As you walk through the door of Distortions Monster World at the Denver Pavilions, you're greeted by an oversized zombie head. You can walk inside it, have a photo taken, and then move on through the brightly lit, 19,000-square-foot interactive installation showcasing the various ghoulish creations of Distortions Unlimited, a Greeley company that has been making handcrafted Halloween props, monsters and animatronics since 1978.
There are Roswell aliens to dissect and be dissected by, a massive Tyrannosaurus rex, a castle area with a giant Frankenstein, a King Kong-style gorilla hand that can hold you, a guillotine used in Alice Cooper's stage show along with other rock paraphernalia, a Dick Van Dyke gargoyle (the 95-year-old actor uses Distortions to supply decor for his Halloween parties), and more ghoulish goodies leading to a top-secret grand finale.
The hands-on museum tells the story of Distortions Unlimited and walks guests through how owners Ed Edmunds and Marsha Taub-Edmunds and their team of artists and sculptors create these latex monsters by hand.
The couple hopes that the museum will give people a chance to appreciate their creatures outside of the Halloween season.
"It allows people to see how they make the products or monsters, see and hear about the history, play with the monsters and take cool and creative photos," says Heidi Webb, chief operations officer of Blazen Illuminations, the Loveland-based company behind the new museum, which taps into the immersive arts, entertainment and Instagram craze. It's a trend that's already been mined effectively by the Museum of Ice Cream, Meow Wolf and the Denver Selfie Museum, which is still open for business in LoDo despite a pandemic and legal threats from the similar Museum of the Selfie in Hollywood.
Webb cautiously describes Monster World as a "selfie-like museum," though it's definitely more, with a history of the company and other innovations beyond those props for posing.
The museum, located on the first floor of the Denver Pavilions, had been in the works for three years and was originally slated to launch in spring 2020.
"We started negotiating with the Pavilions mall over a year ago and were getting ready to activate when the shutdowns happened," says Webb. "We’ve been in the battle to get this open in the past year. Like many small businesses, we’re needing some help to stay buoyant."
But unlike many small businesses, Distortions Monster World managed to open during the pandemic. It debuted in mid-December at the Pavilions, where Blazen Illuminations is planning to open another immersive museum in spring 2021.
According to Webb, Monster World is child-friendly — and even if many of the sculptures are downright scream-inducing, most kids stick it out. Children are reminded that the monsters are just latex, and those four and under get in free, in case they panic and bail.
Of course, during a pandemic, monsters aren't the only thing that's scary about going to a museum — much less operating one. Indoor facilities are dicey propositions, as the state and city offer ever-fluctuating public-health guidelines. While Level Red COVID-19 restrictions have shut down plenty of events, a few museums have secured variances from the state to allow them to stay open, and stores and galleries have managed to continue to offer indoor retail at reduced capacity.
Under those conditions and with strict cleaning precautions in place, Distortions Monster World can keep letting people through the doors in a regular fifteen-minute rotation.
"Luckily for us, we are a museum and it is artwork, and that has been a blessing," Webb says. "Our community is hungry for something safe and fun to do that allows them to get out of the house and stretch their wings a little bit. We’re trying to meet that need, and luckily, we’re allowed to that."
Distortions Monster World is located on the first floor of the Denver Pavilions, 500 16th Street. For more information about hours and tickets, go to the Distortions Monster World website.
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