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Maybe it's because Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is such a
massive milestone in my childhood, but to be able to see all of the
actors from the film as adults looking back and talking about their
experiences in making the movie and telling some more about what their
characters were like was absolutely fascinating to me. I watched the
movie with a friend of mine from Germany because I had just about
fallen over when she told me that she had never even heard of it. First
of all because I can't imagine having never heard of a movie like this,
and second of all because it was filmed in Germany.
This documentary inspired me to watch the entire movie again with the commentary on, which I've never done before, I guess I just don't usually have the patience to watch a movie that I've already seen and with people talking over it the whole time. It was interesting to hear the things that the actors had to say (again, it was all the child actors from the movie), although it got a little irritating that anytime Michael Bollner (Augustus Gloop) started to talk someone would interrupt him and talk over him. He hardly spoke in the commentary at all and it was pretty irritating to hear him interrupted every time he had something to say.
So in the documentary, each person comes on and talks about how he or she got their respective parts in the movie, how they met their demise in the film, making comments about what it was like shooting those scenes and other experiences on the set, and then at the end they each made brief comments about what they are doing now, 30 years after the movie was made. I also loved Gene Wilder talking about his experiences with meeting people on the street, kids who wanted to know if he was really Willy Wonka and if all that stuff in the Chocolate Room was really candy that you could eat. Depending on their age, he would tell them it was all real. I love that.
This movie was really a huge part of my childhood, so I found it fascinating to be able to see all of the actors as adults and hear their candid comments about being in the movie. Kind of like The Goonies, which could have done with a documentary more like this one. If you loved the movie, you must see this.
I learned a lot of interesting trivia from this 32-minute bonus feature
that was on the Special Edition DVD of "Willy Wonka And The Chocolate
The movie was filmed in Munich. The producer didn't want the scenery to look like anyplace the audiences might recognize, like New York or even St Louis. They wanted a place "you couldn't peg for any time nor any place - a fantasy place." They chose this castle-like complex in Munich.
Producer David Wolper said they got $3 million by a company to release the film the same time a new candy bar was being introduced on the market: Wonka Bar, so they also changed the title from author Roald Dahl's "Charlie and The Chocolate Factory" to "Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory" because of the candy bar's name. (You scratch my back; I'll scratch yours).
Gene Wilder said he wouldn't do the role if he couldn't make an entrance with a cane and limping, looking like he was crippled. Then he would do a somersault. From that point, people wouldn't know if he was telling the truth or not which is the way he thought people should view the character "Willy Wonka." Gene also put a lovable look to a guy who, at the same time, is really a nightmarish, evil character who would systemically eliminate kids. Wilder was perfect for the role.
It also was fun to see in this "documentary"little Peter Ostrum ("Charlie") now as a grown-up, an almost middle-aged guy with a big mustache. In addition, we get to see what the other kids now look like, too. This was great fun to see a grown-up "Augustus Gloop" (who still looks very similar!), "Veruca Salt" (who is a beautiful woman), "Violet Buregard" and "Mike Teevee" (who is now bald!). Later in the DVD feature, the actors tell us what they are doing today. It's all very good stuff.
There were lots of comments by director Mel Stuart, who you can see really enjoys talking about this film. In discussing the Oom-Pah characters, Stuart noted, "For some reason, it was very hard to find midgets and dwarfs in Germany who could speak English. We wound up getting nine of them, and they were all over: England, Turkey, Malta - the communication was difficult."
One of the keys to the success of the film, according to Stuart, was Harper Goff, the art designer "who had an incredible imagination."
Wolper said the set costs about two million, which would probably be at least $80 million today. He is the only person in this 30-minute documentary who turned me off. All he seems to care about his money. There is no sentimental value to his film for him, unlike everyone else who was interviewed.
After watching this "DVD feature," I have new respect for Wilder. He comes across an extremely nice guy, a low key compassion man who must have been very good with the kids on this movie. "You have no idea how many people have come up to me over the years and commented on this movie," said. "You might think 'a lot,'but it's more than that and, yes, it's a wonderful legacy."
Of the bonus features I've seen on DVDs, so far this is about as good as it gets.
Pure Imagination: The Story of 'Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory'
*** (out of 4)
Director Mel Stuart, producer David Wolper, David Seltzer are joined by Gene Wilder and the five children (Peter Ostrum, Michael Bollner, Julie Dawn Cole, Denise Nickerson, Paris Themmen) from the film to discuss this now classic movie. At just under 30-minutes the documentary doesn't get into a great detail of information but I think fans should enjoy seeing all the main people gathered up. We get stories about the pre-production of how the director found out about the story and what made him want to turn it into a film. We then learn about how the producer was able to get funding and this leads to the casting of Wilder and the children. We learn about the sets that were designed and which items were real candy and what was fake. Fans of the film should enjoy this documentary as the stories are all pretty funny and there's no question that you'll get a good bit of information about the production. I was really surprised that they were able to get not only Wonka but also the five main children. Usually in these type of documentaries you're missing a person or two so it's nice to have everyone here. I'm sure die-hard fans will probably already know many of the stories but it's still fun seeing them in one place.
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