This weekend, one of the TV channels showed the 1971 classic, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, in memory of the late Gene Wilder.
It’s one of those films that whenever it is on, even if it has started, you can sit and watch it. In part, due to the excellent central performance of Gene as Willy Wonka.
It is a simple premise, Wonka, a master chocolatier who makes the world’s finest candy, does so from a chocolate factory, that no one goes in or out of, as staff when employed from the outside world, are always stealing his secret recipes.
A contest is set up to invite 5 children with a parent to visit the factory, and get a supply of chocolate. The premise being Wonka is getting older and is looking for an apprentice that he can teach to run the factory when he can no longer do so.
The tickets will be won by all sorts of children, who use whatever resources they have to them. In both cases, Charlie Bucket, a child born to poverty, will show Wonka that having strong values such as honesty and not being spoilt are what is needed to replace him.
Whilst the other children, who have values such as greed, and have been spoilt growing up will end up with nothing, other than lessons learned.
Whilst he worked on the script, Roald Dahl who wrote the book the film it was based on, was pretty negative about the film. The film itself, though hard to believe, was a bit of a flop and only found an audience when it found its way to video!
The rest is history and the film is now loved by millions so in 2005, there was uproar, when it was announced the film was to be remade by BMAF favourite director; Tim Burton.
His version would be released under the actual book title, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, and it is generally considered inferior to the 1971 classic.
However, having watched the original recently, we felt we should watch the remake again, which we enjoy so not exactly a hardship, (it is actually the only version of the 2 films we own) and by chance we watched it on the 13th September, which happened to be Roald’s birthday and has subsequently been named Roald Dahl Day
So where do we stand? Well to be fair, we think that whilst the story is familiar in both, they are also in our opinion, completely different.
The 1971 version plays more as a musical, whereas the 2005 version is more a film with Oompa Loompa songs thrown in, following the perils of the golden ticket winners
The one thing both films have in common is fantastic central performances from Wonka, Wilder plays him as fun and scary at the same time, whereas Johnny Depp plays him as a weirder, more childlike character.
For both, clearly they have issues with trusting the outside world, so it is no wonder they are slightly odd for living in a huge chocolate factory, with no human contact other than Oompa Loompas to keep them company.
Yet both films deal with this in different ways, the 71 version focuses on Wonka’s anger at having his products stolen and has got paranoid about it, hence his setting up of the Slugworth test!
The ‘05 centres on Wonka’s childhood, his dad was a dentist (Christopher Lee) who despised chocolate and young Willy runs away after discovering chocolate is something to love.
Both films have an excellent child lead in Charlie, Peter Ostrum was great in the original and it is a shame that he never acted again, whereas Freddie Highmore (reteaming with Depp after working together in Finding Neverland) is also great, and still wowing audiences today, probably now more known as Norman Bates in the TV spin off of Psycho; ‘Bates Mote’.
Both have great supporting casts for Charlie’s family, especially in Grandpa Joe who will accompany Charlie to the factory. Jack Albertson in 1971 and David Kelly in 2005.
The only real difference to the family is the original shows him as being brought up by a single parent, with his 4 grandparents. Whereas 2005, Charlie still has a dad who works in a toothpaste factory!
The original has incredibly catchy songs from (I’ve got a) Golden Ticket & Pure Imagination, from writers Anthony Newley & Leslie Bricusse, it also welcomes you to sing along with words on screen prompting you, during the various Ooompa Loompa songs after each child is eliminated from the tour.
Burton’s version goes for various different musical genres for the Oompa Loompa songs, all written and performed by Danny Elfman.
The original chose to portray Oompa Loompas with small actors and it works, but Burton used only one actor, Deep Roy, and used CGI to duplicate the many that live in the factory. With them all looking the same, this did feel closer to the book.
Burton’s version also brings in squirrels from the book to test for bad nuts for the elimination of Veruca Salt, the original went for a goose laying chocolate eggs!
The original had the Slugworth sub plot which is not featured in Burton’s. Whilst the plot does work to test Charlie, it also means we have to have the lifting lemonade sequence, which breaks Wonka’s rules, and we can’t imagine Charlie would have done that!
If we were to rate them, we would both say they are 5 star films! We love the musical aspects of the original, Gene Wilder is superb, yet we also love the Tim Burton version just as much, with him directing it is a visual treat, the imagery looks superb, you can clearly tell, not only with advances in CGI but he also had a bigger budget to the stage show appearance of the original.
We felt Burton’s version is closer to the book too, although we are not too sure of the new additions to the film, we were not keen on the Christopher Lee sub plot if honest!
We would sooner have seen more of Depp’s adventures to find new chocolates, it is here where we learn how he met the Oompas.
I guess if we had to eliminate one, we would delete Burton’s as we know he would have made another great film for us to enjoy, but we are glad they both exist so luckily deleting one would be ‘pure imagination‘ =)
The book remains a children’s classic, inspiring a stage musical and a sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, which has never made it to the big screen to this date.
Do you like both films? Which would get your golden ticket to secure your admission? What is your favourite adaptation of Roald’s work? We would love to hear from you
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