Three little girls walked through the back of Barbie’s wardrobe on Monday at Mall of America and escaped into a pink-glittered world called the Barbie Dreamhouse Experience.
The trio from Rosemount — Mya Bowser, 9, Trinity Bowser, 7, and Sariah Smith, 6 — were able to preview the world’s biggest Barbie Dreamhouse before it opens to the public on Friday because they have connections: Mya and Trinity’s mom, Brittany Bowser, works in the MOA office.
After about an hour of exploring the 30,000-square-foot home — stepping onto that iconic pink elevator, trying on Barbie’s boas and even flushing her toilet (watch out for the dolphin!) — the girls gave the experience a thumbs up.
“When I’m playing Barbies, I always wish I could be one of the dolls,” Mya Bowser said.
“So it’s really cool that you can go inside the house while you are still human-sized. They don’t have to shrink you or anything.”
That’s the kind of reaction grown-ups at MOA were hoping for.
“More than just an exhibit, it’s an interactive experience,” said Jennifer Lauerman, senior director of marketing for the mall.
What’s unclear is if parents will pony up the experience: General admission is $23.99 (more than a typical Barbie costs).
This unique home tour was inspired by the house in the popular Web series, “Barbie: Life in the Dreamhouse.”
Of course, Barbie’s digs predate the Web: She had a studio apartment in the 1960s, an A-frame cottage in the 1970s, a townhouse in the 1980s, a Victorian in the 1990s. Her current (toy) house includes an outdoor hot tub with tiki lights, a flat-screen television that emerges from the fireplace with the push of a button and, of course, that pink elevator.
Mattel brought Barbie’s modern house to life with the assistance of EMS Entertainment, an Austrian company that specializes in state-of-the-art interactive entertainment such as “Dinosaurs — Live!” EMS’ first dreamhouse, smaller in size at 10,000 square feet, is in a strip mall in Florida.
On Monday, an Austrian member of the team delighted in watching the kids explore the house.
“I made this show totally from scratch,” Philip Zoch, show designer for EMS Entertainment, said of the Barbie concept.
The Minnesota version is expected to stay at Mall of America for about two years. It’s part of a new 65,000-square-foot EMS Entertainment Center on Level 3 in the southeast corner of the mall that will feature three spaces for rotating exhibits. “CSI: The Experience” is coming soon.
As Mya, Trinity and Sariah walked through Barbie’s house on Monday, it was clear the house is designed for today’s tech-savvy child. While riding in Barbie’s sleigh, they faced a screen that played out the corresponding scene from the Web series. In Barbie’s (incredible) closet, they could virtually “try on” her clothes. There are little screens embedded everywhere to tap, including one that directs children to design a free keepsake postcard with their name on it. The children wore special pink bracelets that stored their data (photos, for example, taken along the way and available for purchase at the end).
But other activities involve old-fashioned play and imagination: The elevator is a pretend one, and it sometimes morphs into an airplane for a trip to Paris (where Barbie has a fashion studio). There’s a dress-up area, where kids can don feather boas before flouncing down a runway to the beat of the (Barbie) music. There are even Barbie styling heads to fuss over with combs and accessories.
At the end, there’s a gift shop and cafe, which will have offerings like a signature Barbie drink, with pink fizz and cream and sprinkles, for $6.99.
Although some tour-goers might find the neon pink and blue colors, flashing lights, Barbie soundtrack and sugary drinks overwhelming, the girls’ mothers were oohing and ahhing just as much as their kids.
“This is pretty special,” said Michelle Smith. “It makes me wish I was a kid again.”
Molly Guthrey can be reached at 651-228-5505.
What: Barbie: The Dreamhouse Experience — A Life-size Barbie Dreamhouse
Where: Mall of America
When: Opens Friday
Hours: 10 a.m.-9:30 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Sundays, noon-8 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays
Prices: General admission, $23.99 (adults get $4 off a general admission ticket when accompanied by child 12 and younger); seniors, $16.99; 2 and younger, free.