Thanks, AI, for making ‘immersive’ cash grabs even worse

A terrible Willy Wonka-themed immersive experience used AI to scam customers.

Sometimes, the internet really comes together — like in our shared amazement at a Willy Wonka-themed immersive experience so horrible it made children cry.

Two children cry in front of a dumpster on fire, flanked by a purple top hat and two pieces of candy. A scary monster creeps in on one side.

And as more details emerge, it reminds us of the pre-pandemic “immersive” cash grabs, but with a new 2024 bonus: AI.

So, how bad was this thing?

Advertisements for “Willy’s Chocolate Experience” in Glasgow, Scotland, promised an enchanted garden of giant candies, “optical marvels,” and a “paradise of sweet treats” — all for ~$45 per ticket.

Unfortunately, AI-generated artwork depicting a colorful wonderland gave way to a sparsely decorated warehouse.

  • One parent said his children received two jelly beans and a half-cup of lemonade.

Because the event was not an officially licensed Willy Wonka experience, the nonsensical AI-penned script — which actors said they were given two days to memorize — included candymaker Willy McDuff and his Wonkidoodles (clearly Oompa Loompas, but okay).

The story involved an evil chocolate maker who lived in the walls and coveted an “Anti-Graffiti Gobstopper.” (Gizmodo has the whole 14-page monstrosity here.)

The event organizer, House of Illuminati, has since promised refunds, blaming the disaster on a series of last-minute letdowns.

As bad as this thing was…

… it reminds us of those halcyon pre-pandemic days when everyone wanted to replicate the Instagrammable success of The Museum of Ice Cream.

That buzz resulted in some truly terrible cash grabs and some godawful branded experiences — take it from someone who once covered a Jack in the Box with a sad ball pit half-full of foam nuggets, which was at least free.

Now, it appears the industry’s capacity for bullshit has increased due to AI’s ability to generate bogus pictures, copy, and scripts at the drop of a purple tophat.

The event’s organizer, Billy Coull, has apparently self-published several novels on Amazon, also likely generated by AI, per Rolling Stone.

On the one hand: This is all very funny. But it’s not great for parents who paid to have their kids traumatized by a wall-dwelling chocolate thief, or legit event organizers who now have to deal with bozos like this.

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