Zoinks! Scooby-Doo travels to Impression 5 Science Center


Over the weekend, Impression 5 Science Center was bustling with children and families exploring the traveling exhibit “Scooby-Doo! Mansion Mayhem,” which opened Saturday (Jan. 27).

Tory Brown of Lansing brought her two children to the exhibit.

“It’s my son’s 9th birthday, and my daughter is 5 years old. They’ve been watching Scooby-Doo for years,” she said.

Brown said she didn’t really watch the show growing up, but her husband did.

“He was really excited for it, and I’m excited for the kids,” she said.

The first episode of “Scooby-Doo, Where Are You!” aired on CBS in 1969, just three years before the founding of Impression 5 in 1972. Five decades later, both are still going strong.

In 2019, to commemorate the 50th anniversary of Scooby-Doo’s first television appearance, USA Today entertainment reporter Patrick Ryan wrote about the franchise’s enduring legacy.

“Like any long-running franchise, ‘Scooby’ has had its share of creative lows throughout various TV incarnations and movies, including two critically reviled live-action adventures released in the early 2000s,” he wrote, but he couldn’t deny that the “motley crew of crime-solvers and their gawky, talking Great Dane” have garnered generational star power.

Friday evening (Jan. 26), a crowd of 600 Impression 5 members gathered for an exhibition preview, dinner and Scooby-Doo-themed activities.

Lansing resident Alex Dethloff guides his son in the “Ghost Chase” portion of the exhibit, while Impression 5 executive director Erik Larson looks on from behind.
Lansing resident Alex Dethloff guides his son in the “Ghost Chase” portion of the exhibit, while Impression 5 executive director Erik Larson …

“We’re always looking for exhibits that help youth to hone their STEM skills, and this one is perfect,” Impression 5 executive director Erik Larson said. “Solving mysteries requires observation, exploration and reasoning. We build our own exhibits here, but we supplement our schedule with traveling exhibits like these that are focused on our mission.”

After its creation by the Children’s Museum of Indianapolis, the exhibit first traveled to the Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation in Dearborn, then museums in Texas and Missouri before opening at Impression 5. Recommended for ages 5 to 8, it’s based on the mystery of a “jewel-thieving ghost” and designed to be an interactive and inclusive space where children and families can have fun while working together to solve a mystery.

The 2,500-square-foot exhibition space offers a mix of nostalgia, games, play areas for younger children and the science-focused interactive experiences that regular Impression 5 visitors will find familiar. One part of the exhibit, called “Fred’s Trap,” requires children to perform a series of tasks in sequential order, like spinning cranks, pulling levers and pressing buttons. Each action builds on itself, sort of like a Rube Goldberg machine, until a fishing net is lifted and the “monster” is revealed.

In the “Ghost Chase” section, children chase a ghost by moving their body as outlined on a screen. It reminds me of a Wii, or maybe the arcade game “Dance Dance Revolution.” Kids chase down the ghost by running in place, but on the screen, it looks like they’re running along with Scooby and Shaggy. Kids can choose to move their full body or just their arms, which makes the exhibit accessible for children who use a wheelchair.

Other exhibits reveal clues, like an old-timey organ with light-up sheet music that reads, “Velma found green fingerprints on this sheet music! Something must be hidden nearby.” When visitors play the notes in the correct order, the trap doors open to reveal a secret.

Jillian, Dan and Harry Adams have been members of Impression 5 for about two years.

“He was born in March of 2020,” Jillian Adams said of her son, Harry, “so we felt like this was someplace safe that we could take him when things were opening back up.”

Adams said she had been showing her son old Scooby-Doo cartoons to get him ready for the museum visit.

“He’s been saying things like, ‘Look, Mom, a footprint! A clue!’ and he loves how the mask comes off the monster,” she said.

At an area designed for kids and family members to sit together, Harry built a sandwich for Scooby-Doo, made mostly from plastic toys resembling pizza and potato chips.

“He had a lot of fun earlier following an older kid around and learning how to do some of the games. Now he’s obsessed with this food exhibit,” Adams said.

In one corner, vintage Scooby-Doo lunch boxes are displayed behind glass, showcasing various styles throughout the decades. An old tin-style lunch box with a plastic handle depicts the Mystery Machine and the gang, while a newer lunch box with just Scooby-Doo’s face sits next to it. The display asks visitors, “Which lunch box would you choose to pack your snack?”

Five-and-a-half-year-old Harrison and his father, Colin Murad, visited the exhibit from nearby East Lansing. They received a membership to Impression 5 as a Christmas gift this year

“We’ve watched Scooby together, and he loves it,” Murad said of his son. “He really likes spooky stuff, too. Ghosts and monsters. He’s into the fun of all that.

Larson said he wants to bring exhibits to Lansing that have “a generational connection.” Citing previous offerings like “Rube Goldberg: The World of Hilarious Invention,” which came to the museum in 2022, and the DC superheroes exhibit from spring 2023, he said these types of exhibits can bring visitors in from all over the map.

“Tourism exists in Lansing,” he said. “Before the pandemic, we had 170,000 visitors each year. People came from every state in the country and all but two counties in Michigan.”

Last year, Impression 5 didn’t quite reach its pre-pandemic attendance numbers, “But it’s our goal for this year,” Larson said.


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