Give Kids The World Village Sets Sail with Pirate Ship LED Display

Sign Builder Illustrated explores the design and construction of the Serendipity II.

The following article was written by Jeff Wooten at Sign Builder Illustrated. To read the original article in its full context with the original pictures, please visit their website. However, we’ve reproduced the text below for your convenience.

Give Kids The World Village is an eighty-nine-acre, ADA-accessible, storybook-themed destination in Kissimmee, Florida that, ever since opening in 1986, provides critically ill children and their families from all over the world with joy-filled, weeklong wish vacations at no cost. The GKTW Village has welcomed more than 176,000 families from all fifty U.S. states and seventy-six countries.

On-site theming found throughout this whimsical park includes a host of colorful characters that interact with the children, snoring trees, oversized mushroom architecture, an enchanting castle, and the world’s largest game of Candy Land.

For many years, the Park of Dreams Pool area at GKTW Village also had a pirate ship called Serendipity that provided lots of buccaneer-themed fun and hosted a projector-based screen. However, time had not only taken its toll on this playground vessel, but the screen was very hard to see during daytime hours.

Shiver me timbers! GKTW Village officials knew it was time for an overhaul and rebuild (a kinder, gentler keelhaul, if you will).

This past July, after a year of planning, redesign, and construction, GKTW Village celebrated the grand opening christening of a newly constructed, ninety-plus-foot pirate ship replacement called Serendipity II, taking anchor in this port in an effort to spread more hope and happiness to the children and their families. This new buccaneer-themed build was made possible by a $1.5 million grant from the Don and Lorraine Freeberg Foundation, a nonprofit that supports organizations focused on education, healthcare, children, and veterans.

Built to withstand the humid subtropical climate of Central Florida, the ADA-accessible Serendipity II was constructed by SteamLabs Design Group and Icarus Exhibits Orlando using a 100 percent aluminum frame and cladding, while Poly Gem coating was added to replicate the look of real wood.

Serendipity II was built off-site using a labor-intensive process and took almost a year. Once finished, it was then disassembled and delivered to the Village for a two-day installation with the use of a crane.

The bright, colorful ship includes an animated parrot, an interactive ship’s wheel, and a masthead “sea-quine” figure designed as a close cousin to the seahorses found on GKTW’s ADA-accessible Enchanted Carousel. Impressively its towering seventy-four-foot masts had to be approved by the FAA, due to the park’s proximity to the nearby Kissimmee Gateway Airport.

However the main attraction onboard the replacement pirate ship very well could be its brand-new 16-feet-5-inches-wide-by-9-feet-10-inches-high SNA Displays EMPIRE™ Exterior LED screen situated near the center of the new ship in an open deck area for everyone sitting or swimming in the Pool of Dreams area to view. Management and integration of this state-of-the-art solution was overseen by Electrosonic AV Design out of Orlando, Florida, while the SNA Displays team was present throughout the project to assist and troubleshoot any issues that arose. (Note: Electrosonic AV Design is an international audiovisual and technology services company that designs, builds, and supports innovative technology solutions that create lasting experiences where people live, work, and play.)

The 3.9mm pixel pitch screen measures 1,280-by-768 pixels and outputs content at a resolution of 720p.

With this digital screen adornment, the Serendipity II ship is able to present and host feature film screenings, dive-in movies, sports broadcasts, special events promotions, and more to visitors in the Pool of Dreams Park area at GKTW Village.

“One of the priorities for this LED display was to provide a medium for the Village’s ‘dive-in’ movie events for their guests,” says Thursby Pierce, project manager at Electrosonic. “I think the screen fits the scale of Serendipity II well. It doesn’t feel intrusive to the whimsical nature of the space, [and] it is large enough to give guests a great seat to the show no matter how close they are.”

The GKTW Village team and their designers requested a size and design for the direct-view SNA Displays LED screen that was best determined by the size of the Serendipity II ship and its accompanying design elements. They also wanted a size that would be conducive to movie watching at any time of the day, which necessitated a basic 16:9 aspect ratio.

“They wanted a screen bright enough to provide viewing at all times of the day. The previous ship used projection-based technology, which made daytime viewing impossible,” says Jason Helton, executive vice president of SNA Displays. “Given the size limitations, we proposed 3.9-milimeter pixel spacing, which is a very tight pixel pitch for exterior LED displays.”

“It’s rare to have a sub-4mm exterior LED display,” says Nicole Rotyliano, project manager at SNA Displays. “Thanks to [our] R&D team, we were able to provide this client with a product that fit their use-case for the technology, showing movies to visitors of the Village at relatively close viewing distances.”

According to Helton, “The resulting screen looks great.”

Construction on the pirate ship’s structure was mostly finished before the LED display was installed on-site. Icarus Exhibits Orlando provided the mounting structure for it, per specifications from Electrosonic and SNA Displays. “Once the mounting structure was in place, the installation was fairly typical,” says Pierce. “We were really happy with the results.”

Programming on the SNA Displays screen is initiated from a small watchtower-style building located across from the ship. “They’re set up with a fairly typical front-end system, allowing for various input types like cable, Blu-ray discs, and other content,” says Pierce.

Although the LED display is outdoor-rated like other digital billboards, the Give Kids the World Village team still wanted to make sure it would still be protected from extreme tropical storms that take place in the Florida area. So Electrosonic, SNA Displays, and the Serendipity II structural engineer collaborated and implemented a storm-shutter solution to it. “It provides adequate protection without impacting the viewer experience,” says Rotyliano.

Contrary to its meaning, the Serendipity II project did not happen by chance; in fact, all the crew members involved were vetted and chosen based on their levels of skill and expertise.

Delivery of the SNA Displays product to the site took place this past March. A substantial amount of ship construction had to be completed before actual installation to it, which took place in May a month before it would be installed in the ship itself.

However, all the parties involved did end up happy from being able to complete work on a new pirate ship attraction that is bringing so much joy to children and their families.

Scroll to Top