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Why Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (1971) is a Love Letter and Warning to Childhood Imagination

Okay if you haven’t seen Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, you are honestly missing out some core childhood memories. It not only captures what it's like to be a child, but also how to use your imagination as much as possible. Even though author Roald Dahl disowned the project due to straying far away from the source material, it is still a classic in its own right and still manages to capture the book’s manic spirit.

Charlie Bucket (played by Peter Ostrum) is a poor kid in a small town who dreams more than the average child, especially about the local chocolatier Willy Wonka (played by Gene Wilder). Soon Wonka initiates a worldwide contest in which he will allow five children to have a tour of his factory. He hid 5 golden tickets inside his Wonka bars so the only way to get a ticket is to buy said chocolate. Charlie Bucket and his Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson) manage to snag the final ticket for a tour that will alter the course of their lives forever.

It's the meme!!!!

I cannot tell how infectious this movie can be. With the wonderful and inviting musical numbers that bounce around in your brain forever, mostly due to the Oompa Loompas many songs roasting the ungrateful brats on the factory tour. But it brings in the wonder a childlike imagination unlike any movie I have seen before, even more than the remake with Johnny Depp and Tim Burton. From the Candy Garden and other inventive production sets of the factory, like the hallway to the Candy Garden or the Wonka bike near the end of the film.

But Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka was some of the most perfect casting ever created, bringing the eccentric and sometimes psychotic entrepreneur to life! Wilder must’ve connected with his inner child as he captured that childlike imagination a little too well, as he brings to life some of the darker aspects of a child’s dreamlike state. I mean, we all remember that boat ride from hell, showing the random darker thoughts a child can think of when creating an ingenious dream into reality. Wilder brought that madness effectively whilst never forgetting the intoxicating personality Wonka has become known for. Making it hard to hate, like that parent’s child that just got into trouble.

It also brings in some of the odd things an imagination can dream up, a la the Oompa Loompas. They are the scene stealing side characters that just ooze an odd personality you can’t help but eat up. All they do is sing and dance but it is completely out of left field and out of pocket it is impossible to hate. Not to mention the initial introduction to Willy Wonka walking like an old man before somersaulting is also one of those childlike imagination quirks, if a more realistic one. Also just his despondent and apathetic reaction to each child’s exit just puts the cherry on top for how far into his madness/imagination Wonka truly went.

When I say Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory is a timeless childhood classic, I am understating it. It truly captures the imagination of a human being, the good, the dark, and the weird wholeheartedly. Gene Wilder perfectly captures the madness and eccentricities of the chocolatier and dove a little too far into the inner child in us all, and its lovely to watch. Not to mention the set design of the entire factory, especially the Candy Garden, the Oompa Loompas, and the never ending smile I had throughout the runtime. If there was ever a movie with paradise, this movie is it!

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