Weekend Highlights

Published May 7, 2013
Going Places

A Parent’s Review: The New Fantasy Exhibit at EMP

by Kelly Rogers Flynt
seattle child article photo
Mystic maquette from The Dark Crystal (1982). © The Jim Henson Company.

seattle child article photo
Wedding gown worn by Princess Buttercup in The Princess Bride (1987). Courtesy of Act III Productions and 20th Century Fox.
Cover: Feather cape and gold dress worn by Charlize Theron in Snow White and the Huntsman (2012). All photos by Brady Harvey.

Witches, warriors and wizards, oh my! The newest exhibit to open at Experience Music Project – “Fantasy: Worlds of Myth and Magic” – contains them all, and a lot more. 

The Fantasy exhibit allows a unique glimpse into the inspiration, creation and development of some of the most beloved fantasy stories of all time. With a diverse collection of costumes, props, manuscripts and maps, visitors are allowed a peek behind the curtain into the inner workings of the fantasy world.  

I was impressed with the breadth of the collection that included the original costume for the Cowardly Lion from the The Wizard of Oz as well as the evil queen’s feathered robe from Snow White and the Huntsman, a movie just one year old. 

The opening vestibule contains two interactive games that allow visitors to take a quiz to determine what type of character they are most like in a fantasy story. Some of the results include muse, unlikely hero and loyal companion. Visitors can then choose to learn more about why that type of character is so important in the world of fantasy.

Younger children will enjoy pumping the tail of “Adalinda,” the giant dragon created by Seattle Opera artisans, which causes it to wake up and give a floor-rumbling growl. Only a few of the items in this exhibit will be recognizable to really young kids, but the unknown ones will provide an opportunity to introduce some of our beloved stories to the next generation. 

My daughter gazed longingly at Buttercup’s wedding dress from the The Princess Bride. We had tried with no success to find her a Buttercup costume this past Halloween. We also lingered at David Bowie’s Goblin King costume from Labyrinth. My 9-year-old daughter remembered the movie as being scary, so perhaps now that she is older, we could revisit it. My son is now interested in seeing Xena: Warrior Princess and Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal after seeing bits from those movies in the exhibit. 

Both my husband and son poured intensely over every handwritten note in the Tolkien manuscripts from The Lord of the Rings series. His handwriting itself was even impressive, with its tiny, calligraphy-like style. For my son, who enjoys creative writing but often complains of getting stuck, I think he really appreciated seeing that even Tolkien changed his mind, edited and even discarded some ideas.  One of the manuscripts shows where he changed a name from Trotter to Strider Aragorn. Good move, Tolkien. Who can imagine that beloved character with any other name? 

We all enjoyed the part of the exhibit that includes movie clips and interviews with the writers and creators of fantasy. It helps show the common threads of the very different books and movies. My kids started contemplating protagonists, bravery and the ongoing battle between good and evil. 

Shortly thereafter, my son noted that there was one thing they forgot to mention in the clips; almost every great adventure begins with an orphan. Because mothers would never let you do such dangerous things. Now he plans to start his next story with an orphan. Who knows, one day EMP may include it in their fantasy exhibit.

The exhibit space is impressive as well with many nooks and cubbies and even walk-through tunnels. It makes you feel as if you are in an otherworldly place. The dragon room includes a wall and arch with 64,000 metal scales that were hand-glued into place. The exhibit space is designed to last approximately 10 years with individual items and displays being changed out from time to time, to keep the exhibit fresh and allow for new items that are just budding ideas at this time.

About 30 to 40 minutes is ample time to see the exhibit. However, to make the most of your admission, you should definitely check out the other areas at EMP. My kids thoroughly enjoyed seeing artifacts from Star Trek and Doctor Who. The art and history of video games was another popular spot for the kids as they both got to see the evolution of the games as well as try out a few of the oldies. The Horror exhibit was interesting for my 12-year-old, but neither my daughter nor I wanted to linger in this area. I did, however, snap a quick photo of “Mr. Pointy,” the famous stake used by Buffy the Vampire Slayer. 

If the kids are getting wiggly, head up to the sound lab and let them have some hands-on fun with musical instruments. My kids have also enjoyed the Jimi Hendrix and Nirvana exhibits in the past, but parents should expect the same things in these exhibits that are in the music, so consider this your PG-13 warning.

If you haven’t been to EMP in a while, the wonderful world of fantasy is ready and waiting for you.

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If You Go...

Where: Experience Music Project, 325 5th Ave. N., Seattle Center. 

When: Daily 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (hours will expand in the summer). 

Cost:  Online pre-purchased tickets: Adult, senior and student $15, military and youth (5-17) $12. Tickets purchased at the museum: Adult $20, senior and student $17, military and youth $14, children 4 and younger free. Group discounts and memberships are available. 

Contact: 206-770-2702 or www.empmuseum.org.