Auckland's Whoa! Studios lives up to its name

When the Henderson family took a trip to Henderson to watch the show ‘A Very Gloomy Holiday,’ they discovered a whole new complex that is anything but. Pippa Henderson would like to thank Whoa! Studios and producer Adam Fresco for the tickets, a gift that just kept on giving.

As my husband, three children and I drove to Whoa! Studios on Saturday, we were all feeling decidedly grinchy, and, to be honest, I worried that a show entitled ‘A Very Gloomy Holidays’ might possibly push us over the edge. But I’m pleased to report our countenances lifted from the moment we entered the complex. We ushered the kids past the tempting adventure playground and restaurant and made our way down the red carpet towards the box office where a couple of spritely elves, Tim & Tam, immediately engaged our nine, six and nearly four-year-old in a mission as we queued.

The set, a Fraggle-esque top secret tree-house HQ, deep in Doodle Woods, was absolutely enchanting and impressively detailed. Part of the visual treat was never knowing what nook or cranny the characters would pop out of. We learnt elves Tim and Tam had actually been bungling hindrances to Santa, so they’d been sent to this HQ, far far away, to help with a birthday party. We were soon introduced to the birthday girl, Jazz, along with her puppet buddies Custard, Brianna, and Buzz.

The humour was slapstick and the songs were catchy. Audience participation was encouraged, and characters even strayed up the aisles to the back of house, so I felt totally immersed in the action as children and adults alike screamed and roared with laughter, and the row of older folk in front me chortled at the outrageous puns.

But our joy was under threat. “Consider your fun foiled and your holidays hacked,” boomed the master of misery and snatcher of smiles, Dr Gloom, before demanding his dastardly side-kick Colin project the world’s best evil laugh. With Dr Gloom’s arrival the show’s multi-media aspects kicked in. Breaking news revealed Doodle’s Santas, surf-instuctors and ice-cream sellers were being stolen, so Jazz, Custard, and friends fought back, sending their trusty mate Kea, equipped with a spy-camera to Dr Gloom’s lair, in the hope of saving summer…

Fusing state-of-the-art 3D mapping and projection technology with the traditional art of puppetry, as well as video and digital effects with live performers, 'A Very Gloomy Christmas' was, in fact, 60 minutes of light-hearted fun for the whole family.

Kids And Tam

But wait, there’s more! After the show we were given privileged access to the backstage film studios – the set of forthcoming movie, ‘Custard’s World’, based on the characters we’d just met in the live show. There was a real McCoy motorbike with side-car back there, a fancy antique car, and a laboratory, equipped with all manner of tantalising gadgets, glowing things, buttons and levers. The signs said ‘PLEASE DO NOT TOUCH’, which only added to my sense of excitement, especially after learning from the promo that the film has been written by the writer of the ‘Wallace & Gromit’ movie and short films, BAFTA-winning screenwriter Bob Baker.

Our wrist bands from the show also gave us access to the adventure playground, but playground tickets can also be purchased separately from the box office, or online at whoastudios. I highly recommend this play experience. There’s a six-metre rocket ship, a castle, a pirate ship, and a slide, but the highlight for my children was definitely the crochet net. This net is literally a work of art that children can climb into, clamber around and hang off. Handcrafted by septuagenarian Japanese artist Toshiko Horiuchi Macadam over a two-year period using 70 kilometres of hand dyed nylon, our kids nestled into the pockets and dangled from the globules, then weaved their way up through the layers to reach the upper net. It was a workout for their bodies and their imaginations, so my husband and I just sat back and enjoyed ridiculously delicious icecreams purchased on site. It seemed a real shame to eventually have to drag the kids away for another event. “Mummy,” six-year-old Ted bellowed from his new favourite nesting spot, “Can we camp here?”

Wide Of Net