Creepy critters


POSTED: Friday, June 19, 2009

Pearlridge Center will be transformed into a swamp this weekend—complete with oversized bugs—as “;Giant Insect Safari,”; the mall's summer exhibit, gets under way. It includes six gigantic, robotic insects supplied by Kokoro, a division of Sanrio.





        » When: Tomorrow through Aug. 2 (during normal mall hours)

» Where: Pearlridge Center


» Admission: Free; nominal fee to ride the train


» Call: 488-0981




Creative Solutions, a local company, is responsible for creating the homes and landscaping for the creepy creatures.

“;We will be provided the insects, and we need to create the rest of the environment,”; explained Debbie Hedrick, co-owner of the company. “;The moment they walk into that area, we want them to feel like they are in a different land—like Jurassic Park, minus all of the fear.”;

Creative Solutions has been responsible for Christmas displays at the mall for seven years; it also designed such exhibits as TLC's “;Junkyard Wars: On the Road”; and the “;Brick Art”; Lego exhibit.

“;Insect Safari,”; however, is more challenging. While Christmas displays reuse materials annually with minor additions, and other special exhibits come with all the materials needed for set-up, “;this is much more extensive because we are building more props.”;

Hedrick collected ideas during a recent visit to the “;Bug's Life”; production at Disneyland. “;It was as if we were engulfed in an ant hill,”; she said. “;I wanted to create that same effect.”;

Aqua vinyl was the material of choice to create the swamp, since “;it created an appearance of moving water.”; Still, additional tweaks were needed.

“;It needed to be painted and muddied up a bit,”; said Hedrick.

Given the economic crunch, the company is also seeking ways to reuse and recycle materials from past displays.

“;We had white foam that had been used for candy canes at Christmas,”; she said. “;We will be using the foam as bases for the trees. And we will be recycling some of the old Christmas trees.”;

Lifelike artificial plants and vines will be combined with live plants to create the insect homes. A train will also be featured, similar to the Pearlridge Express holiday train that Creative Solutions creates each year. The ride provides an opportunity to delve deeper into the world of bugs.

On the Downtown side of the mall, families can enjoy hands-on activities.

IT TAKES three to five months to produce a giant robotic insect, according to Cindy Amos, marketing coordinator at Kokoro.

“;Our purpose is to educate and entertain,”; she said. “;Live insects are so small, we enlarged them so that visitors could see the incredible details of these creatures.”;

The praying mantis, for example, is 60 times life size and weighs 1,110 pounds; the stick insect is 120 times its normal size and weighs 770 pounds; two fighting beetles weigh 1,620 pounds and are 40 times life size; the caterpillar is 30 times life size and weighs 620 pounds; and the locust weighs 810 pounds and is 70 times life size

“;We were trying to enhance the details of the insects,”; Amos explained.

Those include how the praying mantis moves its arms; how the stick insect's body moves in the breeze; or how the caterpillar moves its legs.

“;We have three magnified insect heads which demonstrate how the mouth of the dragonfly moves, how the needle of the mosquito pierces and sucks blood from an human arm and how a honeybee sucks honey,”; she said.

Amos hopes the exhibit will help change the common mind-set that insects are creepy.

“;We would like to welcome people to the world of insects to show that there are good and bad insects—those that contribute and those that are destructive,”; she said. “;We hope that after the visitors have seen the exhibit, they will have developed a deeper understanding about insects.”;