Wonka attraction’s failure set to live on with new confectionery musical

While travelling to this year’s State of the Industry Conference, it seemed only fitting to take the chance to finally catch the new Wonka movie, and see whether all the hype surrounding it has actually been worth it.

Consequently, I kept an entirely open mind on the topic, as is only right, and to be perfectly honest, I was pleasantly surprised at just how enjoyable it generally was as a piece of relatively family-friendly entertainment.

For those who are of a certain age, just a little older than I, there really can only be one Willy Wonka, and that is the original 1970s Gene Wilder version, with its lavish sets and surreal oompa loompa theme song that have lived long in the memory of many confectionery fans.

So, it’s refreshing to see a new generation engage with the quirky subject matter, as Timothee Chalamet does the honours in the lead role as the aspiring mysterious chocolatier who sets out to seek fame and fortune through devising the tastiest chocolate in the land.

While it’s fair to say, he’s not known for his singing, nor are any of the other cast members covering themselves in glory in this diverting musical, it’s probably done well enough to warrant a sequel, perhaps for the marvellous grumpy cameo from Hugh Grant as an oompa loompa alone. However, it appears Ferrero has seemingly missed a key marketing trick in not reviving its popular Wonka bars to coincide with the movie’s global release.

Though they may well have missed out, another determined band of entrepreneurs recently tried their hand at cashing in on the movie in creating ‘Willy’s Chocolate Experience’ in Glasgow, Scotland. The project promised a world of confectionery delight – which sadly spectacularly failed to match the marketing might of its Hollywood Warner Bros movie counterpart.

According to national news coverage of the much-maligned attraction, ‘children had been left in tears’ by the miserable sight that greeted them of a sparse warehouse featuring a few candy canes and far from the immersive experience they had been promised from its colourful marketing.

Sometimes, as they say, you should perhaps be a little careful what you wish for in taking on such ambitious enterprises, which may well have been well meaning, but have ended up causing a considerable international storm in a sweet shop.

While it was unfortunately a tale of woe for both those visiting and the business behind the Scottish attraction, which pledged to offer full refunds to anyone who attended, it has left a curious confectionery legacy. Out of the ashes of the experience, it seems that plans are now being put forward to create a musical based on the Glaswegian misadventure, which we can but hope has a far sweeter outcome when it finally makes an appearance.

Neill Barston, editor, Confectionery Production

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