Unwrapping the Drama Behind the Willy Wonka-Inspired Experience

While the website for Willy’s Chocolate Experience in Scotland promoted a "paradise of sweet treats," attendees described a completely different experience.

By Elyse Dupre Feb 28, 2024 10:16 PMTags
Watch: "Underwhelming" Willy Wonka Experience Goes Viral

Willy's Chocolate Experience may have sounded like a golden ticket opportunity at first, but in reality it was anything but sweet.  

After all, attendees at the Willy Wonka-inspired pop-up in Glasgow, Scotland—which, per its website invited guests to "marvel at extraordinary props, oversized lollipops, and a paradise of sweet treats"—said it was not at all what they had been promised.

"It was basically advertised as this big massive Willy Wonka experience with optical illusions and big chocolate fountains and sweets," visitor Eva Stewart told the BBC. "But when we got there, it was practically an abandoned, empty warehouse, with hardly anything in it."

In fact, the event, which was scheduled to take place Feb. 24 and Feb. 25 at Box Hub warehouse in the Scottish city, fell short of the immersive experience it had been hyped as in several ways—including décor, overall atmosphere and even the treats.

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As attendee Stuart Sinclair told The New York Timeshis three kids "got two jelly beans each. And then they got a half a cup of lemonade."

Things unraveled so fast that the event had been canceled by the afternoon of Feb. 24, and the Police Service of Scotland was called to the scene as visitors demanded refunds, per NBC News.

Stuart Sinclair / TMX

But it wasn't just those who paid the £35.00 (about $44) entrance fee that were baffled by the event's execution. Michael Archibald, who said he was hired as an actor to work the experience, indicated he had concerns from early on—both about the décor and about the script he was given.

"I thought, this is where dreams go to die," he told NBC News. "I already could feel the embarrassment….I knew the script was AI-generated, as well. I was like, this isn't normal human writing."

While the company behind the event, House of Illuminati, hasn't responded to specifics—including questions about whether artificial intelligence was used for the character scripts or images used to promote the experience—it did issue an apology.

"Today has been a very stressful and frustrating day for many and for that we are truly sorry," House of Illuminati wrote in a since-deleted Facebook post, per NBC News. "Unfortunately 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 havd [sic] cancelled first thing this morning instead. We fully apologize for what has happened and will be giving full refunds to each and every person that purchased tickets."

Stuart Sinclair / TMX

As for the venue, a spokesperson for Box Hub, which rented the space to House of Illuminati, told E! News Willy's Chocolate Experience had been described to them as a "fully immersive, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory styled event" but agreed "the result was incredibly underwhelming."

"Many of the paying customers were disappointed at the £35.00 admittance and House of Illuminati were unable to rectify any of the highlighted issues," the Box Hub spokesperson continued. "This led to the event organizers cancelling the event entirely."

"I'd like to emphasize that House of Illuminati were totally responsible for this events marketing, promotion, organizing and the actual event operation," the statement added. "At Box Hub we simply facilitated the venue hire. We are fully on side with the many outraged customers and truly hope that House of Illuminati refund these families as promised." 

E! News has reached out to House of Illuminati and the Police Service of Scotland for comment but has yet to hear back. 

(E! and NBC News are both part of the NBCUniversal family).

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