Wednesday, March 6, 2024

Willy's Chocolate Experience

So like everyone else, I've been looking at that disastrous Willy experience. My heart goes out to the actors who tried their damndest, and the kids who were expecting a lot more.

I was curious about the script. I meant, it largely didn't seem undoable. Might have taken more time to set up than was given, but... here's the copy I worked from:

Obviously, the candy supplies should have been right. You knew how many tickets you sold.

You would have needed to dress the entire visible portion of that set. So that would mean building walls and decorating, using lighting to hide the ceiling would probably work. Astroturf makes an easy ground cover.

Everyone picks on the audience reactions being in the script. I guess that's not normal, but it's kind a 'so what?' on top of everything else. ;) It's a live show. "Pause for reaction" means the same thing.

Sound track would be needed, of course. Speakers hidden in the set on loop would do - volume adjusted per scene might even work? Otherwise you could use a dynamically adjusted soundtrack, assuming one tour at a time. That gives you the singing flowers and whispering trees, as well as musical cues for mood.

The giggle grass is why I wanted to review the script. You could have some astroturf mounted a little higher, waist high for a child perhaps, and simple proximity sensors could trigger it to vibrate and play the giggles. Safer and more reliable than stepping on it, but meets the goal.

Same for the talking tulips, of course, though why flowers and grass are so prominent in a candy display seems odd to me. Even better, you can deal with the wilting using air pressure in a rubber tube stem, and have them react to nearby voices by no longer sagging and thanking the audience.

Bubble machines are next - that's easy and can be cued by Willy or a cast member. The bubble that pops in his hand and turns into a sparkling light that ascends to the sky would be hard to do convincingly. I'd be inclined to drop it. You might be able to use projection and rely on a controlled point of view if you had a smokey room. Otherwise I think I'd have him catch a prop on a string during a moment of distraction, then let a flickering LED prop be pulled into the rafters on his release.

The Twilight Tunnel is next and is pure construction - should be simple to create and completely controls line of sight. Musical cues go darker. LED 'stars' can light roof of the tunnel and twinkle. Again, Willy needs a lighted prop - he can pull this one from his pocket since it doesn't fly away. Apparently all the audience gets one - kind of unfortunate but I guess you're making cheap LED ping-pong balls ;) A button cell battery and a single LED will glow for at least an hour or so. When making them you can insulate the battery with a small piece of paper or fabric, and leave a slot to pull it out at distribution time to activate the light.

The tunnel obviously won't be as dark as described for safety reasons, nor as long. Open at the entrance, bend to hide the entrance, and end at a door for the scene with the Unknown. Everyone agrees the Unknown's actress nailed it, so nothing to do here, and no prop was needed, though there are some cute lighting cues.

Have a cast member open the doors, and stride out to the Bubble and Lemonade Room. Larger, brighter, and still still decorated. Large rooms like this are how you will decide the size of the tour group, as you need enough room for them to be comfortable while still keeping the theme.

The lemonade perhaps should be carbonated to match the 'fizzes' description? Backup drinks of water or such should be available to those who can't have it - check with a nurse what makes sense for kids. Likewise for the candies, of course, every kid deserves SOMETHING.

Apparently nothing else of importance here - this is the snack area. Bubble machines need to be going all the time, but be sure to protect the drinks from popping soap with simple lids or a cover. (Perhaps they can be kept in refrigeration - a cooler or such).

Ah, but then we're off to the Imagination Lab. Okay... so we have a big 'Keep Out' door (and this would be at least a double-wide because this is a tour). The text for this introduction is poor, but that's not my problem as imaginary technical side. 

The bizarrely flavored jelly beans are easy enough if they still make those Harry Potter jelly beans. We'll just use a bunch of those. Perhaps have the cast members hand them out. Give them a bunch of random, but a small reserve of known, pleasant beans for the less adventurous.

The big TV camera is easy - this is a classic photo op. Could be done a couple of ways, but the simplest might be to run people through an exit corridor after they get their beans with a marked location to stop and pose (with appropriate backdrop). People are told they can claim their photos at the end of the experience, and we will email them (or, as is the trend, they can take a picture of the screen they are previewed on.)

Now we're at the final scene with the anti-graffiti gobstopper. Obviously, there should be a display stage and it should be covered, so Willy can hop up and present it. There's a bit with Willy and the Unknown, up on stage where they are safe from bumping into the guests. We want a battlefield of lasters and lights... I don't know why, but okay! So the Unknown's appearance is prefaced with a fog machine, and now strobing lights and flashing lasers can create a scene of chaos. It might be important to identify anyone with photosensitivity before this scene so they can be escorted out.

During the scene Willy uses a remote to activate traps and 'illusions'. Simplest thing here is probably a cast member off stage who can slide false walls into the Unknown's path on cue once or twice. I was thinking from underneath, but such props would need to be light and might be unsafe if accidentally stepped on. No need for motors anyway, this can be kept very simple.

The Unknown's own weapon can be based on a laser pointer, with Willy dodging dramatically behind props. Some kind of response on the prop would be ideal - might be as simple as a projected explosion (or at least flash) with a sound. The audio engineering over this whole scene is what will sell it.

The final machine is probably going to be accomplished with projection across the stage. "Holographic" images of "sparkling cleanliness" can start across the stage. When Willy loads the Gobstopper into the machine's recepticle, the projection focuses into a wave that starts from the machine and flows across the Unknown, giving it time to be swept backwards. A wall panel opens showing a giant vaccuum with an opening large enough for them to enter, along with a vaccuum sound effect, seals the deal. He goes into the vaccuum, the panel slams shut, and the sparkle projection fades out.

Then we're off to the gift shop, because you'd be dumb not to have some cheap merch to sell. Here people are encouraged to hang out by the need to claim their TV photos.

So that's my proposal for the technical sides. It's /still/ a ridiculously cheap and cheesy experience, but at least it would have delivered on some of the promise??