Is copyright some kind of funhouse? The literary work of character, storyworlds, and the play of adaptation
Johanna Gibson
Search for other papers by Johanna Gibson in
Current site
Google Scholar
Full access


As this issue goes to press, we are in the middle of awards season after a year of strong box office performances and reports of audiences returning to the theatre experience in encouraging numbers.2 Over the past 12 months, the Hollywood blockbuster has spawned not only new memes and hashtags,3 but also a burgeoning industry of so-called immersive experiences. Immersive experiences are delivered through a range of mechanisms from virtual and augmented reality through to the design of the experience environment, such as three-dimensional elements and the performers themselves. They have become ‘one of the fastest growing sections of the leisure industry and they play a major role in shaping societies and culture’.4 Immersive technologies in the film industry include everything from the use of sound through to visual effects. And the production of immersive experiences in marketing various consumer industries, from electrical goods to fashion, deploys a range of immersive media and gaming elements in order to increase engagement and promote purchases.5 But as a product themselves, immersive experiences, or so-called ‘real entertainment’,6 have created new opportunities for both successful collaborations as well as reputationally damaging exploitations.

But like a visit to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, or being spirited back on roller skates to Barbieland, is the immersive experience quintessentially a cinematic theme park? Indeed, is cinema itself the original immersive experience,7 before immersive videogames and the metaverse? Some kind of funhouse8 perhaps? Are we having fun?


Alongside the box office success of Barbie,10 Mattel licensed the BarbieYou Can Be Anything™: The Experience to shopping centres11 and museums12 alike. While the Barbie experiences are staged in partnership with Mattel, there are other examples of immersive experiences put together rather hastily in response to lucrative cinematic intellectual property. This includes most recently and perhaps most controversially, the somewhat dismal Willy’s Chocolate Experience13 in Glasgow. The release of the prequel adaptation of Roald Dahl’s character, Willy Wonka, first introduced in his 1964 children’s novel, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,14 has contributed to these various cultural reflections. But notably, in the 1971 film adaptation of the character,15 Gene Wilder’s performance of Wonka became adopted around 2010 into what has been described as one of the most successful memes of all-time16 (so successful that it has its own Wikipedia page17), known as ‘Condescending Wonka’.18 Wonka is a character with staying power.


The key cinematic property shared by all these immersive experiences is almost invariably that of character. However, in the various and diverse films that have generated a seemingly thriving industry of immersive experience products, the characters that are the subjects of that experience are almost invariably already ‘adapted’ properties in the source film or cinematic franchise itself. Some of the biggest films of 2023, whether from books,20 comics,21 videogames,22 or even toys,23 were all adaptations of the property in ‘pre-published’ characters. And they were all films that were in and of themselves largely propelled by that property in character, at times more than anything else.24

Media scholar, Henry Jenkins defines transmedia storytelling or ‘transmedia franchises’ in Hollywood where ‘a single creator or creative unit maintains control over the franchise’, and ‘[i]n the ideal form of transmedia storytelling … a story might be introduced in a film, expanded through television, novels, and comics, and its world might be explored and experienced through game play’.25 Towards propelling story through various media, the notion of character as the ‘story’ itself is something that studios are extremely proficient in pursuing: in other words, transmedia storytelling. Character is also the crucial property readily apperceived by audiences, who are fluent in translating images and brands from book to film, to merchandise, and now to immersive experiences. In other words, a kind of transmedia literacy. In this way, character makes it possible for studios to build storyworlds26 or domains of experience across various media, more than anything else. In an analysis of Disney characters, media scholar, Matthew Freeman, maintains that character is the critical property ‘that holds storyworlds together across countless texts and media’.27 This understanding of character becomes clearer in the assertion by Jenkins, ‘there is a distinction to be made between “extensions” to the core narrative or the fictional universe and adaptations which simply move content from one medium to another’.28 Or as the literary scholar, Marie-Laure Ryan, explains further, there is an important difference between adapting the story to different media, ‘to tell the same story in a different medium’, and transmedia storytelling, which ‘tells different stories about a given storyworld’.29 In the various adaptations of Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, right through to the immersive experience, the ‘shared narrative content’30 is that of character.

And this makes a lot of sense in a discourse of branding and image. A kind of transmedia storytelling preoccupies various entertainment and creative industries to the extent that the currencies of image and experience continue to dominate consumer experience and preference. This includes the fashion industry in the metaverse31 as fashion too is becoming transformed into an entertainment industry. And thus character is one of the critical questions for intellectual property and is indeed the very property at the heart of immersive experiences.32


The literary property of character has long been understood and appreciated by the film industry in its established approach to adaptation and screenplays. Indeed, the very question of whether a screenplay is original or adapted will often turn on the question of character – whether that character is considered to be literary, living, or ludic. This creates yet another reason34 to talk about Barbie later, but only after a little nonsense first … now and then.

The relationship between Roald Dahl, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,35 and the adaptation of the characters in the various film adaptations, from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) through to the recent prequel adaptation in Wonka (2023), reached something of a fizzling climax in the attempt to capitalize on this property in the catastrophic immersive experience venture Willy’s Chocolate Experience in Glasgow. The event was no doubt motivated by the enormous box office returns of the new cinematic prequel, Wonka,36 which premiered in the United States on 15 December 2023. Directed by Paul King and produced by Warner Bros, Wonka was devised as an origin story for Willy Wonka, as originally introduced in 1964 by Roald Dahl.37 This is the third time the story of Charlie, Willy Wonka, and Wonka’s chocolate factory has been adapted into a major studio film, following Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)38 and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005).39 But the 2023 film has quickly become the most financially successful of all the adaptations and has even out-performed the hugely successful Barbie (another Warner Bros property40) in some overseas markets.41


Just a couple of months after the world premiere of Wonka, and no doubt hoping to take advantage of the zeitgeist and revival of interest in Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delights and other chocolate-based entrepreneurialism, the now infamous Willy’s Chocolate Experience was staged, albeit very briefly, in late February in Glasgow.43 While the famous visit to the Chocolate Factory in Dahl’s novel might be considered the original blueprint for immersive experiences, this adaptation was at best cynical and at worst, the scheme of ‘a cheat and a swindler!’44 Indeed, it was such a catastrophic failure (or success) of mediocrity that the event was closed down in less than a day.45 Decorations were scant and children were treated to just one jellybean each (apparently one really is just enough for anybody).46 Originally set to run for two days, Willy’s Chocolate Experience was shut down on the afternoon of the first day when the police were called47 to respond to an escalating situation fuelled by ‘a barrage of complaints’48 from the angry parents of disappointed children. While the Experience was promoted as a feast of sights, sounds, and smells with ‘surprises at every turn’49 and ‘a chocolate fantasy like never before’,50 the reality was very different and led to over 800 demands for refunds and actors left unpaid.51 It has since been described as everything from ‘decidedly lackluster’52 and a ‘farce’,53 to ‘a Fyre Festival-scale catastrophe’.54 The event was organized by ‘the mysterious company’,55 House of Illuminati, a London-based private limited company incorporated very recently (20 November 2023) and listing just one officer, Billy Coull.56 Angry ticket-holders quickly researched Coull’s other enterprises, including self-published AI novels ‘with plots that touch on right-wing themes around human trafficking and vaccination’.57 The memes began to write themselves.


The promises made by the event were reportedly generated entirely by AI. Indeed, the text on the AI-generated images appearing on the event’s website, now taken down, offered some further evidence that the organizers were indeed ‘the dreamers of dreams’,59 including promises of ‘enigemic sounds’ and ‘ukxepcted twits’ in the Twilight Tunnel, ‘encherining entertainment’ and ‘live perforrmances,’ as well as the opportunity for ‘catgacating’ while listening to ‘cartchy tuns’ and enjoying ‘exarserdray lollipops, a pasadise of sweet teats’.60 Similarly, the script for the event (a claim that will be relevant later to the question of character) as well as the contracts themselves were reportedly also full of textual errors leading to claims that these documents were generated by AI as well.61 As I am not fluent in AI hallucinations, perhaps indeed the experience delivered these and more. After all, ‘a little nonsense now and then is relished by the wisest men’.62

And this nonsense was indeed what engaged and was certainly celebrated by social media,63 producing some delicious and scrumptious memes,64 and even leading to the creation of a (seemingly ironic) petition to reopen the Experience for fans and local businesses alike ‘that thrived on the influx of tourists it attracted’.65 To date the petition has achieved 7304 signatures.66


The Experience also introduced a new and scary character, somewhat explicably, referred to as ‘The Unknown’.68 But this would not be the first time a new character was introduced into the Wonka universe. The 1971 film also introduced the new character of Mr Wilkinson, a Wonka employee who poses as Arthur Slugworth, the rival chocolate maker in Dahl’s book (along with two more called Fickelgruber and Prodnose). Wonka asks Wilkinson to pose as Slugworth in order to test the character of the children as potential future owners of the factory when Wonka retires. At the end of the 1971 film, Wonka finally exposes this plot to Charlie in a room full of halves – half table, half clock, half bust, and so on – through the looking-glass, as it were. The room has inevitably attracted comparisons between Wonka and Lewis Carroll’s character of the Hatter.69 Indeed, Wonka’s hat is a featured element of costume in the script of the 1971 film, when he is referred to as ‘The man with the funny hat’ by Mr Beauregard.70 And in the recent prequel, Wonka (2023), Wonka’s hat is a prominent characterization and plot device, featuring throughout the film. Once more, the threads are tied with character and costume, rather than story.

In an intriguing twist in the tale of Willy’s Chocolate Experience, the saga is set to continue in the spin-off character of The Unknown. Very soon after the debacle, a new Scottish production company, Kaledonia Pictures,71 announced that The Unknown is set to be made into a horror movie. The company appears to have been established very recently just for this enterprise,72 but in doing so it should perhaps bear in mind the risks of adapting a classic children’s character (albeit via a new spin-off character) into the horror genre,73 particularly if there is any reliance on established traits.74 Or perhaps this is indeed the attraction, and the strategy for the virality of mediocrity will pay dividends.75 However, there is a question of ownership in the character of The Unknown, given the reports of the use of AI to generate the script, a discussion to which I will return later. A game of two halves, indeed.

And merely two weeks after the event, a hastily produced documentary was produced for British television entitled, Wonka: The Scandal That Rocked Britain. Notably, the documentary calls it Wonka when we know that the Experience was decidedly Willy’s. Giving it just two stars, The Guardian review suggests, ‘You can only watch this and wonder why you’ve watched it at all, when you could have been online instead, seeing a young woman declare, in all seriousness, that she is, in fact, the viral Oompa Loompa’.76 Who knows what will happen, but ‘the suspense is terrible … I hope it will last’.77


In the lead up to this bungled venture, House of Illuminati had also filed two UK trade mark applications in class 41 only for WILLY’S CHOCOLATE EXPERIENCE both as a work mark79 and as a figurative mark.80 The application for the figurative mark appears to reproduce the typeface of the WONKA mark, as applied to Wonka bars and other confectionary,81 the title of the 1971 film,82 as well as other media, including the titles of the 2001 documentary short, Pure Imagination,83 and the 2017 animated film, Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.84 There is a third application for a word mark, Imagination Technology.85 The website however refers to Imagination Lab™ as well as another seemingly imagined trade mark, Twilight Tunnel™, thus opening another world of pure misrepresentation for the House of Illuminati.

To date neither application for ‘the trademark-skirting name’86 has met with any opposition, although there is still some time to run before the opposition periods end. One may ask, however, to what end? As attractive as the prospect might be, the House of Illuminati did not manage to acquire the Golden Goose by name alone.


The nonsense of Willy’s Chocolate Experience begins to make a lot of sense of the interpretation of literary character as a copyright work; that is, as a literary work under the Copyright, Designs and Patents Act 1988.88 Indeed, the current understanding of character as a literary work within UK copyright comes from a dispute around an immersive experience – the immersive dining experience offered by Only Fools, The (Cushty) Dining Experience.

Shazam Productions, the producers of the television sitcom, Only Fools and Horses,89 recovered against the unauthorized adaptation across the media of immersive experience, not by reason of the dramatic or literary work in the total body of scripts, but rather through character. That is, the coherence of the storyworld made sense not through story but through character. The claimants argued that ‘[t]he body of scripts may constitute a separate copyright work’ and ‘[t]he development of a “world”, including characters ought to attract separate copyright’.90 However, while the court was ‘not persuaded that the Scripts as a body are a literary work in their own right’,91 it did conclude ‘that copyright subsists in Del Boy as a literary work under English law’.92 In other words, the fictional characters hold together the storyworld of Only Fools and Horses, not the many and diverse scripts. This conclusion is compelling not only from the perspective of literary theory, but right through the transmedia storytelling of the literary property of character in media studies and copyright law, in ways that make complete sense with the referential character of film, the audience reckoning with character, and the true reservoir of value for the industry. That is, character builds the storyworld about which different stories can then be told93 across different media and different consumer experiences. The question remains then, is the character ever author alone? And in this reasoning is there potential for the reform of performers’ rights to acknowledge their contribution to the ‘literary work’ of film?


Hollywood, and more specifically, the Academy Awards, have understood this for much longer than copyright law. The screenplays for both Barbie and Oppenheimer were treated as adapted screenplays for the purposes of nominations for the 96th Academy Awards, but at least for Barbie, this was not without some consideration95 and some controversy.96 Greta Gerwig and Noam Baumbach’s screenplay for Barbie was treated as an adaptation on the basis that it adapted the toy characters created or previously ‘published’ by Ruth Handler. However, before the classification was applied, Warner Bros had announced a campaign for the screenplay to compete in the original category,97 following its earlier classification as original by the Writers Guild Awards (WGA). Nevertheless, the Writers Branch executive committee of the Academy later moved the screenplay to the ‘adapted’ category.98 Notably, the Barbie screenplay was nominated in the original category at the British Academy of Film and Television Arts (BAFTA).99

Notwithstanding whether individual cases of classification seem clear or otherwise, the distinction also points to a wider socio-cultural lack of regard for the creative work in adaptation more generally. And this is arguably reflected in the law itself. Why it should be considered ‘insulting’100 to be classified as an adaptation is itself also arbitrary. While the category of original has been described as the domain of the auteur, the category of adapted appeals to the theatrical legacy of film and its self-consciousness with respect to the art of cinema, validated as a respectable cultural product through conscientious literary and theatrical sources.101 Indeed, in every interview, Gerwig’s meticulous documentation of the references and cinematic pedigree in Barbie suggests a kind of sensibility to this process. If all cinema is referential, indeed immersive, is all cinema an adaptation?

But more specifically, what is an adapted screenplay? It turns out that the distinction is largely lore, rather than law, and a commercial lore at that. The WGA defines an adapted (or more specifically, ‘non-original’) screenplay as one ‘based on assigned material’ which includes material previously published (such as the more usual literary sources, including comics and graphic novels) or other ‘literary material not covered by the MBA’.102 The rules make specific reference to screenplays dealing with non-fiction (as in biopics) and explains, ‘If the assigned material is non-fiction and does not contain a narrative or is used as research material for the project’, then it is ‘not an adaptation of the assigned material’, and as such will be classified as original.103 Following this approach, sequels and remakes are thus always considered to be adapted screenplays.104 As far as the WGA is concerned, it would seem that, while the character of Barbie may be previously published, the absence of a narrative with respect to this research material renders the screenplay original. Notably, the writers of the WGA have a different perspective on the relationship between narrative and text from that of the claimed objectivity of character preferred by the Academy.


Towards understanding this distinction, rather frustratingly the Academy is silent106 on the issue in its published rules and definitions for the Awards.107 The definitions come down largely to the ‘branding’ of original and adapted, rather than any purportedly reliable test. Indeed, ‘the application of the terms “original” and “adapted” … is, to some degree, arbitrary’.108 After all, Woody Allen’s screenplay for Blue Jasmine has been widely described as something of a revisionist adaptation of Tennessee Williams’ A Streetcar Named Desire, and ‘[a]ppropriating the template of Streetcar seems to have enabled him to write one of his most successful dramatic screenplays’.109 Nevertheless, the screenplay was nominated in the ‘original’ category at the 86th Academy Awards in 2014. Notably, while the template may have assisted in crafting the story, and traits may have been shared between characters, ultimately the characters in Blue Jasmine were original to the screenplay. And this is what matters in the end for originality in Hollywood.

Willy Wonka once again returns us to the question of character and fidelity to this particular property through adaptation. Character is the means by which Hollywood sustains its storyworlds across franchises, sequels, merchandising, and immersive experiences. And recalling the commercial lore of the adapted screenplay, the deference to character reveals it as the primary property for the industry. Even toys are protected as characters for the purposes of deciding between the categories of adapted and original. If character is thus the crucial property for the film industry, the critical property through which transmedia storytelling is managed, is the ‘authorship’ of character sufficiently and fully understood with respect to the law? And to what extent does the ‘development’ of character through performance re-orientate the focus on potential reform for performers’ rights – if not as owners, then at least as far as a fairer deal? It seems that Willy’s Chocolate Experience proves to be a salient lesson not only in character, but also in performance. Without adequate scripts, props, or sets, the performers had to rely on character. Sink or swim, ‘[t]here’s no better time to learn’.110


The other lesson in character that may be derived from immersive experiences is the value of the character to the audience. Character as a literary work is thus not just a question of originality for the author, but also a matter of fidelity and consistency for the audience as they navigate through the various storyworlds created. While there have been discussions around the consumer risks posed by the use of AI in advertising, including potentially misleading or deceptive communications,112 there has been little or even no attention given to the potential consumer interest in the ‘technical image’ of character, to introduce philosopher Vilem Flusser’s concept in relation to character in this context,113 towards understanding the apparent objectivity114 of character as an instrument of storyworld.

In this respect, attention to character through copyright yields a dimension of protection for the consumer as fan – that is, there is arguably a consumer welfare dimension to the copyright protection of characters, as well as a profoundly commercial interest. Arguably character is the primary property as far as the fandom is concerned, and therefore, in many respects, this reinforces character as the primary, critical (and commercial) consideration in ascertaining the originality of a screenplay before anything else, including potentially even any literary source. As Sergio Rizzo suggests, while ‘the literary text [once] dominated, perhaps even tyrannized, its cinematic adaptation. It is doubtful that in our media-saturated environment, where TV shows, video games, and rides at Disneyland are adapted to film as seamlessly as literary works once were, that sort of domination still pertains’.115 The vehicle that mobilizes that seamless adaptation, that provides the freedom to play and endure across multiple media, is, once and for all, character.


Through the concept of the ‘technical image’, Flusser introduces the play of thought and thought processes, and prefigures the significance of play for questions of authorship through ‘a pictorial dialogue’.117 Flusser maintains: ‘Such a society, in dialogue through images, would be a society of artists … It would be a society of players who would constantly generate new relationships’ through what he describes as ‘creative play’.118 Play as a fundament of authorship is something in which I am particularly interested,119 and Flusser’s concept is helpful here, offering an appealing insight into the networking of transmedia storytelling in the film and ancillary industries, through the primary relationship of ‘creative play’ between audience and image. As Wonka counsels, ‘If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it’.120 Character is part of the game: ‘You’ve won! You did it! You did it!’121

And it is through this creative play that the freedom of authorship, as it were, might be sustained. As Wonka himself choruses, with a life of ‘pure imagination … you’ll be free’.122 But as Flusser asks, in a telematic society, including through artificial intelligence, ‘Can there be creative inspiration in such a situation, without author or work? Can there be that disregard of self, that absorption in work that constitutes freedom?’123 Which brings us back to the introduction of the character of The Unknown in Willy’s Chocolate Experience.


What happens, then, when the character appears to be wholly or substantially generated by AI, as in the case of The Unknown in the Willy Wonka Experience scripts? This reveals the nonsense of the distinction between original and adapted in the WGA and Academy approaches, but the novelty in adaptation. But it is a little nonsense to be relished, as it were, for although authorship (and ownership) of The Unknown remains unclear, it is adaptation that generates the originality that not only completes the character but also builds the storyworld. Every memetic iteration of The Unknown through social media is building story. The previous publication of The Unknown means that every screenplay of The Unknown will be an adapted screenplay, but always an entirely original one.

Who originates the character then? Is that the end of the story, so to speak? On the contrary, in understanding and ascertaining the relevant property in character, it emerges that the source of the originality in The Unknown, is not through its introduction in the AI-generated text, but rather through the subsequent completion through performance in the widest sense – from the performer herself through to the performative co-production of the audience. In his work on art and film audiences, Jacques Rancière’s emancipation of the spectator is a kind of freedom to co-create, ‘at once a performer deploying her skills and a spectator observing what these skills might produce in a new context among other spectators’.125 This is the freedom of performance as play. The property in characters generated by AI thus may be understood not as a property of creation, but rather, comes into play as a later property in interpretation and performance. That is, the opportunity for creating intellectual property comes about not through traditional narratives of authorship, but by the playful character of performance. Rather than focusing all the attention on the question or otherwise of AI authorship, it is time to look at what is created once those artefacts are put into creative play. That is how characters are made.

Who are the makers? Who are the players? Once again, attention is returned to the performer, but not to the performer alone. In the immersive experience, there is also a significant manipulation and production of the environment and the characters therein by the audience, all just by wandering through the chocolate room … and the marshmallow room, and the fudge room, and the taffy-pulling room, and the fizzy lifting room …

After all, what would a computer do with a lifetime supply of chocolate?126

March 2024

  • 1

    Willy Wonka, welcoming the winning ticket-holders to the factory gates in Willy Wonky & the Chocolate Factory (1971), dir Mel Stuart.

  • 2

    Barbie and Oppenheimer show that blockbusters could save the cinema’, The Economist, 9 August 2023.

  • 3

    For example, the so-called Barbenheimer phenomenon (the simultaneous release and symbiotic marketing relationship of Barbie (2023) and Oppenheimer (2023)) was largely propelled and sustained by social media through memes and hashtags, exploiting the changes in the ways in which audiences watch, share, and use film. See further,

    Theo Farrant, Barbie vs Oppenheimer: The Funniest Barbenheimer Memes and Reactions’, EuroNews, 18 July 2023 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

    The phenomenon informs the subject matter of the recent Nicholas Cage vehicle, Dream Scenario (2023) dir Kristoffer Borgli. See further the discussion by Cage in Zack Sharf, ‘Nicholas Cage: “I Didn’t Get into Movies to Be a Meme” and “I Had No Control Over It”’, Variety, 3 November 2023 <>.

  • 4

    Sobitan Abiola & Vlachos Peter , '‘Immersive Event Experience and Attendee Motivation: A Quantitative Analysis using Sensory, Localisation, and Participatory Factors’ ' (2020 ) 12 (3 ) Journal of Policy Research in Tourism, Leisure and Events : 437 -56.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

    at 437.

  • 5

    Maghan McDowell, ‘The Fashion Exec’s Guide to Gaming’, Vogue Business, 5 December 2023 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 6

    System Ent Corp, ‘The Rise of Immersive Experiences: How Real Entertainment is Revolutionizing the Industry’, Medium, 14 December 2023 <>. Note the discussion of real versus fake, and the ‘blurring of the distinction’ such that ‘we have ceased to choose between the real and the fake if we are unaware of crossing the border between them’, in respect of real entertainment retail in the theme park in

    Fowlow Lorain D , '‘Living with Mickey: In Search of the Boundaries of the Theme Park’ ' (2001 ) 4 (2 ) The Design Journal : 20 -29.

    at 22.

  • 7

    Note the legends surrounding the first screening of the Lumières’ L’Arrivée d’un train en gare de La Ciotat, discussed in

    Gibson Johanna , '‘The Man behind the Curtain’ ', in P Sean Morris (ed), Intellectual Property and the Law of Nations, 1860–1920 , (Brill , 2022 ) 207 -41.

  • 8

    In Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), dir Mel Stuart, Mr Salt asks Willy Wonka: ‘What is this, Wonka? Some kind of funhouse?’ To which Wonka replies: ‘Why? Are you having fun?’.

  • 9

    Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), dir Mel Stuart.

  • 10

    Barbie (2023), dir Greta Gerwig. Complete figures available at <>. See further

    J Kim Murphy, Barbie Wins Inaugural Cinematic and Box Office Achievement Award at Golden Globes’, Variety, 7 January 2024 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 11

    Meadowhall Sheffield City, 30 September 2023 to 7 January 2024, in partnership with Mattel and Bakehouse Factory – see paid editorial <>.

  • 12

    For example, in partnership with Mattel and the Children’s Museum, Barbie™ You Can Be Anything™: The Experience was hosted at the Centre of Science and Industry (Columbus, Ohio) until 7 January 2024, and is currently being hosted by The Strong National Museum of Play from 20 January to 12 May 2024. See further <>.

  • 13

    <> via Internet Archive Wayback Machine. Another twist as this issue is published, it has just been announced that Willy’s Chocolate Experience will be recreated in Los Angeles:

    Caroline Davies, ‘Glasgow Willy Wonka “Chocolate Experience” to be Recreated – in LA’, The Guardian, 10 April 2024 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 14

    Dahl Roald , Charlie and the Chocolate Factory , (Alfred A Knopf, 1964 ).

  • 15

    Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), dir Mel Stuart.

  • 16

    Rachel Hosie, ‘Top Ten Most Popular Memes of All Time’, The Independent, 28 April 2017 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 19

    Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971): ‘Oh, you can’t get out backwards. Gotta go forwards to go back. Better press on.’

  • 20

    For example, Oppenheimer (2023), dir Christopher Nolan, is said to have drawn inspiration from Kai Bird’s and Martin J Sherwin’s Pulitzer-winning biography, American Prometheus (Atlantic 2005). See further

    Tim Chan, ‘Book Behind Oppenheimer Returns to Bestsellers Chart following Film’s Golden Globes Win’, The Hollywood Reporter, 8 January 2024 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

    This renders Nolan’s original screenplay an adapted screenplay (discussed in more detail later). And most recently, another adapted intellectual property, Dune: Part Two, had the biggest opening weekend since Barbenheimer. See Ben Dalton, ‘Dune: Part Two Dominates UK-Ireland Box Office with £9.3m for Biggest Opening since Barbenheimer’, Screen Daily, 4 March 2024 <>. Ramishah Maruf, ‘Dune: Part Two Passes Oppenheimer Opening Weekend at Domestic Box Office with $82.5 Million’, CNN Business, 4 March 2024 <>.

  • 21

    For example, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Mutant Mayhem (2023) based on the original characters for Mirage Studios, now owned by Nickelodeon; The Flash (2023) and Aquaman and the Lost Kingdom (2023) for the DC Extended Universe; and Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023) and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3 (2023) contributed to sustaining Marvel’s character franchise in 2023.

  • 22

    One of the biggest films of 2023, before being overtaken by Barbie (2023), was The Super Mario Bros Movie (2023), dir Aaron Horvath, Michael Jelenic, and Pierre Leduc, with a ‘sequel’ announced for 2026:

    Sarah Hilton, ‘Nintendo Plans New Super Mario Movie with Legend Shigeru Miyamoto Producing’, Bloomberg, 11 March 2024 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

    See further Ian Youngs, ‘Barbie Overtakes Super Mario Bros to Be 2023’s Biggest Box Office Hit’, BBC News, 4 September 2023 <>.

  • 23

    The most obvious example is, of course, Barbie (2023). But earlier patchworks of existing and original intellectual properties in characters can be found in various films, perhaps the most notable of these being the Toy Story films, produced by Pixar Animation and Disney: Toy Story (1995); Toy Story 2 (1999); Toy Story 3 (2010); Toy Story 4 (2019); Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins (2000); and Lightyear (2022). There is a further instalment rumoured for 2026, with plans for a Toy Story 5. See further

    Zack Sharf, ‘Tim Allen Says Disney has “reached out” to Him and Tom Hanks to Reprise Buzz and Woody in New Toy Story movie’, Variety, 22 November 2023 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 24

    For example, Miranda France writes, ‘[T]he story is a weaker vehicle even than Barbie’s pink convertible’, in ‘Life in Plastic’, The Times Literary Supplement, 4 August 2023 <>. See further the critique of the ‘consumer-friendly politics’ of Barbie in Pamela Paul, ‘Barbie Is Bad. There, I Said It’, The New York Times, 24 January 2024 <>.

  • 25

    Henry Jenkins, ‘Transmedia Storytelling’, MIT Technology Review, 15 January 2003. Marie-Laure Ryan notes that ‘transmedia storytelling is a deliberate attempt to make media converge around a shared narrative content’:

    Ryan Marie-Laure , '‘Transmedia Storytelling: Industry Buzzword or New Narrative Experience?’ ' (2015 ) 7 (2 ) Storyworlds: A Journal of Narrative Studies : 1 -19.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

    at 2.

  • 26

    The concept of storyworld comes largely from literary theory and narratology but has been taken up in media studies and in the industry itself. For a definition from literary studies, see

    Herman David , '‘Toward a Socionarratology’ ', in David Herman (ed), Narratologies: New Perspectives on Narrative Analysis , (Ohio State University Press, 1999 ).

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

    where it is explained as a ‘mental model representing the world of the discourse’, 266. A useful summary of the implications of the concept of storyworld across the entertainment industries is available in Brian Welk, ‘What’s a Storyworld? The Future of Content Development’, The Wrap, 4 October 2019 <>.

  • 27

    Freeman Matthew , '‘A World of Disney Building a Transmedia Storyworld for Mickey and his Friends’ ', in Marta Boni (ed), World Building: Transmedia, Fans, Industries , (Amsterdam University Press , 2017 ) 93 -108, 93.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 28

    Henry Jenkins, ‘The Aesthetics of Transmedia: in Response to David Bordwell (Part One)’, Pop Junctions, 10 September 2009.

  • 29

    Ryan (n 25), at 2.

  • 30

    ibid, at 2.

  • 31

    Marc Bain, ‘Digital Worlds Are the New Frontier in Fashion Storytelling’, Business of Fashion, 28 April 2022 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 32

    The proliferation of superhero films provided by the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU), based on characters first appearing in Marvel Comics publications, has led also to various immersive experiences, including Madame Tussaud’s Marvel Universe 4D <>.

  • 33

    The term used in the 1971 film to refer to the surge in demand for Wonka Bars following Willy Wonka’s announcement of the competition to win a personal visit to the secret factory and a lifetime’s supply of chocolate: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).

  • 34

    Barbie (2023) was considered in an earlier issue in relation to the concept of pastiche, and the fluency afforded by an audience appreciation of product pastiche (both Mattel’s and Warner’s products). See

    Gibson Johanna , '‘Living in the Pastiche: From Barbieland to Computer World, all the World’s a Paste’ ' (2023 ) 13 (4 ) Queen Mary Journal of Intellectual Property : 379 -91.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation


  • 35

    Dahl Roald , Charlie and the Chocolate Factory , (Alfred A Knopf, 1964 ).

  • 36

    Wonka (2023), dir Paul King.

  • 37

    Dahl Roald , Charlie and the Chocolate Factory , (Alfred A Knopf, 1964 ).

  • 38

    Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), dir Mel Stuart.

  • 39

    Charlie & the Chocolate Factory (2005), dir Tim Burton.

  • 40

    On the value of product pastiche, including the pastiche of studio intellectual property, see Gibson (n 34).

  • 41

    See further, IMDb at <>, which reports that, at the Korean Box Office, Wonka scored 146% higher on opening day than Barbie. See further, Jishika Madaan, ‘Wonka Box Office (Korea): Scores 146% Higher Opening Day Collections than Margot Robbie’s Barbie!’, KoiMoi, 1 February 2024.

  • 42

    Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).

  • 43

    <> via Internet Archive Wayback Machine.

  • 44

    Grandpa Joe to Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).

  • 45

    Libby Brooks, ‘Glasgow Willy Wonka Experience Called a “Farce” as Tickets Refunded’, The Guardian, 27 February 2024 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 46

    Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).

  • 47

    Mallory Moench, ‘How a Willy Wonka Event in the UK Ended in Calls to Police and Demands for Refunds’, Time, 28 February 2024 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 48

    Miles Klee, ‘Man Behind “Willy Wonka” Experience Apologizes, Denies Using Event to Pay for Wedding’, Rolling Stone, 1 March 2024 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 49

    ‘Immersive Delights: What to Expect at the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory Experience’, House of Illuminati blog post, 12 December 2023 <> via Wayback Machine.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 51

    Moench (n 47).

  • 52

    Klee (n 48).

  • 53

    Brooks (n 45).

  • 54

    Chris Murphy, ‘“Willy’s Chocolate Experience” Nightmare: What Went Wrong?’, Vanity Fair, 29 February 2024 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

    This comparison was made repeatedly in the press in relation to the ‘[t]he disappointing, barren, and comical nature of the event [which] brings to mind past scams like that of the botched music festival, Fyre Fest … There’s just something about a disastrously executed scam’: Li Zhou, ‘The Less-than-Magical Willy Wonka Event, Briefly Explained’, Vox, 28 February 2024 <>.

  • 55

    Rebecca Nicholson, Wonka: The Scandal That Rocked Britain Review – a Whole Hour of TV on the Chocolate Disaster that Went Viral’, The Guardian, 16 March 2024 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 56

    Companies House, company number 15295572. The website for the House of Illuminati may be found at <> but has been stripped of content quite recently and now appears with ‘Welcome to the House of Illuminati Webpage’ on the landing page, but with the index tabs leading nowhere else.

  • 57

    Klee (n 48).

  • 58

    Tim Brooke-Taylor’s character in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971), Computer Operator, asks a computer to identify the precise locations of the three remaining Golden Tickets, ‘based on the revolutionary Computonian Law of Probability’, to which the computer produces the printed response, ‘I won’t tell. That would be cheating.’

  • 59

    Willy Wonka, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1971), dir Mel Stuart.

  • 60

    <> via Internet Archive Wayback Machine. Although the website remained up for some time after the event, it was eventually taken down some time after 7 March 2024 (the last date the page was crawled by the Wayback Machine).

  • 61

    Barney Davis, ‘Angry Oompa Loompas and No Chocolate: Wonka Actor Breaks Silence on Willy’s Chocolate Experience Chaos’, The Independent, 1 March 2024 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 62

    Willy Wonka, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1971), dir Mel Stuart.

  • 63

    Dani Di Placido, ‘Glasgow “Willy Wonka Experience” [sic] Unites the Internet in Laughter’, Forbes, 29 February 2024 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 64

    Some of the best are featured in Di Placido (n 63).

  • 66

    As at 17 March 2024.

  • 67

    In Willy Wonka & the Chcocolate Factory (1971), ‘Arthur Slugworth’ (aka Mr Wilkinson) tries to recruit Charlie Bucket to spy for him: ‘Think it over, will you … And don’t forget the name: Everlasting Gobstopper.’

  • 68

    Miles Klee, ‘“The Unknown,” Breakout Star of Viral Willy Wonka Disaster, Lands Gig at London Dungeon’, Rolling Stone, 13 March 2024 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 69

    This doubling in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) and the sequel Through the Looking-Glass (1871) is readily identified in Willy Wonka as the Hatter or, ‘The man with the funny hat’, as he is dubbed by Violet Beauregarde’s father in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).

  • 70

    Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).

  • 71

    ‘Willy Wonka Experience. Scary Villain “The Unknown” Getting its Own Horror Movie!!!’, TMZ, 4 March 2024 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 72

    <>. See further

    Ryan Lambie, ‘The Unknown Production Company Behind Wonka Experience Film Had No Online Footprint Five Days Ago’, Film Stories, 5 March 2024 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

    The Company has an entry on IMDbPro but there is no further information <>.

  • 73

    Reuters, Winnie-the-Pooh: Blood and Honey Wins Worst Film at Razzies’, The Guardian, 9 March 2024 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 74

    Alex Berry, ‘Florida Teacher Accidentally Shows Nine-Year-Olds Winnie the Pooh Horror Movie’, NME, 13 October 2023 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 75

    Rachael O’Connor, ‘Winnie the Pooh Horror Movie is Getting a Sequel and Tigger is the Stuff of Nightmares’, Metro, 12 September 2023 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation

    See further, Alex Berry, ‘“Worst Picture” Award Feels “Amazing” Says Winne the Pooh Horror Star’, NME, 11 March 2024

  • 76

    Nicholson (n 55).

  • 77

    Willy Wonka, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (1971), dir Mel Stuart.

  • 78

    In the 1971 film, during the visit to the factory, Veruca Salt wants her father to buy her a golden goose, to which Wonka replies, ‘They’re not for sale.’ Veruca’s father asks Wonka, ‘Name your price.’ But he affirms, ‘She can’t have one.’ Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).

  • 79

    Word mark, UK00004008200. Filed 29 January 2024, published 9 February 2024 with opposition period to end 9 April 2024.

  • 80

    Figurative mark, UK00004010110. Filed 2 February 2024, published 16 February 2024 with opposition period to end 16 April 2024.

  • 81

    Registered to Ferrero International SA as a figurative mark in several jurisdictions, as well as to Soremartec SA (part of the Ferrero group).

  • 82

    Previously registered but now ended. The typeface was changed for the Wonka bars and tickets in the 2005 film.

  • 83

    Pure Imagination: The Story of ‘Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory’ (2001), dir JM Kenny, distributed by Warner Bros.

  • 84

    Tom and Jerry: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (2017), dir Spike Brandt. Produced by Turner Entertainment, a subsidiary of Warner Bros.

  • 85

    An application has been made in classes 38, 41, and 42:UK00004010552. Filed 3 February 2024 (in classes 38, 41, and 42) and published 16 February 2024 with opposition period to end 16 April 2024.

  • 86

    Klee (n 47).

  • 87

    Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).

  • 88

    Section 3(1); Shazam Productions v Only Fools The Dining Experience [2022] EWHC 1379 (IPEC), at [121–2].

  • 89

    Only Fools and Horses (1981–2003).

  • 90

    Shazam Productions v Only Fools The Dining Experience [2022] EWHC 1379 (IPEC), at [69].

  • 91

    ibid, at [72].

  • 92

    ibid, at [122].

  • 93

    Ryan (n 25), at 2.

  • 94

    Charlie Bucket, in response to Veruca Salt’s demand for a golden goose, in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).

  • 95

    Clayton Davis, ‘“Barbie” Oscar Dilemma: Warner Bros. Weighs Original or Adapted Screenplay Consideration’, Variety, 24 July 2023 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 96

    The Deadline Team, ‘Judd Apatow Says Putting Barbie in Oscars’ Adapted Screenplay Category is Insulting’, Deadline, 7 January 2024 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 97

    Clayton Davis, Barbie Sets Oscar Campaign for Original Screenplay – Will the Academy Agree?’, Variety, 13 September 2023 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 98

    Clayton Davis, ‘Oscars Shakeup: “Barbie” Moved to Adapted Screenplay by Academy Despite WGA Classification as Original’, Variety, 3 January 2024 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 100

    The Deadline Team (n 96).

  • 101

    Gibson (n 7).

  • 102

    WGA Credit Rules for Original Screenplays <>.

  • 103

    ibid. But as many have pointed out, the application of this definition is often less than clear, in that the narrative of a subject’s life is almost invariably reproduced in what are otherwise deemed original screenplays, such as one of this year’s contenders in the category, Maestro (2023), dir Bradley Cooper. See further,

    Alissa Wilkinson, Barbie is Adapted? Maestro Original? Let’s Fix the Screenplay Categories’, The New York Times, 24 January 2024 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 104

    WGA Credit Rules for Original Screenplays (n 101). See further Wilkinson (n 102).

  • 105

    Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).

  • 106

    Wilkinson (n 103).

  • 107

    9th Academy Awards of Merit. Complete Rules <>.

  • 108

    Schwanebeck Wieland , '‘Oscar’s Unrecognized Adaptations: Woody Allen and the Myth of the Original Screenplay’ ' (2014 ) 42 (1 ) Literature/Film Quarterly : 359 -72.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 109

    Foster Verna A , '‘White Woods and Blue Jasmine: Woody Allen Rewrites A Streetcar Named Desire ' (2015 ) 43 (3 ) Literature/Film Quarterly : 188 -201, 198.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 110

    Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).

  • 111

    Mr Beauregarde to Willy Wonka after Violet Beauregarde gets turned into a blueberry, in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).

  • 112

    For example, see

    Chris Stokel-Walker, ‘The Willy Wonka Experience’s Generative AI Debacle is Just the Start of our Nightmarish New Advertising Reality,’ Fast Company, 3 January 2024 <>.

    • Search Google Scholar
    • Export Citation
  • 113

    Flusser Vilem , Towards a Philosophy of Photography , (Reaktion Books , 2000 [1983] ) 14 -20.

  • 114

    ibid 15.

  • 115

    Rizzo Sergio , '‘(In)fidelity Criticism and the Sexual Politics of Adaptation ' (2008 ) 36 (4 ) Literature/Film Quarterly : 299 -314.

    at 311–12.

  • 116

    Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).

  • 117

    Flusser Vilem , Nancy Ann Roth (ed), Into the Universe of Technical Images , (University of Minnesota Press , 2011 [1985] ) 85.

  • 118

    ibid 85.

  • 119

    Gibson Johanna , Wanted, More Than Human Intellectual Property , (Routledge , ) forthcoming.

  • 120

    ‘Pure Imagination’ (music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley).

  • 121

    Willy Wonka to Charlie Bucket in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).

  • 122

    From ‘Pure Imagination’ (music and lyrics by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley). Original lyrics: ‘There is no life I know / To compare with pure imagination / Living there, you’ll be free / If you truly wish to be’ (performed by Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka, in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)).

  • 123

    Flusser (n 117) 95.

  • 124

    Willy Wonka in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).

  • 125

    Rancière Jacques , Gregory Elliott (ed), The Emancipated Spectator , (Verso , 2009 [2008] ) 22.

  • 126

    The answer printed by the computer in response to the Computer Operator’s ‘prompt’, ‘I am now telling the computer that, if it will tell me the correct answer, I will gladly share with it the grand prize’ in Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971).