Tuesday, September 24, 2013


Our Kids Matinees tribute to beloved children's author Roald Dahl features a screening of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) this Saturday, September 28 at 11:00 am. Kerri Grogan shares some sweet facts about the making of the candy-filled fantasy.

I've Got a Golden Ticket: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
By Kerri Grogan, BMFI Staff Assistant

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was written by Roald Dahl and published in 1964. As with many of his novels, Dahl drew inspiration from his experiences as a schoolboy in the 1920s, a time when chocolate companies were competing fiercely with each other for young customers. 

But what inspired the film? Director Mel Stuart said that he was approached by his daughter, who was ten at the time and had just finished reading the novel. It delighted her so much that she told her father that he should make a film out of it!

Turning this sweet novel into a delightful film was fairly challenging, especially when many of the actors were children without a lot of acting experience. Stuart had a simple way of capturing some genuine expressions from the actors, though: by making sure they really were surprised. For instance, the kids' reactions to the chocolate room are very real—it was their first time viewing the set! Also, even though the Wonkitania was being pulled down the chocolate river on a track, the actor portraying the Oompa Loompa at the helm thought he was the one steering. Stuart decided not to tell him the truth, to keep it more believable.

Director Mel Stuart surprised the young cast of Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory with Willy Wonka's Chocolate Room. Until they shot the scene, the young actors had never seen the set.
Gene Wilder, who played the iconic Willy Wonka, was particularly convincing. Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca Salt) said in the 30th Anniversary DVD commentary that she was completely fooled by his fake limp during filming. She assumed he had really injured himself and that production would be delayed! When he went from limping straight into a somersault, she was just as surprised as the audience. While they were floating down the chocolate river by boat, his acting was so convincing that it frightened some of the actors: they thought he really was going mad! He was even instructed not to tell Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie, that he was going to yell at him during a scene late in the movie. The pair had formed a close friendship by then, so Ostrum's shock at being yelled at was completely real. Yikes!

There were some similar mishaps behind the scenes, too. In Wonka's office, Stuart decided to have all objects in the room cut in half to give the room a more whimsical, less ordinary look. While one of the prop men was working on the set, he accidentally started sawing into a real coffee pot that someone had left in the work area! He only realized his mistake when it was too late: coffee was already leaking out.

"You're turning violet, Violet!" The makeup that turned Violet Beauregarde purple in the film seemed to have a negative side effect on actress Denise Nickerson. When she returned to school after wrapping up the film, a classmate leaned over and told her she was changing color. The makeup had seeped into her pores and was turning her violet all over again!

Kerri Grogan is BMFI’s Staff Assistant. She studied animation at the Maryland Institute College of Art, and moonlights as a dice-rolling, video gaming geek, blogger, and comic artist.

Click here to view BMFI's full schedule of upcoming Kids Matinees.

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