Jeff: Hey all, allow me to introduce myself. I’m Jeff, and I’m super excited to be providing some guest coverage for Coaster Kings, one of my favorite theme park sites. A little about myself: I’m an artist and painting instructor. I also work as a Scenic Artist at Knott’s Berry Farm. If you’ve been to Haunt in the last two years, you’ve probably seen my work in the mazes. If you want to see more, I’m @artbyjefflee on IG
I’m also a huge theme park fan. My favorite park is Knoebels and my favorite coaster
is was Volcano the Blast Coaster at Kings Dominion.
I drove out from California to Elitch Gardens in Denver for the opening of “Kaleidoscape” the new dark ride by Meow Wolf, an artist collective based in Santa Fe. For those not familiar with Meow Wolf, this passage from their website explains things better than I could:
“Meow Wolf creates immersive and interactive experiences that transport audiences of all ages into fantastic realms of story and exploration. This includes art installations, video and music production, and extended reality content.
Our first permanent installation, the THEA Award-winning House of Eternal Return, launched in March 2016 with support from Game of Thrones creator, George R.R. Martin. Inside, guests discover a multidimensional mystery house with secret passages, portals to magical worlds, and an expansive narrative amidst surreal, maximalist, and mesmerizing art exhibits. Located in Santa Fe, HOER features a children’s learning center, a cafe and bar, and a highly-rated music venue.”
– In the past, many of our images have been posted, featured, and shared on forums, social media platforms and websites around the web. We work hard to provide the coverage that we do, and we encourage our audience to share our content and use our images, BUT ONLY IF proper credit is given to thecoasterkings.com. Thank you! –
I visited “House of Eternal Return” in 2016 and quickly became enamored with the group and their work. So have lots of other people, as they are expanding with upcoming locations in Las Vegas, Denver (in addition to “Kaleidoscape”), Washington DC, and Phoenix.
Elitch Gardens very graciously hosted a media event on Friday, April 12, a day before the park opened for the season for Pass-holder Previews (I’ll be back later with coverage of that too!). The media event was listed as 4am-1pm so I arrived at the front gate promptly at 4am:
I mistakenly thought we would need to be there the entire time, but it was more of a come and go when it’s convenient for you thing. On the plus side though, I was the first one there so I ended up being THE FIRST PERSON (who’s not an employee) TO GO ON THE RIDE!!!! You can go ahead and put that on my tombstone now!
We were walked back through a still dark and very cold Elitch Gardens (unseasonal April snow delayed the media event by a day) to the ride in location of the former Ghost Blasters II ride, a shoot-the-ghosts dark ride from Sally Corp.
The process of changing over the ride took less than a year so most of the changes were aesthetic in nature. The ride vehicles—with the guns—and track layout stayed the same. Meow Wolf collaborated with Denver-based artists Frankie Toan, Laleh Mehran, Kenzie Sitterud, Michael Ortiz, Chris Coleman, Brick Suede, and Katie Caron. The ride includes all new scenic elements: sets, lighting, audio, video, projection mapping and animatronics (which are the Ghost Blasters animatronics, stripped and re-skinned. Here’s the Professor from the queue of the former ride who is now M. L. Gam (a play on “amalgam”)
Next to M.L. Gam and throughout the queue are screens who play background and safety videos. There are three different videos:
The basic idea of the ride is that it’s a simulator of the multiverse run by the Quantum Department of Transportation (QDOT), and as you ride, you use the Ghost Blaster guns (now called Congolmatrons) to nurture a point of light that hatches from the Cosmic Egg, expands into fantastical landscapes, and then (spoiler alert!) returns back to the Cosmic Egg. Got all that?
How about I let the pictures do the talking (apologies for the blurriness, dark rides are hard to photograph):
Also, here’s a full ride-through POV I shot on my iPhone:
I loved the ride (I think I went on it 7 times!), the visuals are fantastic. It’s similar to The House of Eternal Return, in that it has a story line you can follow or you can just enjoy the sights and sounds. The Conglomotron guns still work, firing at the targets in the ride trigger effects but it’s less game-like. There’s no score kept, and the point is to help the cosmic landscapes expand. I liked this because I feel with other shooting rides, sometimes the focus is so much on the shooting that it’s easy to not pay attention to the actual ride.
I had the opportunity to speak with Meow Wolf cofounders Emily Montoya and Matt King about their experience working on this project and the specific challenges they faced working on a dark ride. Both are life-long theme park fans and were very excited to be working on a ride. Some of the challenge they faced were cold-weather related; in addition to trying to stay warm, low temperatures would make paint dry super slowly. They also had to use the existing show control system for the animatronics, which is a proprietary system their programmers had to learn.
Check out these sharp repainted ride vehicles:
They also gave us these fun passenger safety cards for our voyage into the multiverse:
There’s lots of Meow Wolf and Kaleidoscape-specific merchandise, which I was told will be available at the Santa Fe location, as well as online.
Unfortunately the shop wasn’t open, but I’ll be back tomorrow for Pass-holder Previews to check that out as well as the rest of Elitch Gardens (and take a few more trips into the multiverse!) Til then!
Thanks for checking out this special bit of coverage from Elitch Gardens! Check out Jeff’s amazing “Cordelia and Walter” boysenberry art here!
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