by Laura Sidsworth
Be sure to check out Part 1 of this 2 part series if you haven’t read it yet!
In part one of this two-part article on Monster City Studios, I detailed a little bit about the business, and the kind of work its 25 employees do at their headquarters in Fresno, California.
Now on to more fun creations they have designed: treehouses for kids and grown ups! As you drive past on the 180, you can see treehouse structures. I think some of the decrepit-looking ones are meant to highlight the longevity of, say, a typical backyard treehouse, as opposed to the ones they create, which are built to more exacting specifications.
The fabricated treehouses are steel and concrete structures, overlaid with foam and plaster. There are two types, one being of a “whimsical nature,” the other, more realistically fashioned.
The whimsical type featured in my first picture, averages around $50,000 to build in someone’s backyard, and often incorporates a play structure as well, such as a slide. The second treehouse is of the realistic variety, and was built as the centerpiece to the new Imagine U Visalia Children’s Interactive Museum. President and spokesman for the company, Richard Deaver, said that the building was literally designed completely around the Treehouse. The realistic treehouses are actually finished with molded bark taken from real oak trees.
Also at the Museum are other Monster City installments. One, built on a huge outdoor patio area, is a 70-foot outdoor water feature built to resemble a mountain range. A cloud hangs over the snow-capped mountain peaks, and the imagined subsequent melt-off flows down a long rocky canyon, past a forest of Sequoias, down past a watermill, through an irrigated field of corn, and finally to a lake in the simulated valley where children get to practice fishing with toy reels and colorful fish. An installment named the “Pick and Pack Grove” helps children understand how fruit is grown and harvested.
The “Ready, Set, Grow” garden area is defined by a flowering archway and a gate leading to a hobbit-house façade; the garden is filled with mushroom sculptures. Overhead, suspended from the ceiling, are cut-out clouds created in Monster’s wood shop. It is truly such a dreamy environment that I wanted to stay and play!
Another museum project, now underway in Clovis, will feature World War I and World War II military exhibits. And if you visit their website, you can see the artwork being created for a San Diego Living Coast Discovery Center sea-turtle exhibit. The turtles hatching from their eggs are incredibly realistic!
Personally, I think one of their coolest projects to date is their seven-figure man-cave, built for a local Fresno man. (To see a cool video, just visit YouTube, and type in “world’s largest man-cave!”) As Richard explains it, a man driving past their building on his way to work, always wondered just exactly what type of work was being done in a warehouse called Monster City Studios. So one day he stopped by to check them out. He found they could build what he had always dreamed about, a souped-up man-cave, a place to showcase his exotic car collection, host charity events, and entertain family and friends. He mentioned he loved Indiana Jones, and the idea for the Temple of Vroom began to take shape right then and there, with Richard and his team sketching drawings and taking notes on the spot. The end result, which took a year, created as this individual was building a new home, takes up 7,000 square feet.
There is a tunnel leading to the entrance of the cave, and inside sits an ancient-looking temple, similar to the one on The Indiana Jones Ride at Disneyland, flanked by giant cobras. There are Egyptian figures, an exotic bazaar made to look like a Moroccan village with houses and markets, and 1,000 feet worth of vines, moss, and plant material hanging from the ceiling. There are even freeze-dried palm trees! I have not seen a picture, or been to the site yet (where can I find an invite to a charity event?) but I read that there is a bridge over a lava flow. I have seen the amazing photos of a huge stone head with another cobra, the hidden DJ stage, and a 30-ft bar with a 2½ ton World War II army truck welded in place, which hangs suspended from a rope bridge over the bar area.
The space features a climate-controlled environment, fire sprinklers, fog machines, and 160 DMX-controlled LED lights, making it the perfect dance club! I imagine were it ever to be made available to rent out for parties, the owner could easily make the money back on what he spent to have it built.
Monster City Studios is not just a theme consultant, but also fabricates everything they create: out of wood, steel tubing, welded steel supports, concrete, plaster, high-density urethane foam, fabric, paint, sealants, and the use of a lot of reclaimed wood. They sub-contract out to electrical and lighting contractors, making sure everything is perfectly engineered and to code.
I enjoyed talking with Richard, who said Disneyland is one of his favorite places, and I learned that he studied architecture prior to heading out on his own in his 20s with a contractor’s license to build homes. He worked for nine years with Fresno City on their building renovation projects.
He reminds me of myself, as he sees himself as an Imagineer (a term Walt Disney coined) because as a writer I know that story is what drives ideas, and brings about fascinating, enduring elements to projects. I’m just a little bit envious that Richard has such fun with the team on bringing their projects so gloriously to life. That is indeed what Monster City Studios is all about: bringing ideas and stories to life.
Do visit their website and their Facebook page, as they have tons of cool pictures and videos of seemingly hundreds of completed projects. It might even give you ideas for your own projects!
Monster City Studios
411 S West Ave, Fresno, CA 93706