WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY was the first film I ever watched as a kid. I was three years old and my parents owned the VHS. I forget if I asked to watch it or if they just put it on for me, but either way it is imprinted on my memory as my first movie going adventure. I am told by my mother that I acquired the ability to form words earlier than most children because of my love for the opening title sequence. According to her, she walked into my bedroom one night and I was on the floor with play letter blocks and had spelled out the words W-I-L-L-Y- W-O-N-K-A -with the blocks. To say the film has left an indelible mark on my life is a grand understatement.
I was thrilled when Warner Bros. announced that for its 50th anniversary, the film was getting a proper 4K HDR release. I am happy to announce that the film looks and sounds better than it ever has. Watching this film on my 75" Samsung 4K TV was a far cry from sitting on the floor as a three year old watching the VHS on a small standard def tube TV. In a way, I view this release as a personal representation of my growth and evolution as person and a creative artist. What a gift it is to live in a time where older classic films are given new life through these 4K releases and for us viewers to be able to experience them in the best possible quality that has ever been available.
For those who aren't familiar with the story, WILLY WONKA is based on the Roald Dahl children's book CHARLIE AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY first published in 1964. Charlie Bucket is an 11 year old kid living in poverty with his mother and grandparents in a tiny house not far from a giant chocolate factory owned by Willy Wonka. It's announced that Willy Wonka is re-opening his factory to the public. He has placed five golden tickets in chocolate bars throughout the world and the winners of those tickets will be invited to the factory and given a lifetime supply of chocolate. Charlie ends up being the last one to win a ticket and goes with his grandfather to visit the factory. Along with Charlie are four other kids who are all spoiled and entitled in various ways, the complete opposite of the humble and eternally grateful Charlie. Together the kids form one of the most memorable child actor ensembles ever put on film.
Willy Wonka leads the children into the factory where they are continually met by a series of bizarre but magical concoctions and inventions. It's not long before they witness the Oompa Loompa's at work. A fascinating group of little men with maroon faces and green hair that break into musical numbers after each one of the children do something wrong to ruin their chances at the grand prize. At the heart of this film is a wonderful morality tale and despite some of the darker elements, it ultimately ends in triumph with a beautiful message on inherent goodness and hope.
Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka has to be one of the great screen performances of all time. There is a magical merging of eccentricity and affability that he brings to the character that makes it feel like no one else could have ever played this part to make it work. In 2005 we saw evidence of that in Tim Burton's version with Johnny Depp. I hear another version is in the works with Timothée Chalamet as the chocolate tycoon. However the new version will be a prequel about Wonka's origins and so will help detract from comparison to Gene Wilder's take on the character.
The 4K UHD transfer here is superb. The colors are beautifully vibrant and hearing all the songs in DTS 5.1 was a joy to my ears. For some reason Warner Bros. has cropped the film slightly from it's original aspect ratio. I can't say it really bothered me that much but I found it odd. Despite that small alteration, WILLY WONKA AND THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is a must have title in 4K if you have the setup. Not only has the film's aesthetic aged well, but so has the moral philosophy that it posits.
You can purchase it on Amazon Here.