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Organizer of viral 'Willy Wonka' event says life 'ruined' after its failure

By NICK GARCIA Published Mar 20, 2024 3:01 pm

The organizer of an event inspired by Willy Wonka—the character in Roald Dahl’s 1964 children’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory who owns the titular place—said his life is “ruined” after the failure of his event which was accused of false advertisement.

House of Illuminati’s Billy Coull, in the documentary Wonka: The Scandal that Rocked Britain, said he lost his friends and the love of his life following the disaster of "Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Experience."

“I was made out to be the face of all evil,” Coull said. “And genuinely, that's really not the case."

He also reflected on the event’s mishaps, including booking a large venue and projection equipment that was never delivered.

"I was gutted," he said. "But I believed that we could push on."

Coull said he was “sick to the pit of my tummy,” as the event was meant to be “joyful” and “happy.”

“I wanted people to experience happiness,” he said.

He also explained that his snapping at disappointed customers was his "worst versions."

"The last thing I wanted to see was children to be upset,” he added.

"Willy Wonka’s Chocolate Experience" 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."

A disclaimer stated that it “is in no way related to the Wonka franchise, which the Warner Bros. company owns."

Tickets were sold for £35 (P2,500) each.

But its promised props or special effects were absent. There were only a few Willy Wonka props and a single bouncy castle.

Worse, there was no chocolate.

Many parents were disappointed and demanded refunds.

Social media users speculated that the organizers used artificial intelligence to generate the images used for the event’s promotion.

An actress who was supposed to portray Oompa-Loompa, the fictitious chocolate factory worker in the novel, also didn’t receive her promised payment of £500 (P35,000).

Another actress, meanwhile, said her script wasn’t given until 12 hours before the event. The costumes they got were also “sexy” despite being a children’s event.

Their scripts also seemed to be AI-generated. Coull admitted to using AI for the scripts, though said it was only to check the spelling and continuity.

Following the complaints, the House of Illuminati apologized to the public, vowing to give “full refunds” to everybody.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has been adapted into film three times: in 1971 as Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder; in 2005 as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory starring Johnny Depp, and; in 2023 as Wonka starring Timothy Chalamet.