the most horribly tedious exercise ever, and only the blessedly patient could ever see it through. I learned, as most did, that Lite-Brites were meant for spelling our names and not much else.)
During the ‘90s, various boxes of Little Debbie snacks came with cutout SeaWorld cards on the back. Shamu was included, but you might have just as easily gotten “Pete Penguin,” or some other D-lister who hadn’t done much to warrant immortalization-through-cardboard.
The Shamu biography is hilarious. “Shamu, the killer whale, has all the qualities of a super hero.” I can think of a few seals who might take issue with that. Also, I’ve never seen Superman yank out a baby sperm whale’s entrails just to see if he could.
On the other hand, I guess this isn’t meant to represent a literal orca, but the idealized “cartoony” version seen on so many Shamu souvenir hats. You can tell the difference by the white underside, slightly edited to look more like a smile.
I’ve said bad things, but I still would’ve collected the shit out of these.
I wish it would’ve felt more “socially appropriate” for me to get Littlest Pet Shop toys. When I see them for what they are, they seem so up my alley. Like Battle Beasts, but with cats and dogs.
This Baby Shamu playset came with a shell-shaped cradle, a starfish, and a peculiar bucket. Perhaps the back of the package explained why. I don’t predict many happy endings for a starfish rooming with a bucket-carrying orca.
Unless… maybe that’s just a pillow? A starfish-shaped pillow, so Baby Shamu can feel more at home when she’s trapped in a cradle on dry land?
I was at first appalled by the asking price, but I suppose SeaWorld-related Littlest Pet Shop stuff really is a sellers’ market. It’s not like I’ll have many options when the day comes that I need, absolutely need, SeaWorld-related Littlest Pet Shop stuff.
And yeah, I’m confident that that day *will* come. Suddenly and from nowhere. I will never expect it.
There’s a big market on eBay for “found photos.” These are personal photos that, years or even decades later, fell into the hands of an eBay seller who was willing to try just about anything.
Since they’re personal photos, there’s no limit to what you might find. It could be of some strange family having dinner, or of some guy’s 1996 Camaro, or maybe of a dog shaking off pool water.
If the gods are on your side, it might even be a picture of a happy man standing next to the “costumed character” version of Shamu.
I don’t know why I’m including this. I desperately want it, and I just know that one of you bastards will buy it first. Please understand that I have already claimed this photo. I’m just waiting for my brain to catch up with my heart, so it will let my fingers do the clicking.