Wonka Choco-Tabulator

Wonka Machine by Syyn Labs from Syyn Labs on Vimeo.

A complex animatronic machine installed in Times Square for Wonka Candy.

A Syyn Labs project.

[from: syynlabs.com]

Recently, we were invited to produce a new machine for the store window of Willy Wonka’s store-within-a-store at the Toys R Us in Times Square, New York. The project concept was straightfoward – produce a machine that announced and promoted their Golden Ticket promotion. But this is for Wonka. We had to do something very, very special.

We enlisted the assistance of the extremely talented artist, sculptor and designer, Mike Russek, to collaborate with on the overall design of the machine and the creation of it’s “skin”. But Mike took it one step further. He suggested that magic could be achieved by handing off between the physical world and the digital, combining them in a unique and truly spectacular way. This is an essential idea – the core backbone of the machine. Working closely with our own Creative Director, Hector Alvarez, they developed a series of machine components that twisted expectations, handed off physical interactions to digital animations.

“We’re known for the physical interaction, and for doing excting interactive work in the digital realm,” said Alvarez. “But we’re combining them in an unprecendented way, thanks to Mike’s inspiration.”

Syyn Labs president, Adam Sadowsky said, “This isn’t purely commerce, nor is it purely art. It’s the combination of the two for which we’re increasingly becoming known. We couldn’t be more thrilled with this machine and the partnership with Mike.”

We also enlisted the help of the extraordinary animation skills of Todd Moyer to produce the 8 extraordinary individual triggerable animations, and the folks at Exceptional3D to help us create a magnificent 3D animation for their 46″ glasses-free 3D display.

Then we brought in talented ball machine sculptor, Matt Gaulton, to work his magic building dozens of feet of fantastic, looping, circling, wacky wavy ball machine track.

Once these elements of the team were put together, Mike went to work. Producing what seems like acres of elegant, Wonka-inspired laser-cut plexiglass, CNC milled woodwork, gorgeous cabinetry, etched logos, the machine now had a beautiful skin.

But there’s much more than skin to this contraption. Dubbed the “Chocoencabulator”, this machine needs brains and muscles to control it’s movement, flow, and trigger the many events and lights. For the higher thinking, our Syyn Labs regulars, Lead Engineer Eric Gradman and his new sidekick, Robb Godshaw, went to work writing code and making magic out of motors, switches and computers. Their work allows the transition between the physical and digital and back again happen – indeed, happen so elegantly. Of course, as usual, Eric played roles advising on many of the components – his contributions, and those of his henchman, Robb are too numerous to count.

Sequencing the whole set of events of the final machine is done with the help of our own Mark “Quin” Cabalquinto, who brings his years of experience with show control to bear on this machine that will have to repeat each event precisely, with milisecond timing, every ten minutes for more than three months.