Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” rendered in licorice sticks and candy vines. Andy Warhol’s “Campbell’s Soup Cans” in gummy bears and jawbreakers. A candy-coated portrait of rapper Cardi B. And more photo ops than you can shake a Pixy Stix at.
The interactive, sugar-fueled, pop-up installation Candytopia opened this month in the Mall of America. It’s an over-the-top, 17,000-square-foot celebration of all things sweet, with a funhouse feel and rooms full of candy sculptures, jelly bean mosaics as well as wildly shaped swings and a “marshmallow” pit.
Intrigued? Here’s what to keep in mind if you go:
5. This is wacky, Wonka fun.
Candytopia is one of those Instagram-bait, pop-up experiences focused on encouraging everyone to snap photos. And, at $28 a pop for adults, tickets aren’t exactly cheap. But it brings to life the super-silly vision of a real person who has long been obsessed with candy, a person who watched “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” (the delightfully creepy 1971 version with Gene Wilder) nearly every single day as a kid.
Candytopia’s creator, Jackie Sorkin, ran an event-planning business out of her La Palma, Calif., garage, supplying parties with inventive candy creations. After the Kardashians and Oprah hired her, TLC filmed a reality show about her life, called “Candy Queen.” Her wacky work got yet another boost when a company in Taiwan asked her to re-create 40 famous artworks in candy.
“I was obsessed with Willy Wonka, always loved creating. I for sure fell into the weird category as a kid, but I was OK with that,” Sorkin said. “The whole ‘dream big, never give up, you’ll find your golden ticket’ — it actually came true.”
4. It's for kids, and kids at heart.
If the tutu-wearing, confetti-farting pigs made out of jelly beans, gummy bears and pastel jawbreakers don’t make you smile, nothing will. Other highlights: a giant swing shaped like the 100 percent emoji (it looks great in photos, but is a little hard to swing on), plus a row of swings shaped like flying saucers. Two huge inflated balls that look like oversized jawbreakers. (Kids loved to roll around with them.) A portrait of Prince made out of grape Twizzlers and purple licorice (1,500 pieces of candy and 600 grams of sugar went into the mosaic). You also can pose with one of his iconic guitars rendered in Grape Crush-flavored jelly beans, mini gumballs and gold sprinkles or a caramel jelly bean Viking with a banana candy beard and grapevine helmet.
3. Look, don’t lick.
The whimsical candy sculptures are covered in shellac. And the marshmallows in the marshmallow pit are made of foam. Candytopia staffers dole out candy in every room, so much that I wouldn’t recommend trying to eat it all during the 45 minutes that visitors usually spend in the exhibit. Instead, bring a bag to collect the candy Halloween-style, or resist grabbing all the Lindt truffles, Tootsie Pops or Pixy Stix offered. If you go with kids, you might want to devise a plan to prevent them from overdoing it and provoking a sugar-crash meltdown in the gift shop. Or not.
2. Prepare for a party.
If you go in the morning, down a lot of coffee first. Sorkin designed this to be a party, and the coverall-clad staffers do their best to make it happen — dancing to the loud music and throwing confetti in the air. You can get into the groove with your own paparazzi: Several locations in the exhibit have wall- or ceiling-mounted cameras that will automatically take a photo or video for you. (In order to make it work, download the free Candytopia app and cue up a QR code on your phone. Scan it, count down from 10 and smile. The free photos arrive in your e-mail inbox a few moments later.)
1. Forward march!
“In Candytopia, time only moves forward, it never moves back,” a worker in a top hat told us when we entered the first room. Once you move on to the next chamber, there’s no going back to the one you left. While there is a gift shop selling T-shirts, keychains and even more candy, there are no restrooms in the exhibit. And, aside from cubbies near the marshmallow pit, there are no coat racks or lockers for your belongings. Pack light and plan accordingly.