For a film that was originally funded in part to promote a new candy bar, it’s pretty remarkable that Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory has enjoyed a longevity few movies can match. Commemorating the picture’s 50th anniversary, Warner Bros. Home Entertainment will be releasing the imaginative movie on Ultra HD Blu-ray for the first time on June 29. To celebrate, we’re taking a look at some of our favorite aspects from this magical movie musical.
There’s a reason the Condescending Wonka meme exists. Wonka is a darkly comedic character who makes casually cruel, catty, and sarcastic remarks, often with a smile. “The suspense is terrible. I hope it’ll last,” he says, while watching a child drowning in a chocolate river, nibbling on a piece of candy. He’s also quite elusive. From his riddles to his evasive one-liners, there’s a sense that Wonka’s aware of, and taking pleasure in, the confusion he causes, but you’re never quite sure where he stands.
And that was the intent. Gene Wilder, who delivers a truly transcendent performance as Wonka, spoke about how he accepted the role on one condition: the character’s entrance. In the film, Wonka slowly emerges from his factory, walking down a red carpet with a limp and a cane, before suddenly rolling into a forward somersault with a small hop back up. Wilder explains this was done so that the viewer never knew whether Wonka was telling the truth.
Despite Wonka’s menacing qualities, there is a lightness that shines through the darkness. Chalk it up to Wilder’s characteristic warmth as an actor. Plus, you gotta love anyone who can rock a purple coat like that.
The Special Effects
The Wonka Wash. The moving-hand coat hangers. The entire “Pure Imagination” sequence. “Violet! You’re turning violet, Violet!” Then there’s the psychedelic boat ride down a terrifying tunnel. The film features so many innovative and iconic visuals. It’s easy to see why Willy Wonka has gone on to be a classic despite its initial lack of commercial success.
While some criticize the film’s opening for being too slow, the first act’s vignettes are underrated. These short scenes showcase how badly the general public (behaves and) want to get their hands on one of Wonka’s golden tickets and the chance to win a lifetime supply of chocolate.
One scene sees a woman weigh whether she wants to pay a ransom to save her husband. The cost? Her case of Wonka Bars. Another scene sees an innovator give a failed demonstration. He tries to use a computer to pinpoint the locations of the last remaining golden tickets. The computer refuses to cooperate, telling him “that would be cheating.”
These antics perfectly contrast with the story’s hero, Charlie Bucket.
Charlie Bucket is just so darn likeable. He wants a golden ticket so badly, but he instead uses his payday to buy his incredibly impoverished family a loaf of bread. He shares his birthday chocolate. He offers to pay for his Grandpa Joe’s tobacco. He helps his mother out at work. But he isn’t perfect.
Some have taken issue with new elements that were introduced in the film, including author Roald Dahl, who wrote the original children’s novel from which the film was adapted. One of these scenes includes Charlie stealing a sip of Wonka’s Fizzy Lifting Drinks. But we’re going to argue that this was the right choice. For one, unlike the other children who fall to temptation, this was not Charlie’s idea. It was Grandpa Joe’s. The first act establishes that Charlie will do anything to please his family, especially his beloved Grandpa Joe.
Secondly, this makes Charlie winning the lifetime supply of chocolate – and the entire factory – all the more meaningful. Rather than take the Everlasting Gobstopper with him to sell to the film’s ostensible villain, he places the candy on Wonka’s desk, despite Grandpa Joe urging him to do otherwise. In other words, Charlie doesn’t win simply by default after all the other children are eliminated; he wins because of his integrity.
Can we just say that Veruca Salt is perfect in every way? Really, where's the Wonka-Salt spinoff series we all deserve?
A lot has been said about Grandpa Joe. Some viewers love him; some think he’s an absolute slimeball. What’s more interesting is imagining a world in which Grandpa Joe headlined Warped Tour. “I never thought my life could be anything but catastrophe” sounds like the title to a shelved My Chemical Romance album. We mean that in a good way.
The Musical Numbers
Which leads us to the music. They really, really don’t make ‘em like they used to. From “The Candy Man” to Julie Dawn Cole’s brilliant performance in “I Want It Now!” to the aforementioned “Pure Imagination” and especially the “Oompa Loompa” ditties that serve as the film’s moralistic refrains, the musical numbers add a ton of charm to a film already brimming with character.
If it’s been a while, or you’ve somehow never seen it before, take the opportunity to look back at this everlasting classic. Looking for more? Visit the Cadia Crossing blog, where you can find local tips, lifestyle advice, and plenty more entertainment.