Candytopia: a wonderland of farting unicorn pigs, gummy Cardi B and a marshmallow swimming pool
By Phillip Valys
South Florida Sun Sentinel
Past the rainbow tunnels and the portrait of Beyoncé made of jelly beans, the first thing you hear inside Candytopia’s Confetti Room is a scream.
“Fire in the hole!” shouts a Candytopia employee wearing a blue factory jumpsuit. Against a far wall, on cue, a row of unicorn-pig hybrid sculptures, each wearing pink gummy-bear tutus, fart streams of confetti onto unsuspecting sugar seekers. Then visitors pluck their candy prize, a pouch of strawberry Pop Rocks, from the butt of the whimsical farting creature.
That’s hardly the weirdest room inside the sugar-centric museum known as Candytopia, an Instagrammable wonderland of sweets now open inside Aventura Mall’s Treats Food Hall. The walkable confectionery opened to the public Nov. 26 ahead of Art Basel week and continues through Jan. 26. It composes 10 rooms of over-the-top sculptures and portraits built entirely – you guessed it – from thousands of tiny Sour Patch Kids and Red Vines, lollipops and sour green apple belts.
No, this isn’t a real museum, but you’d be forgiven for thinking it was. Gold-framed pop portraits of Cardi B, Marilyn Monroe and Frida Kahlo hang on zebra-striped walls next to a bonbon-coated interpretation of Van Gogh’s “Starry Night.” Instead of descriptive wall text, Candytopia boasts “Candy Facts.” (“Starry Night” apparently contains 13,000 pieces of gummy fried eggs, sour belts and black vines and, because you wondered, 5,000 grams of sugar.)
“Do you even know what it took to decorate Gloria Estefan’s hair?” asks Jackie Sorkin, Candytopia’s co-founder and head oompa-loompa, pointing to the Miami “Conga” icon’s candied portrait. “Hundreds of these beige sour belts. We had to hand-twist every braid.”
Great. Can we eat it? “No, all the artworks are covered in sealant!” Sorkin says. “I’ll have to karate-chop you if take a bite.”
The Los Angeles-based Sorkin was raised on a childhood diet of – no surprise – “Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory,” and built the traveling Candytopia (Aventura is the 10th city on tour) as a monument to sugar-coated nostalgia. The entrance is framed by golden, Willy Wonka-style wrought-iron gates, and a Gene Wilder-as-Wonka portrait (gummy bears, jelly beans) hangs near Cardi B.
“Gene Wilder is basically my biological daddy,” jokes Sorkin, briefly host of TLC’s short-lived reality series, “Candy Queen.” “Willy Wonka spoke to me as a child, and [the main character] Charlie wasn’t perfect but he wound up with the whole damn chocolate factory. To me, the message is persistence.”
Every room is designed, not unlike the Museum of Ice Cream, to be shared and Instagrammed. Candytopians who download the museum’s augmented-reality app can download and share photos taken by jumpsuited workers at green-screen interactive stations.
“Even if you’re not obsessed with social, we want to be about good, clean fun,” Sorkin says. “The world is crap and we have lots of problems, but we’re in the happiness business.”
Instagram is sure to come in handy for Candytopia’s giant centerpiece: a swimming pool filled with 300,000 jet-puffed marshmallows. (Yes, all fake.) Visitors can fall — not leap – into the pool, and cannons mounted over the pit occasionally fire marshmallow volleys.
But that’s Candytopia’s finale, the photogenic icing on the cake. First, visitors are steered into the Fun Room, a playground of Astroturf where jaunty calliope plays on loudspeakers and giant daffodils, with the press of a lever, squirt candy-flavored aromas like Tootsie Roll and Nerds.
Strange encounters abound. Before entering the Jungle Room — filled with gummy Komodo dragons and orangutans — visitors must squeeze through a tunnel filled with inflated purple airbags. Free fistfuls of Pixy Stix, caramel-apple pops and saltwater taffy in every room will fuel your buzz.
Finally, there’s the marshmallow pool room, and one worker, Nikki Emmans, urges a family of four to fall in. “Think of it as a trust fall,” she quips.
This reporter follows suit. Suddenly, cannon fire erupts overhead, sending marshmallow projectiles everywhere.
No lie: That’s just as fun as being farted on by flying unicorn-pigs.