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Willy Wonka immersive event advertised using AI leaves attendees unhappy, organizers express regret

By Camille Santiago Published Feb 28, 2024 10:59 am

Kids and parents were left stunned after attending an event in the UK that promised a magical chocolate factory with a "full Wonka" experience. Instead, they arrived at an empty warehouse adorned with only a few Willy Wonka props and a single bouncy castle—and disappointingly, no chocolate.

The event, organized by the House of Illuminati, was advertised as a "place where chocolate dreams become reality" with an enchanted garden, an Imagination Lab that promised "mind-expanding projections, optical marvels, and exhibits," and a Twilight Tunnel that is "adorned with captivating projections, enigmatic sounds, and surprising turns." Tickets were sold for £35 (P2,491) each.

A disclaimer at the bottom of its website said: "This experience is in no way related to the Wonka franchise, which is owned by the Warner Bros. company."

Some X users speculated that the organizers used artificial intelligence to generate the images. Police were even called to the venue in Glasglow after they received reports from disappointed parents.

Paul Connell, one of the actors hired by the company, expressed surprise to STV News, stating that none of the promised props or special effects were present. 

“My heart sank looking around … I just felt sad because I was aware of how many kids were going to be coming through," he said. “We were told to hand the kids a couple of jelly beans and a quarter cup of lemonade at the end.”

Yoga instructor Kirsty Paterson's photo in an Oompa Loompa outfit and standing by a chemistry set went viral. Some users referred to her as a "m--h-lab Oompa-Loompa lady."

Speaking to MailOnline, Paterson revealed that not only did she not receive the promised £500 (P35,582) payment, but she also wasn't informed about the specifics of her role. 

"I was angry at the time because I felt like this is embarrassing for me, and I felt bad for the people coming in as well," she said.

"There was a part where they were saying it was like a science lab, and you were supposed to hand out jelly beans, and by that point they had run out of jelly beans, so I was just trying to make slightly exciting for the kids," Paterson said. "Then I walked off scene because I was so embarrassed."

"The whole thing’s just been a complete and utter shambles. It was shocking honestly," she added.

Jenny Fogarty, another actress hired for the event, claimed that the script wasn't given until 12 hours before the event and that they were handed "sexy Oompa Loompa costumes" for a children's event.

"We weren't told to bring a T-shirt to wear underneath because they're quite revealing or anything like that," Fogarty said.

'We probably should have canceled'

House of Illuminati apologized to visitors after complaints of an underwhelming and falsely advertised event.

“Unfortunately, at the last minute, we were let down in many areas of our event and tried our best to continue on and push through and now realize we probably should have canceled first thing this morning instead," the representative said.

He added that they would be giving "full refunds" to everybody and that they "understand people’s anger and frustration" towards the issue.

“We planned a fabulous event and it just did not take shape as planned and for that we are truly sorry, we are devastated at how this has turned out and understand people’s anger and frustration that everyone has had, refunds have already started being issued and the rest should be over the coming days, again we are truly sorry to everyone.”

According to MailOnline, House of Illuminati's Billy Coull has a "chequered history in the event industry and was previously criticized for canceling a Santa's grotto event in 2021 after toys and gifts had been donated."

In his now-deleted LinkedIn account, he described himself as someone with "a wealth of experience in crafting marketing campaigns and events."