The world is astounded when Willy Wonka, for years a recluse in his factory, announces that five lucky people will be given a tour of the factory, shown all the secrets of his amazing candy, and one will win a lifetime supply of Wonka chocolate. Nobody wants the prize more than young Charlie, but as his family is so poor that buying even one bar of chocolate is a treat, buying enough bars to find one of the five golden tickets is unlikely in the extreme. But in movieland, magic can happen. Charlie, along with four somewhat odious other children, get the chance of a lifetime and a tour of the factory. Along the way, mild disasters befall each of the odious children, but can Charlie beat the odds and grab the brass ring?
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a truly magnificent piece of filmmaking and remains one of the most fascinating and wonderful adventure films ever made. One of the things that makes this film so intriguing is that it could have been made at any time. I mean, just from watching it, you can’t really tell when it was made. It has been one of my favorite films for almost 20 years now, and it wasn’t until today that I actually realized when it was made. Watching it again last night, I had convinced myself that it was made sometime in the early to mid 80s, and I was shocked to find out that this year is the movie’s 30 year anniversary. Until now, pretty much the only movie I associate with 1971 is A Clockwork Orange, and it’s just strange for some reason to find out that this classic movie was made so long ago.
At any rate, Willy Wonka is a tremendously imaginative and inspiring film. It’s a family film, but one of the most important aspects of a family film is that it has to be enjoyable for a variety of ages. This is what makes movies like Toy Story and Shrek such huge successes- the adults will love it just as much as the kids are sure to. Hence: `family’ film. On the other hand, this is also the downfall of such other movies that are strictly for a much younger audience, like Cats & Dogs. The makers of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory understood this very well, and you can see that just by the way that the cast is divided. Here are all of these kids (funny how it was only kids who found those golden tickets…) who were at this candy factory, and they had each elected to bring one of their parents with them as the one admissible member of their family who was allowed by Wonka to accompany them to the factory.
One of the best elements of this film is the excellently written script and, even more, the songs. These are some of the best songs in any movie ever made, rivaling even the best of the songs from Disney’s films (hey, some of them are really good…). There are, of course, some exceptions, such as `Cheer up, Charlie,’ which I have been fast-forwarding through for as long as I can remember, but for the most part, the songs are fun to listen to and they pertain to life outside the movie. They are not just songs about the candy-making genius of Willy Wonka or the excitement of being able to tour his mysterious factory, but they are about life in the real world. They’re about believing in yourself and being motivated in life (`Anything you want to, do it. Want to change the world, there’s nothing to it…’), but there are also some that have to do mostly with the movie but are still just as enjoyable, such as the classic song that Wonka sings in the tunnel on board his boat (curiously named `Wonkatania’), which was creepily covered by Marilyn Manson a couple of decades later.
The dialogue in the film contains some of the most interesting little tidbits in the entire movie. Wonka’s lines, in particular, are wonderfully strange and amusing (`A little nonsense now and then is cherished by the wisest men.’). He is a truly eccentric and fascinating man, and Gene Wilder captures the character flawlessly, as he delivers the lines from the brilliantly written script. Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is one of those rare movies that comes along and completely changes the way that fantasy films are made. It’s all about having fun in life and being hopeful against all odds and, most of all, being able to have fun in life. There are times when you have to let things go for a while and just act like a kid. Eat candy, run around and play, steal fizzy lifting drinks and bump into the ceiling that now has to be washed and sterilized, it doesn’t matter as long as no one’s looking. That’s such a trivial little quirk of Wonka’s (who sterilizes their ceiling?) that it becomes obvious that the movie is trying to say that it’s okay to break the rules every once in a while. Have fun in life.
Besides being absolutely mouth-watering (to this day, I still fantasize about sinking my teeth into one of those gigantic gummy bears), the movie is an uplifting adventure that warms the heart and sends people of all ages away with fairy tale candies dancing in their heads and wonderful songs just behind their lips. It is an always-welcome vacation from reality for people of all ages, and it should always be remembered and loved for that. This movie will ALWAYS be a must-see.
The idea for adapting the book into a film came about when director Mel Stuart’s ten-year-old daughter read the book and asked her father to make a film out of it, with “Uncle Dave” (producer David L. Wolper) producing it.
Stuart showed the book to Wolper, who happened to be in the midst of talks with the Quaker Oats Company regarding a vehicle to introduce a new candy bar from their Chicago-based Breaker Confections subsidiary (since renamed the Willy Wonka Candy Company and sold to Nestlé). Wolper persuaded the company, who had no previous experience in the film industry, to buy the rights to the book and finance the picture for the purpose of promoting a new Quaker Oats Wonka Bar.
It was agreed that the film would be a children’s musical, and that Dahl himself would write the screenplay. However, the title was changed to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.
Screenwriter David Seltzer conceived a gimmick exclusively for the film that had Wonka quoting numerous literary sources, such as Arthur O’Shaughnessy‘s Ode, Oscar Wilde‘s The Importance of Being Earnest, Samuel Taylor Coleridge‘s The Rime of the Ancient Mariner and William Shakespeare‘s The Merchant of Venice. Seltzer also worked Slugworth (only mentioned as a rival candy maker in the book) into the plot as an actual character (only to be revealed to be Wilkinson, one of Wonka’s agents, at the end of the film)..
All six members of Monty Python: Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Eric Idle, Terry Gilliam, Terry Jones and Michael Palin, expressed interest in playing Wonka, but at the time they were deemed not big enough names for an international audience. Three of the members, Cleese, Idle and Palin, were later seriously considered for the same role in Tim Burton’s version.
Before Wilder was officially cast for the role, Fred Astaire, Joel Grey, Ron Moody and Jon Pertwee were all considered.Spike Milligan was Roald Dahl’s original choice to play Willy Wonka. Peter Sellers even begged Dahl for the role.
When Wilder was cast for the role, he accepted it on one condition:
When I make my first entrance, I’d like to come out of the door carrying a cane and then walk toward the crowd with a limp. After the crowd sees Willy Wonka is a cripple, they all whisper to themselves and then become deathly quiet. As I walk toward them, my cane sinks into one of the cobblestones I’m walking on and stands straight up, by itself; but I keep on walking, until I realize that I no longer have my cane. I start to fall forward, and just before I hit the ground, I do a beautiful forward somersault and bounce back up, to great applause.Gene Wilder
The reason why Wilder wanted this in the film was that “from that time on, no one will know if I’m lying or telling the truth.”
Jean Stapleton turned down the role of Mrs. Teevee. Jim Backus was considered for the role of Sam Beauregarde. Sammy Davis, Jr. wanted to play Bill, the candy store owner, but Stuart did not like the idea because he felt that the presence of a big star in the candy store scene would break the reality. Anthony Newley also wanted to play Bill, but Stuart also objected to this for the same reason.
Principal photography commenced on 30 April 1970, and ended on 19 November 1970. The primary shooting location was Munich, Bavaria, West Germany, because it was significantly cheaper than filming in the United States and the setting was conducive to Wonka’s factory; Stuart also liked the ambiguity and unfamiliarity of the location. External shots of the factory were filmed at the gasworks of Stadtwerke München (Emmy-Noether-Straße 10); the entrance and side buildings still exist. The exterior of Charlie Bucket’s house, which was only a set constructed for the film, was filmed at Quellenstraße in Munich, Bavaria. Charlie’s school was filmed at Katholisches Pfarramt St. Sylvester, Biedersteiner Straße 1 in Munich. Bill’s Candy Shop was filmed at Lilienstraße, Munich. The closing sequence when the Wonkavator is flying above the factory is footage of Nördlingen in Bavaria.
Willy Wonka was released on 30 June 1971. The film was not a big success, being the fifty-third highest-grossing film of the year in the U.S., earning just over $2.1 million on its opening weekend, although it received positive reviews from critics such as Roger Ebert, who compared it to The Wizard of Oz.
Seeing no significant financial advantage, Paramount decided against renewing its distribution deal for the film when it expired in 1977. Later that year, Warner Communications, the then-parent company of Warner Bros., acquired Wolper Pictures, Ltd., which led to Quaker Oats selling its share of the film’s rights to Warner Bros. for $500,000 at the same time.
By the mid-1980s, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory had experienced a spike in popularity thanks in large part to repeated television broadcasts and home video sales. Following a 25th anniversary theatrical re-release in 1996, it was released on DVD the next year, allowing it to reach a new generation of viewers. The film was released as a remastered special edition on DVD and VHS in 2001 to commemorate the film’s 30th anniversary. In 2003, Entertainment Weekly ranked it 25th in the “Top 50 Cult Movies” of all time.
Warner’s ownership of the film helped them get the rights to make a new version in 2005, named Charlie and the Chocolate Factory after the original book, as well as a stage musical adaptation that had its premiere in London in 2013.
As of 2016, the film holds an 89% “Fresh” rating on Rotten Tomatoes with the critical consensus stating “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is strange yet comforting, full of narrative detours that don’t always work but express the film’s uniqueness”.
Willy Wonka was ranked No. 74 on Bravo‘s 100 Scariest Movie Moments for the “scary tunnel” scene.
Dahl disowned the film, the script of which was partially rewritten by David Seltzer after Dahl failed to meet deadlines. Dahl said he was “disappointed” because “he thought it placed too much emphasis on Willy Wonka and not enough on Charlie”, as well as the casting of Gene Wilder instead of Spike Milligan. He was also “infuriated” by the deviations in the plot Seltzer devised in his draft of the screenplay, including the conversion of Slugworth, a minor character in the book, into a spy (so that the movie could have a villain) and the “fizzy lifting drinks” scene.
The film made its television debut on 23 November 1975 on NBC. There was a little controversy with the showing as the Oakland Raiders vs Washington Redskins (26-23) Football game went into overtime, and the first 40 minutes of the movie were cut. The film placed 19th in the TV Ratings for the week ending 23 Nov, beating out The Streets of San Francisco and Little House on the Prairie. The next TV showing of the film was on 2 May 1976, where it placed 46th in the ratings. Some TV listings indicate the showing was part of the World of Disney time slot.
So shines a good deed in a weary world.
Author: Spikeopath from United Kingdom
10 December 2010
The world goes on chocolate overdrive when it’s announced that famed candy maker, Willy Wonka, has put five golden tickets in his Wonka Bars. The lucky recipients of these tickets will be treated to a day out in the top secret Wonka factory, where they can see how the sweets are made, and if they are even luckier, they will get a lifetimes supply of free chocolate.
Nobody wants a golden ticket more than Charlie Bucket, from a desperately poor family, Charlie has learned to accept his heritage with a grace and credibility not befitting most other children. So when a miracle upon miracles happens, and Charlie finds a golden ticket, it just may prove to be a turning point far beyond his wildest dreams.
They say that true love lasts a lifetime, so shall it be the case with Willy Wonka and myself. As a child I was captivated by the colours, the dream of myself being able to visit a magical place where sweets and chocolate roll off the production line purely for my ingestion. Songs that I memorised back in my youth have never left me, and now as a considerably middle aged adult male, I can still embrace, and feel the magic, whilst enjoying the darkly knowing aspects of this fabulous and wondrous black comedy.
Roald Dahl was quite a writer of note, and thankfully the makers here have brought his astute morality tale to vivid cinematic life. Director Mel Stuart, aided by his screenwriter David Seltzer, even manage to add to Dahl’s wonderful story courtesy of a sinister outsider, who apparently in the guise of a rival corporation, will pay handsomely for a Wonka top secret, morality, greed and power all coming together in one big chocolate explosion. The greatest gift that Willy Wonka gives, tho, is that of the set designs and art direction, where in an almost hypnotically drug induced colourful world, Wonka’s factory is a child’s dream come true, however, peril is at every turn as life’s lessons dolled out courtesy of the scarily cute Oompa Loompas.
Songs are provided by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricuse, with the sumptuous art coming from Harper Goff. Gene Wilder takes the lead role of Willy Wonka, magnetic and bordering on clued in madness, Wilder takes his rightful place in the pantheon of memorable performances performed in fantasy pictures. But ultimately it’s the story and the way it appeals to every age group that makes Willy Wonka a prize treasure, the kids love it, while the adults watching with them will be wryly nodding and trying to suppress the onset of a devilish grin.
Pure magic is Willy Wonka, see it now in High Definition TV to fully realise the dream/nightmare on offer, oh oh I love it so. 10/10
If this movie sucks, then I’m a vernicious canid. (spoilers)
Author: Pepper Anne from Orlando, Florida
3 April 2005
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory’ has withstood the test of time. And though quite dated, it is still a widely enjoyed film (with good reason!).
This movie had a magnificent performance by Gene Wilder as Wonka, a wonderful story and great art direction for its day as they brought all of the awesome things at the Wonka factory to life (how cool it would be if you could actually go to a place like that), to being a superb musical.
The story is that of a famed chocolate manufacturer, Willy Wonka, who’s factory is a magical secret that was shut down when competing candy companies kept trying to infiltrate the factory with their spies who wanted hold of the ingredients that made Wonka’s candy the most novel and ultimately, the most novel. Of course, Wonka has a change of heart, and decides to hold a contest whereby the people who can find one of the five golden tickets randomly (maybe, all of the winners were conveniently children, four of which had horrible manners) in Wonka candy. It could be anywhere.
One by one, it seems that the tickets are being found, particularly by obnoxious kids who are all about the same age. (Veruca Salt, the most horrid and funniest of them all, would later inspire a late 90s alternative band). The selfish British brat, the slothy German boy, the record gumchewer with the sleazy car salesman father, and the boy who lives in front of the television. And there’s only one ticket left. Meanwhile, a pathetic, depressed little boy named Charlie Bucket wants nothing more than to get hold of one of those tickets and witness the magic of the Wonka factory. Well, cheer up Charlie, because its about to happen.
The trip in Wonka is more than just an invitation for unrivaled fun, however. It is a test. One of Wonka’s rivals known as Slugworth, has promised a valuable sum to each of the children who steal from Wonka one of his newest inventions — an Everlasting Gobstopper– so that his company might steal the ingredients. Will all remain loyal to Slugworth?
This is one of Gene Wilder’s best performances, perfectly making the Wonka character his own. This was also the movie that introduced to the world the cautionary cult favorite midgets known as the Oompa Loompas, slaves who were rescued by Wonka to…well serve as his slaves. And, serving as a brief psychedelic inject into the events in the factory, make the lessons learned more obvious than they could have already been.
Charlie Bucket’s character, however, could not be written to be more pathetic, as though the filmmakers were absolutely sure that this was the kid you had the most sympathy for. From the mother working in the laundry hand-washing clothes, to the bare one room house and the enormous bed shared by all of the grandparents with counterpart names, to Charlie’s constantly furrowed brow and curled lip.
But, aside from this minor flaw, the movie has so many memorable things about it. I particularly like the Dr. Suess-esque setting. I can see why Tim Burton might be asked to be the next to recreate the story of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, as the original looked like his style to begin with (like the foamy float machine or the bizarre sequence where Wonka appears to go momentarily mad). Nonetheless, may the legacy of the first live on for years to come. It is still one of the greatest family films ever made.