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Sexy Oompa Loompa and AI-generated 'gibberish' turn Wonka experience into viral joke

Wonka Bars are shown on Oct. 18, 2011, in New York City. Photos, videos and accounts from the much-hyped Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Experience in Glasgow posted online since the weekend show a very different experience from what was advertised. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images - image credit)
Wonka Bars are shown on Oct. 18, 2011, in New York City. Photos, videos and accounts from the much-hyped Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Experience in Glasgow posted online since the weekend show a very different experience from what was advertised. (Cindy Ord/Getty Images - image credit)

It was meant to be a magical, chocolate-filled, immersive journey into "pure imagination."

Instead, the much-hyped Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Experience in Glasgow, Scotland, last weekend left children in tears, parents demanding refunds and social media in stitches, as photos, videos and memes from the event went viral.

In a series of TikTok videos, Paul Connell, the actor hired to play Willy Wonka at the event organized by the London-based House of Illuminati, said he felt for anyone who bought tickets to the "fiasco." His job had been to recite from a 15-page script sent to him that he called "AI-generated gibberish."

"People were expecting a magical chocolate experience, and got me in a top hat in a dirty warehouse in Glasgow," Connell said in a video posted Wednesday.

"We were told to hand out one jelly bean per child," he said of the event, which promised to be an "adventure in every bite," featuring "sweet delicacies to chocolatey wonders."

Photos, videos and accounts from the event posted online show a very different experience from what was advertised.

British news agency SWNS shared pictures of a sparsely decorated warehouse, featuring a few mushrooms and a rainbow arch. A TikTok user claiming to be an actor hired to be an Oompa Loompa at the event shared a video of the warehouse, writing in the description that "there's very little chocolate in the chocolate factory."

Jenny Fogarty, the actor behind that TikTok video, told the Daily Mail she and two other female actors were given "sexy" Oompa Loompa costumes to wear for the children's event.

"It was horrendously embarrassing. We didn't want to walk out, just because I feel like that would make it even worse," Fogarty said.

"There were supposed to be bubble machines, there were supposed to be projectors, there was supposed to be so much more that was promised."

Another video posted to X shows an actor popping up from behind a mirror dressed all in black, face covered in a lifeless silver mask, as another actor says, "it's the Unknown!" In the background, a child can be heard whining "no!"

Police were eventually called to the event, as angry parents demanded refunds for the 35 pound ($60 Cdn) tickets and children cried with disappointment, the BBC reported.

In a post on Facebook Wednesday, House of Illuminati said it wouldn't be holding "any other event in the foreseeable future."

"This was an event gone wrong."

A Facebook group set up for people seeking refunds has more than 3,000 members.

#WheresKate?

The Wonka experience played out over the weekend but picked up speed online on Wednesday as it twinned with another trending social media topic: conspiracy theories about the whereabouts of Catherine, Princess of Wales, who has been recovering from abdominal surgery and has not been seen publicly since Christmas Day.

As the hashtag #WheresKate and the terms "Kate Middleton," "Willy Wonka" and "Wonka experience" all took off on X at once, many users joked they were, somehow, connected.

Catherine is not expected to return to public duties until after Easter, and Buckingham Palace has been tight-lipped about her condition. In late January, the palace said in a statement that she was making "good progress" and was back at home in Windsor.

On Thursday, a spokesperson for the princess made a statement to several media outlets to dispel the rumours, saying she's "doing well."

"We were very clear from the outset that the Princess of Wales was out until after Easter and Kensington Palace would only be providing updates when something was significant," the spokesperson told People magazine.

A brief history of disappointment

Of course, the Willy Wonka event isn't the first time people have been outraged over events that didn't live up to the hype.

There's the infamous Fyre Festival of 2017, promoted as a luxury music festival bigger than Coachella on an island in the Bahamas. In reality, festival-goers arrived to find that the acts had cancelled, and their food and accommodations consisted of sandwiches and leaky tents.

In 2020, children were again left disappointed — this time by Santa. A mall in Adelaide, Australia, promised that "Santa's Winter Village" would include a snowy trail through an enchanted forest, a Polar Express train and Santa's workshop.

According to ABC, it actually consisted of "a sleigh attached to a mobility scooter, a foam mat path surrounded by paper lights, a cardboard hut decorated with disposable plates and a maze, made from crowd fencing and covered in tinsel."

A social media user at the time called it "the Fyre Festival of kid's Santa events."

Speaking of Christmas, Canada put itself on the map of blunders last December, even making it into a segment on The Tonight Show, for an anti-climactic Christmas tree lighting ceremony.

The ceremony in Orillia, Ont., was meant to kick off the magic of the holiday season. Instead, after the crowd counted down, only the trunk was lit, and a viral video captured the moment.

WATCH | Canada's worst tree: