The terrifying future is here: but it’s not the rise of robots that are scaring people, it’s the unchecked and misleading use of generative AI.

‘Willy’s Chocolate Experience’ in Glasgow has gone viral after its misleading AI-generated advertising posters sold the dream with colourful, elaborate scenes of chocolate-filled gardens resembling Willy Wonka’s factory in the classic Roald Dahl story. The typo-ridden AI text on the event’s website held the first clues for what was in store: “Cartchy tuns, exarserdray lollipops, pasadise of sweet treats”. The organisers are yet to confirm the use of AI however it is widely speculated.

Excited children and their parents forked out £35 for tickets to the event that promises to take you on a “surreal journey where the boundaries between reality and fantasy harmoniously merge”. They weren’t wrong but it wasn’t the dream-like experience people had hoped for but rather more of a nightmare. The reality appeared to be a half-empty ‘dirty’ warehouse, sparsely decorated with rainbows and brightly coloured pipes.

Last-minute actors were cast to play Oompa Lumpas and Willy Wonka. They were given pages of nonsensical AI-generated scripts, describing unattainable props and effects such as “rivers of lemonade flow freely”; the reality was a brown wooden table with a quarter of a cup of lemonade. The “place where chocolate dreams become reality” also had no chocolate, just a single jellybean that the script claimed tasted like ‘spicy soup’ or ‘grandpa’s old crusty hanky’. Irish author, Séamas O’Reilly, dissects the script on his X (Twitter).

It doesn’t stop there, the AI-generated event goes from disappointment to disaster for the unsuspecting children as the ‘Unknown’ appears, an “evil chocolate maker” who “lives in the walls”. The bizarre story goes on to describe that ‘The Unknown’ has stolen Willy’s “anti-graffiti gobstopper” as part of a plan to stop parents from cleaning their kids’ bedrooms. Neither chocolate nor graffiti actually have any part in the plot.

The actor and comedian playing Willy Wonka, Paul Connell, has said “The script was 15 pages of AI-generated gibberish of me just monologuing these mad things … at the end of my monologue, I was supposed to suck up the Unknown Man with a vacuum cleaner. I asked them if they had a vacuum cleaner and they said, ‘yeah, we haven’t really got there yet, so just improvise’.”

If there was ever a question of whether AI needs human involvement to check it and work with it, ‘Willy’s Chocolate Experience’ is the answer. In the age of the internet and digital photos, and without crisis PR, the result of misleading customers can have a larger reach than ever before.  The police were called to the event a “Facebook group has been set up by furious parents” according to the Guardian.

Nonsensical AI scripts that couldn’t deliver the dreams they promised, terrified children and called for the actors to perform actual magic, have led to one of the biggest PR misses of the year and highlighted the dangers of unchecked AI.