Described as an entirely unique dark ride attraction, Kaleidoscape, for Denver’s Elitch Gardens amusement park, is being developed by the Santa Fe art collective Meow Wolf.
Sight unseen, the most unusual element of the ride’s construction is that it is the first to be developed by artists, not roller coaster designers. Billed as immersive and interactive, the art collective describes the attraction as “other worldly” with “deep sound, wild color, and interactive moments.”
According to Layne Pitcher, marketing director for Elitch Gardens, the park is
“thrilled to be partnering with Meow Wolf to create this unique, mysterious and artistic new ride.”
On Meow Wolf’s part, CEO Vince Kadlubek says “Amusement park rides are works of art with architecture, pacing, sensation, color, theme and more. To create a dark ride has been a true dream of ours and we’re deeply honored to work with Elitch Gardens to create the first ride in the world that is also a multimedia piece of contemporary art.” Kadlubek describes the ride as emblematic of Meow Wolf’s mind-bending aesthetic. It’s Santa Fe location, in a former bowling alley, offers an experience somewhere between psychedelic haunted house and installation art.
The Meow Wolf collective includes 200-plus artists across all disciplines including architecture, sculpture, painting, photography, video, virtual and augmented reality, music engineering, narrative writing, and performance. The collective describes itself as “bold, daring and unabashedly weird in order to challenge everyday norms through immersive experiences that transport audiences of all ages into fantastic realms of story and exploration.”
Kadlubek describes the Elitch Gardens attraction as a “prequel to our block buster Denver exhibit opening in 2020.” That will be a four story, 90,000-square-foot stand-alone attraction situated off I-25. It is planned to be three times the size of the Santa Fe attraction. The collective will also be offering grants and marketing assistance to local artists and publications in the Denver area. In short, the Elitch Garden ride is just one component of a major move into the Denver marketplace.
With Kaleidoscape, Kadlubek asserts “Over a million visitors have experienced House of Eternal Return in Santa Fe and we aim to pack as many mind-blowing visuals as possible into Meow Wolf’s Kaleidoscape.”
Although both the for-profit collective and Elitch Gardens attest in a press release that Kaleidoscape is the first artist-driven amusement park experience, other rides do include an art experience, such as Disney World’s artistic recreation of the land of Pandora in Na’vi River Journey, based on the film Avatar, theme park pundits note. However, no other ride is created by an art collective, and none specifically by Meow Wolf.
Meow Wolf’s marketing director John Feins adds “As far as being artist-driven, it’s the idea that we see ourselves as a DIY art collective and not as roller-coaster designers. We’re a bunch of art kids from Santa Fe who love riding roller-coasters. This time, we get to be the people who make the attraction.”
The ride replaces an existing ride, Ghost Blasters, that features interactive laser play. The promotional material touting the coming Kaleidoscape attraction presents the idea that riders “just might save the world,” which may mean the laser targets will be included in the new ride.
“Meow Wolf artists love amusement park rides,” Kadlubek says, and the collective wants riders of Kaleidopscape to love their ride, too.
Elitch Gardens 2019 Season Pass holders will be among the first to ride the new Meow Wolf’s Kaleidoscape, which was planned for an April 2019 sneak peek debut the 13th and 14th of the month, ahead of opening day.
The experience should be a strong draw for the park, which has been heavily promoting it. The 128-year old theme and water park is open from April 20 through Nov. 2nd in 2019.
In other news at Elitch Gardens, the park is bringing back the Pre-K Pass, which allows free park admission for kids three to five years old for all of the 2019 season, including the venue’s popular Halloween Fright Fest. The pass was first introduced last year, and director of marketing Pitcher says it was highly successful. “We are bringing it back this season in the hope that more youngsters can enjoy the…theme park.”
This year parents have until May 19 to register their child online for the Pre-K Pass and must process their child’s Pre-K Pass at the park by June 23. Qualifying children must be three to five years old at the activation deadline of June 23.
According to Pitcher, Elitch Gardens offers a wide range of rides for tots including 14 situated in the park’s Kiddieland, as well as in the water park’s Barefootin’ Bay, a daily children’s show, and pint-size trick or treating during Fright Fest.
For adult guests, a 2019 Season Pass is currently priced at $69.99, and along with admission, feature perks such as free parking, free tickets for friends, and free concerts.
The classic Denver park is still thriving, but it may not be a permanent part of the area: the park is co-owned by Revesco Properties and Kroenke Sports & Entertainment. Rhys Duggan, president and CEO, has announced that the company is redeveloping the area around the theme park into a development called River Mile. The first change is to use 17 acres of land currently utilized for parking more efficiently, creating a new multi-level parking garage rather than lot space in 2020. The park, Duggan says, will be around for many years to come; River Mile will add hotels, conference centers, residential units, and retail over a space of 62 acres that includes the current theme park. "In the near term, and I mean years…no chance of it disappearing in the near-term," Duggan attests "It's going to be there for the foreseeable future."