Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Dahl Week Day 2: I've Got A Golden Ticket

Well, since we are devoting the entire week to everything Roald Dahl, it would be pitiful to forget about what is perhaps Dahl's most memorable and well known tale. You might have heard of it. It's about a little boy who wins a contest and gets to explore the inner depths of a reclusive candy maker's factory. You know what I'm talking about. It's of course Dahl's 1964 fantasy, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, a delicious adventure that makes a lot of us crave candy bars. What's most interesting about Dahl's classic is that it was inspired by real life candy makers and their actions. During Dahl's childhood, the candy company known as Cadbury would send samples of candy to his school, and the students would eat the candy and express their opinions on them. Dahl was also inspired to write the tale because of the way candy companies would often try to steal each others' recipes and candy making formulas. Britain's two biggest candy manufacturers at the time, Cadbury and Rowntree's would send spies (disguised as employees) to each others' factories and they would try to obtain candy making secrets exclusive to each company. The factories were also known for their giant candy making machines, something that would inspire Willy Wonka's crazy contraptions in the novel.

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (book cover).jpg

Either way you put it, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is, in many people's eyes, Dahl's grand opus. When you hear the title and see the original cover for the book with the delicious candy bar popping out so realistically, your mouth waters for something sweet and chocolately. I remember one time when I was very young and my brother borrowed the book (an original copy) from the school library. Being so young, I LITERALLY tried to eat the candy bar on the book's cover, before my brother saw me and my delicate face met his hand. Looking back, I can't believe I would attempt something so foolish, but can you blame me? Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the very definition of a sweet treat and a tale that leaves you with a grandiose feeling inside. It, in many ways, gives you a feeling of hope and goes to show that good things come to good people, often when they least expect it. Another moral of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is that when the going gets rough, keep going. A delicious thing could await you at the end of the road! 

I would sit here and talk about the entire plot of the story, but most of you probably know it like the back of your hand. Like L. Frank Baum's The Wizard of Oz, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has been burnt into our retinas and the images it has to offer stick out in our brains and cannot be washed away. It is quite obvious that many of us (including myself) never even read the book and were instead introduced to the tale through the 1971 Mel Stuart masterpiece, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. That film, like the legendary movie adaptation of Baum's story, has gone down in many of our books as one of our all time favorite motion pictures. I myself believe the film to be extremely underrated, for when societies like the American Film Institute make a list of the Greatest Films of All Time or the Greatest Fantasy Films of All Time, this film and it's remarkable songs often miss the list (although the film was nominated). But Stuart's Wonka is still eminent in countless ways and I can't even begin to describe how much this film means to me, and how much this film cheers me up when I need cheering up. Entertainment Weekly called ranked the film #2 on their Top Ten Rainy Day Movies list. I would certainly watch the film on any day, rain or shine, sleet or hail. It's a film that just hits the spot each time. 


Even though the film is, in many ways, simplistic and standard (after all, the film was produced with a little over 3 million dollars), it's still full of dreamlike imagery and delightful wonder. Wonka's Chocolate Room has a delectable appeal to it and really makes my stomach grumble every time I observe it. Gene Wilder is one of my all time favorite actors and this was the movie where I first laid eyes on his amazing acting skills. Of course, Wilder would later go on to play Frederick Frankenstein (that's Fronkensteen) in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein and "The Waco Kid" in Brooks' Blazing Saddles. And would you believe that Charlie Bucket was Peter Ostrum's first and only film role. He later became a veterinarian and farmer.There are a lot of interesting facts and trivia the film has to offer, and instead of writing long paragraphs about them, I'll just make a list of them so you can get your "Scrumdidilyumptious" fix! Here are a few interesting facts about everyone's favorite film involving little orange men and drinks that make you float to the ceiling. Just make sure you burp to get back down! 

Dahl DESPISED the film: Even though he assisted David Seltzer in writing the script, Dahl thought the end result was utterly ghastly. He thought that the film focused more on Wonka than it did Charlie and that the film strayed too far from the original source material. He also wasn't too fond of the "Fizzy Lifting Drink" sequence and that the character of Slugworth was expanded for the film. In the end, he refused to sell the film rights to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory's sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. That's right, the book had a sequel, but we will talk more about that later. 

The film was originally distributed by Paramount: If you look closely of the above image, you will notice that the Warner Bros. logo is nowhere to be found. When the film was originally released in 1971, it was distributed by Paramount Pictures. The company that produced Wonka, Wolpher Productions was bought out by Time Warner in 1977 and ever since, home video releases and TV airings had the Warner Bros. logo in front of the film. This also paved the way for Tim Burton's eventual reimagining of Dahl's tale in 2005. 

Mel Stuart originally didn't want the film to be a musical: Director Mel Stuart originally didn't want the film to have songs, but the producers of the film pushed him to make it include musical numbers, citing The Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins on how the film could be successful.

The film had a candy tie in: One of the film's financiers was The Quaker Oats Company, who tied the movie in with a candy bar produced by their company. However, the "Wonka Bars" contained a formula that made them melt too fast, even when they were sitting on store shelves. The candy was immediately recalled and the brand was sold off to the Sunline Company, later renamed the Willy Wonka Company and bought out by Nestle in 1988. 

The film was shot in Munich, Germany: The entire film was shot in Munich, Germany and from what I've heard, the film wasn't released in Germany until after Tim Burton's 2005 remake. Interesting, isn't it. What we considered a classic over here in the states wasn't even seen by Germans until 34 years after it was made. 

The cup Wonka takes a bite out of was made of wax: One of my favorite scenes of the movie is the "Pure Imagination" number. At the very end, Wonka settles down, has a drink from a candy flower and then takes a heaping bite out of the darn thing. But did you know that the flower cup was made of wax? Gene Wilder had to chew the wax until the end of the take and then he spat it out, much to his relief. 

Most of the chocolate bars were made of wood: Although many of the candy bars seen throughout the film were real chocolate, a majority of them were blocks of wood. For example, the scene where Mr. Salt's workers are searching for the Golden Ticket, they were actually unwrapping Hershey bars, but the ones still in the wrappers were made of wood. 

The fifth ticket finder was Martin Bormann: During the news broadcast revealing the fifth ticket finder, the South American news announcer holds up a picture of a man who is actually Martin Bormann, a strong supporter of Hitler during his reign. 

Mrs. Teavee was wrong: In the scene where Wonka plays the piano to get into his chocolate room, Mrs. Teavee says the tune he played was composed by Sergei Rachmaninoff. She was wrong. The tune was actually composed by Mozart for his opera, The Marriage of Figaro. 

One of the Oompa Loompas was a female: One of the ten actors to play the Oompa Loompas was played by a female. I'll let that one speak for itself. 

Actors like Joel Grey and Peter Sellers were considered for the role of Wonka: Both Peter Sellers (known for playing Inspector Clouseau in the Pink Panther films) and Joel Grey (who would go onto play the MC in Cabaret) were considered for the role of Willy Wonka. A common myth has it that Fred Astaire was originally considered for the role, but both Mel Stuart and David Wolpher denied this claim. 

So there you go, a slew of interesting "Wonkatastic" facts to spoil your dinner. Of course, there is a lot more of them, but I don't want to be here until next Easter. As a lot of you know, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory wasn't the only film to be made of Dahl's timeless story. In 2005, Tim Burton decided to reimagine the story in his unique style, titling the film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory just like the original book. For some odd reason, this film is met with a mixed reception, and while I do think the original 71 classic is superior (mostly because of nostalgia), I still think this film is stellar as well. What I like about the film is that it combines what we love about the original with Tim Burton's swirly, often gothic and glamorous trademarks. I also like that this film incorporates a lot of elements from the original book that were sorely missing from the original film. Let's name a few of them, shall we? 

Charlie and the chocolate factory poster2.jpg

Charlie's father is in the movie: A main character that was absent from the original 71 film was Mr. Bucket, Charlies' father who was said to have died in the film. Charlie's father makes an appearance in Burton's film, and like in the book, he works at the local toothpaste factory, screwing caps atop of toothpaste tubes. 

Squirrels instead of geese: One of the key scenes from the original film was the scene with the geese who laid the golden chocolate eggs. In Burton's film, he goes back to the original book where squirrels searched for good nuts and disposed of bad ones (DON'T TOUCH THAT SQUIRREL'S NUTS!). 

The Indian prince and the chocolate palace: Something that was handled quite well in Burton's remake was the sequence involving the Indian Prince Pondicherry, who contacted Mr. Wonka to build him a giant palace made entirely of chocolate. The Prince enjoys his chocolately home, but a hot sunny day comes along and turns his home into chocolate syrup, WITH HIM STILL INSIDE IT! Gee, I hope the guy had insurance! 

The Oompa Loompa songs: Instead of the iconic, catchy songs we got in the original, the Oompa Loompas sing the very poems they chanted in the original book. And this film marks the first time since The Nightmare Before Christmas that Danny Elfman contributed to the score and sung the lyrics to the very songs he composed.

However, while the Burton remake may follow the original book more than the 71 film, it also adds a few elements of it's own into the mix.

Willy Wonka's origins: Hands down, one of my favorite sequences in the Burton remake is the flashbacks depicting Willy Wonka's childhood. It is revealed that Willy's father (played menacingly by Christopher Lee) was a dentist and forbid his son from eating any candy because of him wearing braces. Because he and his father can't agree, Willy runs off and becomes the candy maker we know him as. I also like that the flashbacks work into the overall theme of this remake. In the end, Charlie wins a chocolate factory, but Willy Wonka gets something even better. He reconciles with his father and gets a family. To quote an Oompa Loompa (voiced by Geoffrey Holder), "Life had never been sweeter". 

Mike Teavee is a video game addict: In both the book and the 71 film, Mike Teavee was a boy obsessed with watching cowboy shows and pictures on television. In Burton's remake, Mike is a video game obsessed child who likes first person shooters and knows a lot about science and whatnot. Like in the original, Wonka tends to get annoyed by Teavee's bragging (You really shouldn't mumble, because I can't understand a word you're saying). 

The whole family, don't bring them along: As I said before, this remake explores Willy Wonka's backstory, and his grudge against families. Unlike the book and the original film, Wonka doesn't let Charlie's family come along to the factory at first (You can't a family hanging over you like an old dead goose) and Charlie refuses Mr. Wonka's offer, stating that he wouldn't give up his family for all the chocolate in the world. Later on in the film, Charlie helps Wonka reconcile with his dentist father and he eventually allows Charlie to bring his family with him to the factory. It's a very different take on the tale, but it fits just right for Tim Burton's revisioning. 

Whether they are minor changes or noticeable ones, Burton's take on the world of Wonka strays far from the earlier film, but still retains the original story's inner meanings and morals. Burton's Wonka is very fitting for this time period and fits in well with Tim Burton's other works such as Beetlejuice and Edward Scissorhands. People today have two films based on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and while everyone has their preferences and different perspectives, I think we can all settle on one thing. Both versions of Dahl's brainchild have many glorious elements that make them shine and stick out from one another. I personally think that if Dahl were alive today, he would like Tim Burton's 2005 remake, a lot more than he did the 1971 film. Burton's Wonka is much closer to his original story and even if it has it's own things going on, it still has a lot of the things Dahl came up with himself. But of course, the world of Wonka didn't close out with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. In 1972, almost 10 years after Charlie and the Chocolate Factory's publication, Roald Dahl wrote a sequel entitled Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. 


Picking up where the last book left off, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator follows Charlie, Mr. Wonka, Grandpa Joe and the rest of the Bucket family as they travel to the "Space Hotel" in..well...outer space of course. Believing the glass elevator to be an alien spacecraft, the President contacts the Space Hotel, and the hotel's alien inhabitants (Vermicious Knids, briefly mentioned in the 71 film) spell out the word SCRAM with their mouths. The elevator eventually makes it's way back to Earth and Charlie begins running the chocolate factory. He, along with Wonka also tries to find a way to get his remaining grandparents out of bed, Wonka inventing a pill called "Wonka-Vite" to make them young and vibrant. But like many of Wonka's inventions, it malfunctions and the grandparents change from old to young to very old and young again. It's an interesting read, although it has some inconsistencies that conflict the original novel's continuity. For one thing, the original novel was said to take place in Britain, but Grandma Josephine looks down from the glass elevator and sees North America. The grandparents' ages are also inconsistent, for they were in their 90s in the original book and in their 70s and 80s in this book. 

Nevertheless, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator is a brilliant novel in it's own right, even if some say it strays too far from the original and comes off as a cliched sci-fi novel. I like it nonetheless and I would love to see this made into a movie, in some form or another. Well, that about concludes our look at Dahl's most well known story and all it's incarnations. Tune in next time and we'll have a look at a story that isn't as popular as Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but is still pretty popular, mainly because of a Disney movie that came out based upon it. 

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