INTERVIEW: The Funhouse’s Jonah Brotman

Pic by Stephanie Ngan

Hi Jonah, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Fantastic! Life is always fun when you’re in a funhouse.

How do you come up with the idea for The Funhouse concept?

The Funhouse is based on a wildly imaginative narrative of an inter-dimensional 1920’s hotel. The original idea sprung up as our creative team was watching the cult-classic Beatles film “Yellow Submarine”. In the scene where the band enters/exits a hallway full of doors, we realized that the idea of an immersive art maze with endless doors into endless worlds would be a magical experience to bring to life.

Was this always meant to be a mix of AR and art or it rather evolve into this?

Mondo Forma, the company behind the Funhouse, has always focused on merging real-world art with digital technology. Augmented Reality is an incredible tool to showcase digital layers with the analog art.

From all the places out there, why did you choose to go with a Buddhist temple?

Location scouting was really challenging for such a big endeavour. We originally were working on a 1950’s grocery store but the building was too old and permitting with the city took far too long. Once we moved to the old Buddhist temple, everything seemed smooth. Let’s call it good karma?

Though 4DX and Smell-O-Vision have been in and out, the concept for The Funhouse seems to go somewhat beyond – what was it like the process to build on the technology?

The Funhouse is a multi-sensory experience that brings to life the world according to numerous Universal Music artists. For example, the rapper Jazz Cartier has a very floral motif in all his album artwork and wanted it to smell like “eucalyptus” at all times in his space. Guests often say the smells are their favorite part of the experience.

Having the possibility to use this system for films or other form of art – why did you choose to go with music?

When we began collaborating with Universal Music and all the artists, the most exciting challenge was on how to create physical representations of the music. The all-girl rock n’ roll band The Beaches paired with the artist/sister duo The Broadbent Sisters with a simple lyric: “There’s nothing as rock n’ roll as being a young woman.” The resulting room, known as Venus Rising, is adorned with color-changing patterns, golden walls and much more. Definitely a crowd pleaser.

How did you and your partners Monda Forma and UMC get together and join forces?

Like many things in life, it all comes down to relationships. Two of our co-founding team are close with Jeffrey Remedios, President of Universal Music Canada. When explaining that 78% of people would rather pay for experiences over possessions, we convinced the UMC team that creating a memorable experience like the Funhouse would be a better way to market to millennials than having them buy a CD. Does anyone buy CD’s anymore? Is that giving away my age?

What was it like the selection process on what songs would play? Were you looking for any melodies or elements in particular?

The whole project was a massive collaboration between UMC music artists, Toronto visual artists and production people. Songs were selected based on the desire to visually tell a story. Sonreal, who paired with visual artist Jeff Blackburn, chose his newest track about relationships and included his proposal/engagement to his now wife.

For those still wondering how does the whole concept works – can you walk us through a little bit?

The Funhouse is a multi-floor inter-dimensional art maze that features over 18 environments created by 30+ artists and 70+ builders/technicians. The whole experience is guided by music from six musicians from Universal Music. The experience also utilizes a custom Augmented Reality app.

Where can people go and get themselves lose on this experience?

The Funhouse is open 7 days a week and is located right around the corner from the Drake Hotel on Queen West. Being in the arts and culture district, the Funhouse is perfect for a date night, family-friendly activity or corporate team event.

What else is happening in your world?

Stay tuned to our team at Mondo Forma as we have so many new projects in the works. But for now, rest assured that we are committed to bringing interactive art to the masses.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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