It’s the ultimate delectable thrill for chocolate lovers: the Great Chocolate Factory Mystery in 4D, a first-of-its-kind interactive extravaganza that debuted in spring 2013 at Hershey’s Chocolate World theme park in Pennsylvania.
What makes this show groundbreaking? The Great Chocolate Factory Mystery in 4D combines a 3D movie with live digital puppetry and an ever-changing sequence of plot points. No two performances are exactly the same!
Seated in a theatre, audience members take part in thwarting the evil Victor Von Sour while watching live feeds from multiple surveillance cameras within the chocolate factory. Guests interact in real time with their favorite animated Hershey’s characters – choosing from over 100 plot variations to help save the day.
This mind-bending 21st Century adventure is the result of a creative collaboration between Hershey’s Chocolate World, Granaroli Design & Entertainment, and Jim Henson’s Creature Shop and its award-winning Henson Digital Puppetry Studio.
The executives at Hershey’s Chocolate World wanted to create a theatrical experience that would wow today’s tech-savvy family audiences.
To appeal to new and repeat visitors, they wanted to use characters that were audience favorites, plus introduce new characters, and stage the show in their existing 4D (film and sensory effects) theatre slated for major renovation.
Familiar with the Creature Shop’s world-renowned character design and puppet wizardry, and our proprietary digital puppetry technology, lead contractor Granaroli Design & Entertainment reached out to us as a creative partner.
Phase One: Ready for Their Close-Up
Our first goal was developing characters that stayed true to the Hershey brand. We started with paper sketches for the favorites (Hershey, Kiss, Reese) and new ones (Twizzler, Jolly Rancher, Ice Breaker, Von Sour, and the No-Bots). Then it was on to digital models – the stage when our designers perfect subtle nuances (e.g., the flow of the paper strip on top of Kiss) to ensure each character’s signature identity. Next was rigging the Maya character files onto our digital puppetry hardware and software system.
Concurrently, our team was designing digital environments. To maintain visual authenticity, we used actual reference images and past ad campaigns that featured the Hershey’s chocolate factory.
Phase Two: Hershey, Meet Hollywood
The show’s pre-recorded segments were produced at our historic Hollywood soundstage, featuring the latest Motion Capture technology along with the Henson Digital Puppetry Studio. The Hershey team stayed closely involved, reviewing dailies and visiting the lot for a first-hand look.
When production was completed, we installed our digital puppetry hardware and software system into the 4D theatre in Hershey, PA.
Phase Three: Calling a Few Good Puppeteers
Digital puppeteering requires the same skills and talents as traditional soft puppeteering. Due to this show’s unique requirements, the casting call also sought applicants who were videogame literate and could do improv. We helped Hershey train the puppeteers, so they became familiar with the characters and plot lines, plus skilled at running our digital puppetry rigs. With this know-how, the puppeteers bring freshness and spontaneity to every digital performance!
A Lasting Commitment: To ensure our rigs are always performance-ready,
we provide Hershey with a flexible, customized maintenance plan including remote and on-site service.
Seeing awe-struck audience members interact with digital Hershey characters in real time, on a theatrical scale never before imagined, has been a thrill for our client and the entire creative team. It’s also a tantalizing look into the future of live digital puppetry and its myriad possibilities!