"Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory"

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Let's get the obvious out of the way: the infamous boat ride from the 1971 movie Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory might be one of the single most disturbing scenes in all of children's filmdom.  It just comes out of nowhere--first you're in a magical candyland where the river is chocolate and the daffodils are edible teacups, and next thing you know, you're thrust into some acid-dropping film student's homage to Un Chien Andalou

What just slithered across that dude's face?  Wait--what just happened to that chicken?  Did it just get its head cut off?  There's no decapitation in kids' movies!

When the 2005 film Charlie and the Chocolate Factory came out, it sparked a wave of nostalgia among people who'd watched the original version as kids.  The boat scene was seen as a rite of passage, something that scared us all senseless as kids but which was almost laughable now: a kind of trippy cinematic non sequitur.

But no one really seemed to talk about the actual message of the 1971 movie-- a movie that, it's worth noting, changed the title of the original book (Charlie and the Chocolate Factory) to Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, which suggests that it is the eponymous chocolatier, not the Dickensian pauper boy with a heart of gold, who is the film's protagonist.

And what does Willy Wonka do?  He metes out justice as he sees fit, punishing those whom he deems unworthy and rewarding (after berating and terrifying) the worthy.  Yes, he's a bug-eyed, nougat-making, Old Testament-style Santa Claus.

So theoretically he humiliates/disfigures/maims/kills(?[!]) only the "bad" kids, right?  Which is how most people remember the movie: bad eggs who had it coming to them get their just des(s)erts.

My problem was that I was all of those kids.  I loved chocolate!  I would uncurl the outer layer of a Little Debbie Swiss Cake Roll and eat it as a sheet before unrolling the cake part and licking off the frosting (heaven!).  I loved to chew gum!  I would buy pack after pack of Freshen Up Gum, with its burst of minty juice inside that lasted all of five sweet seconds.  I loved TV!  I mean, just look at this ridiculous blog.  And, while I hope I wasn't half as demanding as Veruca Salt, I did spend a lot of time loudly lobbying to get a pet--maybe not a golden goose, but still.

So you can imagine the paranoia I felt during my first trip to Hershey Park.  Any old sadistic cane-toting curmudgeon who hated the way that kids today liked gum and chocolate and television and things could do terrible things to you with no repercussions and probably even get his own movie named after him provided he sang some catchy tunes.

Lesson learned:
Oompa loompa doompadee dare
It doesn't really seem very fair
Oompa loompa doompadee drat
To incinerate a kid for being a brat

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory.  Dir. Mel Stuart.  Perf. Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum.  Paramount, 1971.

Buy Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory DVD

1 comment:

  1. I found this blog after searching for "Jesus Understood", the story that traumatised my childhood. Apparently there are just about enough of us to form a support group. ;)

    I have to say, as much as I love Gene Wilder, in this movie I always got the feeling that Willie Wonka really shouldn't be left alone with children...