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Roald Dahl Day: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971)

Beloved children’s movie Willy Wonka and The Chocolate Factory is a cult movie.

I know, you are thinking exactly the same as me. How the hell is this even possible?  Like The Wizard of Oz or Nightmare Before Christmas, your most watched and favourites seem to have lacked that magical quality on first outing. In fact, this version of Roald Dahl’s classic and imaginative book panned, only developing over time due to video sales and television re-runs. Add this to the fact that Dahl openly disliked the movie because the script writer deviated from the main plot and feeling that it focused more on Wonka than Charlie (changing the name of the titular character was a big give away there.)

But I can bet everyone my age, the ages below me and those above (i.e. everyone,) loves this version and was pretty dismayed when it was later remade by Tim Burton in a stricter to the book adaptation. This will always be a treasured mind-fuck of a movie and it is largely down to late Gene Wilder’s spellbinding performance.

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For those who don’t know about this film for whatever reasons of insanity that you don’t, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is about a young poor boy named Charlie Bucket. Living in a town and near a chocolate factory, and having just one bar of that brown creamy goodness a year while the rest of the children lord it up on the high life. When the mysterious own of the chocolate factory, full of wonderful sweets, decides to open his private work to five lucky children if they can find a golden ticket in his bars. As poor as Charlie is, that seems hopeless until he finds a penny on the floor, buys some chocolate and finds a shimmering slice of gold hope.

This musical affair is one of the top movies of childhood. It truly captures how it felt to dream. Resting on the moral element, it tells us that being good and kind hearted will get your goals no matter how down trodden you are, that nastiness will be vindicated. And then you enter this factory and it is full colours, music and everything is edible! The inventions! The flavours and slide off the screen! Chocolate bars sent via television! Lickable wallpaper! Gene Wilder’s piercing blue eyes!

It’s a feast of imagination.

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Watching it now as an adult and there is still that rush of giddiness. While you can appreciate the initial hesitation and the uproar from film critics. Not only is it a huge sugar rush of a movie but there are some truly bat-shit insane moments that make you cringe as you grow up. Neverthless, it is rocked by Gene Wilder’s epic performance (a man who could do no wrong.) The dreamlike scenarios while being careful to not patronise the children and in fact blame the adults for the spoiled brattish behaviour. And with the numbers that go from uplifting to, let’s face it, downright terrifying (if you didn’t have nightmares from the boat scene, then you are a fat liar.)

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is getting a lot of love back from when it failed before. A lot. It’s become a part of a culture, where everyone knows Oompa Lompas are orange faced and a golden ticket is find something rare and beautiful. And while we all adored the books and Dahl, we can’t help but feel that this film was our complete childhood.

So come with me…..and you’ll see….


Happy Roald Dahl Day!

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