Growing up, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was one of my favorite movies to watch. I prefered Tim Burton’s movie to the 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Both movies are based off of the children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl. After reading the book, I discovered that Burton’s film was more accurate to the original story than the 1971 version with Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka.
The two films are very different. A minor example of the accuracy in Burton’s film is the boat that everyone uses to go from the Chocolate room to the Inventing room is pink, rather than just being a regular old boat in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Another small point is that both Burton’s movie and the book have Veruca Salt tackled by squirrels in the Nut room, as opposed to the 1971 version where nuts are replaced with golden eggs and squirrels replaced with swans, and Veruca stupidly stands atop of the garbage chute holding out the last note in her greedy song. These differences in the 1971 version are no doubt because of the lack of resources they had in 1971 as opposed to 2005. They couldn’t get a large, pink boat nor train a hundred squirrels or animate a hundred CGI squirrels for those scenes. Instead they simply used two swans to sit there. They worked with what they had.
One thing that surprised me though was that the lyrics to the Oompaloompa songs are much closer to the book’s in the Tim Burton movie than in the other one. You can see that the lyrics match word for word in many places, whereas in the 1971 version the lyrics are completely different. This wasn’t a necessary change for the 1971 film makers as they could have easily fit those lyrics to a melody, (rather than creating their own).
A major difference is the Willy Wonka character. In the book, Willy Wonka is an older, odd, quirky and slightly obnoxious genius. For the most part both Gene Wilder’s and Johnny Depp’s portrayal of Willy Wonka fit that description. I would certainly say that Johnny Depp captures the true quirkiness of the character as he is down right weird, which I love. I love Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka. In the book and 19971 film, the main character is Charlie, but in the 2005 movie, it’s a toss between Willy Wonka and Charlie. Tim Burton adds to the Willy Wonka character by adding a subplot involving his childhood and father. All throughout the tour Mr. Wonka has flashbacks of arguments with his dentist father forbidding him to become a chocolatier, and Willy, or his father rather, runs away at a young age.
This causes Charlie to make a decision. In the 1971 version, Willy Wonka I guess pretends to be furious with Charlie and grandpa Joe as a test, which Charlie somehow passes. I’m not exactly sure if Wonka planned this test or if he’s just moody, and I don’t see how Charlie even passed. He pretends to be angry and yells at them, which makes grandpa Joe angry and yells back, calling Wonka a crook. I don’t exactly like this. Grandpa Joe, irate, tells Charlie that they’ll reveal Wonka’s gobstopper secrets to Slugworth, but Charlie gives it back to Wonka, whose mood completely changes. Both movie endings are slightly altered from the book as the book never has Charlie go through an additional last test. Wonka just gives him the factory. What would Wonka have done had Charlie not passed this test? I suppose this was a possibility in the book as well, if all five children were rotten. Then what? It’s a pretty damn elaborate test, and although it’s acted very well by Gene Wilder and Jack Albertson, it just makes you upset. The ending still still heartwarming though.
In Tim Burton’s movie, however, there’s this warm moment we’ve all been waiting for when Charlie is the last child left and Willy Wonka lights up and shakes his hand vigorously, taking him and grandpa Joe into the great glass elevator and up and out. I feel like this was better since with each child leaving the tour, you get closer and closer to what you ultimately know will happen, Charlie will be the last child left. Once it happens, it’s glorious! But when Gene Wilder goes ballistic on Charlie and grandpa Joe, and just psychs them out, that ruins the moment.
Anyway, this is only the beginning of what I like about the ending difference. Willy Wonka flies the elevator straight through the roof of Charlie’s home, frightening his family, all except grandma Georgina, which happens in the book. It is here where Willy Wonka tells everyone that he plans to give Charlie his chocolate factory, contrary to in the elevator like in the 1971 movie and book.
And here we get to the main kicker. In the book and the movie, Wonka told Charlie that his whole family could come with him. The book even has Charlie, grandpa Joe and Wonka shove the family into the elevator against their will as an ending. But in Tim Burton’s movie, the test has yet to arrive… and this isn’t a fake test, it is a true test. When Charlie is elated with Wonka’s offer, he asks if his family could come too, and Wonka forbids it. The smiles disappear, all except Wonka’s. He tells Charlie that he can’t have his family hold him down. This distrust with Charlie’s family no doubt springs from Wonka’s own complications with his family in his childhood. He even says, “Look at me, I have no family and I’m a giant success.” Charlie boldly tells Wonka he won’t go to live in the factory if his family can’t come too. Now Wonka is confused and disappointed, just like everyone else. This time it’s no test, Wonka’s not pretending, he’s serious. Charlie gives this lovely speech about his family, saying, “I wouldn’t give up my family for anything. Not for all the chocolate in the world.” Wonka, utterly disappointed, flies away in the great glass elevator.
The first part of the film showed Charlie’s relationship with his family, his mom and dad and their parents. The book does a good job of portraying the family as well, and although they are poor and there are four old and useless people in the bed of the center of the tiny house, Charlie loves them, and they love him. Not even the book does the sort of justice to the story as Tim Burton’s version does. Charlie proves himself most deserving of the factory, yet is unable to receive it because of Wonka’s own insecurities. Ironically, Charlie is too good. And this doesn’t just reveal a lot about Charlie, but also a lot about Willy Wonka. He may be successful, he may be a genius, but he too has issues. When we entered the chocolate factory, Depp’s Wonka struggles to even say the word “parents,” Mr. Salt ends up saying it for him, and Wonka zones out for a moment with the most entranced look on his face, reflecting about his father and mother for a moment. What is the deal? You think when you first see that.
The story continues from there. Charlie gets a job shining shoes and Wonka appears outside of the factory as a customer, venting and asking questions about Charlie’s love for his family. Charlie convinces Willy Wonka that he should confront his father, whom he hasn’t seen in decades, and make things right. Wonka is reluctant until Charlie offers to come with him. This is really heart warming, but not as much as the scene that follows.
Wonka’s father, Wilbur Wonka, still practicing dentistry and not recognizing his now grown-up son, examines his teeth. As Dr. Wonka examines his patient’s teeth, Charlie scans the office and sees photos and newspaper headlines about Willy Wonka’s fabulous chocolate factory and incredible success, revealing that all these years Dr. Wonka has still kept tabs on his son and his life. As he inspects Willy’s teeth, Dr. Wonka becomes moved. He begins to realize who his patient is, his son, based on his bicuspids. Willy and his father reunite in an absolutely moving climax beautifully performed by Christopher Lee and Johnny Depp. The two characters becomes apprehensive or shy when going for a hug, but they do and it’s heartwarming. Wonka then changes his mind and allows Charlie’s whole family into the factory and they all sit and have a nice, family meal. Willy’s father isn’t present in the final scene which is a pity, I would have liked to have seen that, but it’s still a much nicer ending in my opinion than in both the 1971 film and the book.
Now there’s some complaints that Charlie in Tim Burton’s film is too good. No child would be so selfless and mature, but that’s the whole point. It’s why Charlie is deserving of the factory and not the other four children. There may be some other child out there better than Charlie who did not receive a golden ticket, but not likely. It’s Charlie’s selflessness and honesty in the 1971 film that passes the test in Wonka's eyes. The only scene taken out from the Tim Burton film is when Charlie and grandpa Joe drink some fizzy lifting juice which Wonka instructed against, making Charlie and grandpa Joe no better than the other children. This scene is not in the book, however, and is not vital to all other retellings of the story. Charlie is a sweet, selfless, kind and honest boy which is why he’s so special. In Burton’s film Charlie ends up assisting Willy Wonka in repairing his broken relationship with his dad. Charlie’s more mature than Wonka, which is the ultimate irony, rather than Wonka being and absolute genius in every field, knowing exactly how anyone would react and how the situation would play out, knowing that his overly elaborate tests would pan out fine and being a saint as well. In the 1971 film, Wonka is too perfect. I love Wonka’s faults in Tim Burton’s film. He’s overly quirky and just doesn’t get the whole family thing. And Charlie didn’t pass some silly little, premeditated test devised by the all-knowing genius that is Willy Wonka…
Watching Tim Burton’s version of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory unfold is what made me interested in alternate endings and different versions and retellings of stories. There are so many ways a story could go.