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Like a Kid in a Sweetshop

Heston Blumenthal

In a world of pure imagination

Heston Blumenthal is arguably the Willy Wonka of fine dining. The 3 Michelin starred Fat Duck has been voted the Best Restaurant in the World, and is so popular (10,000 phone calls per day for just 48 covers!) that diners must call at least two months in advance to secure their golden ticket - a reservation. Ever the innovator, Heston wanted to reward those customers for their efforts and transform the reservation process into the start of a special journey.

Seeing an opportunity to build anticipation and whet the diner’s appetite, we worked with Heston to create an animated story that would conjure the essence of the Fat Duck for the customer during their two month wait, and offer them clues as to what they might encounter at the restaurant. It is an animated journey across an evocative landscape that begins with a reservation confirmation, or rather, an invitation...

Like a kid in a sweetshop

Heston's culinary alchemy lies in harnessing the power of memory and imagination to provoke surprise and delight, and making his diners feel "like a kid in a sweetshop".

With such a strong concept in mind, we wanted to create not just a piece of content, but an entire multi-sensory world of imagination to conjure up his exciting restaurant destination.

Introducing the sweetshop

Crafting the fat duck storyworld

The story of the The Fat Duck is told as an animated journey to a sweetshop, one which transports the diner through a number of evocative worlds inspired by the storytelling and juxtapositions inherent in Heston’s cuisine.

The different landscapes offer cues to the restaurant; glimpses, sights and sounds which will later resonate during the dining experience itself.

To craft these sensory landscapes we experimented with an array of production techniques from 2D, 3D, and stop frame animation, to digital special effects created from physical experiments. (We even built our own miniature beach!).

Each of these worlds lead to the next through dreamlike, impressionist choreography, moving the viewer along their journey.

3D breakdown

A multi sensory world of imagination

Heston’s world is multi sensory; it’s all about using sound and smell to play with perception and augment the dining experience. We referenced this multi sensory dimension in the project by using audio to alter perception. At the end of the journey when we enter the sweetshop, all visual stimuli is removed.

Instead diners enter a curious 3D binaural soundscape with narration by actor John Hurt as the sweetshop owner. Here visitors are encouraged to simply listen and imagine, to conjure personal images and childhood memories to create their own version of the sweetshop.

3D binaural soundscape

Bringing the sweetshop to life in the real world

To compliment the unique dining experience Heston has created at The Fat Duck, we wanted to find even more ways to link the virtual sweetshop to the real one.

One way was to create 3D prints of key characters from the animation, which could inhabit the restaurant as subtle memory triggers.

Augmented reality sweetshop

Another was to design an augmented reality card, which would put the sweet shop right in the hands of diners, and allow them to take home an interactive souvenir.

Diners leave the restaurant with a bag of sweets, bringing the journey full circle.

Like a Kid in a Sweetshop shows what becomes possible when you ask "what if?", and "why not?" When you extend the experience of a place beyond its four walls, and invite people to imagine with you.

The sweetshop is an exclusive reservation experience, so for the full effect you’ll have to go ahead and make a very special booking. You won’t be disappointed!

"I have to say when I first saw the animation I felt like a big kid, I was grinning cheek to cheek. I almost had a lump in my throat, I found it quite emotional. It was truly magical, it exceeded all my expectations."

Heston Blumenthal The Fat Duck