Question: What do you get when you combine a whole lot of chocolate and brilliant engineering skills? Answer: A Choco-tabulator. That’s the visually scrumptious new monster machine that WONKA just rolled out in Times Square. It’s 16 feet wide, 8 feet tall, and constructed with 16,000 pieces of chocolate. And wait for it…it creates 3D golden tickets. And ready? If you buy a Wonka bar that contains a Golden Ticket, you’ll get paid $100,000 to eat Wonka chocolate for a day. Can you say mmmm-mmmm?
To create the genius Golden Ticket machine, WONKA teamed up with Syyn Labs – they’re the super brains behind everything from the oh so popular OK Go! music video This Too Shall Pass (30 million views…and counting)….to the monstrously inventive Science Fair themed Rube Goldberg machine for Google. Seriously, they’re double genius engineers.
Syyn Labs masterminds Hector Alvarez, creative art director, and Mike Russek, Lead Designer, took a time out from Syyn Labs life and Wonka engineering madness to share the delicious behind the scenes action of creating the Choco-tabulator.
MM: 16,000 pieces of chocolate were used to build this machine. Question: Are you allergic to chocolate?
Hector Alvarez: No, we’re not allergic to chocolate.
MM: Creating the Choco-tabulator sounds grueling. What was the biggest challenge?
HA: For starters, the Willy Wonka brand name alone carries a legacy of imagination. So, we knew we had to pull out all of the stops. The Choco-tabulator had to look amazing and work right. It was just a matter of finding a way to do that.
Mike Russek: Yeah, it had to look otherworldy and at the same time, a lot of it is based on how things work.
MM: What was the most difficult ingredient to work with?
HA: I’d say the Triple Dazzle Caramel Bar. We had to incorporate that and Wonka’s other 3 signature chocolates into a machine that runs every 15 minutes for 3 months. Which meant we couldn’t use ingredients that would dry up or evaporate. So, we explored every different ingredient and its properties.
MR: One of our elements was a chocolate waterfall. The chocolate we were using kept evaporating. So, instead we had to get creative and go with a material that’s usually used as a thickener in shampoos.
MM: Before you built the Choco-tabulator, did you watch “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” a million times to get inspired?
MR: The everlasting gobstopper machine was my inspiration.
HA: No, we didn’t have a screening. But everyone did their research. The main video inspiration was Wonka’s YouTube site, where we got to explore illusions and digital effects. We were focused on making this thing fanciful and magical.
MM: Syyn Labs has recently created two powerhouse machines….One for OK Go’s “This Too Shall Pass” music video….And recently a Google machine. What’s your process when you start any machine?
HA: It starts with what the assignment is. For the Wonka machine, we wanted to create a digital golden ticket for Wonka. Once we had the purpose, we got to the story part. We brainstormed how to use the 4 Wonka bars to create a digital golden ticket. It made storyboarding really fun.
MR: The end product is that we have a machine that not only makes things explode, and makes lasers melt chocolate…It also is a big physical machine that turns things from digital to physical back to digital. Also, it’s cool that it creates 3D golden tickets, and you don’t need 3D glasses to see them.
MM: Any plans for another 30 million views OK Go! machine in the works?
HA: We’d love to work with OK Go! again. No plans right now. We’re moving in a lot of directions right now on a lot of different, exciting projects.
MM: Working at Syyn Labs sounds dreamy. What does it take to become a Syyn Lab-er?
HA: We get a lot of talented people contacting us all the time, but in the end, meeting people in person is best. We have a monthly event called HackerBrunch where you can bring projects to us. Mike met us that way. During the hacker brunch, we see what talent is out there and how they solve things. It’s a really creative company to work for.