The beloved film arrives on 4K UHD Blu-ray for its Golden (Ticket) Anniversary
Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory arrives on 4K UHD Blu-ray today.
Screenshots in this article were captured from the included Blu-ray, not the 4K UHD disc. They are not representative of the 4K quality.
From the mind of the world’s most scrumdidilyumptious storyteller Roald Dahl, and directed by Mel Stuart, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is the original 1971 adaptation of the author’s classic children’s novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Today we think of this 1964 novel as a classic, but at the time of the film’s release it was still relatively new, published just 7 years prior.
When he pulls a rare Golden Ticket from a chocolate bar, a boy named Charlie Bucket wins the chance of a lifetime: to visit the factory of the secretive world-famous chocolatier and candymaker, Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder in one of his most treasured — and memeworthy — roles).
Whereas Charlie, who comes from a poor family, is kind and well-mannered, the four other winning contestant children are varying shades of spoiled brats, indulged by their idiotic and horrible parents.
Dahl himself provided the original screenplay for the film (though parts of it were rewritten) and was involved in its making. Like most of Dahl’s children’s tales, it’s an irreverent and often funny story with a clear moral compass. Good things happen to good children, while naughty children get what’s coming to them — often in deliciously mean-spirited ways.
Wilder is delightful as the reclusive and slightly maniacal candyman, likewise the children appropriately bratty and deserving of their comeuppance (most notably Julie Dawn Cole putting in incredible work as the perpetually carping spoiled rich girl, Veruca Salt).
For many of Dahl’s young readers and viewers, his tales are a gateway to transgressive humor — a trend which continues in his deliciously wicked adult stories, most of which end on an ironic twist.
The film’s perhaps most famous for its visual feast of candy-coated sets and colorful contraptions, with art direction by Academy Award winner Harper Goff.
The film has several songs, most famously “Pure Imagination” sung by Wilder, which echoes the film’s main theme, and the various diss tracks sung by Wonka’s diminutive employees, the Oompa Loompas. These are all great fun, though overall the songs are a mixed bag. Some of the others just stop the film dead in its tracks — especially the ones sung by Charlie’s family members, which just serve to delay the story finally getting to the factory where the magic happens.
As a kid (and bigtime Dahl fan), I kind of took issue with some of the film’s deviations from the novel, including its title, but on rewatching this for the first time in many years I don’t feel that way anymore: I’m just enjoying the ride. It’s quite reverent and keeping in the wonderful spirit and bite of the story — no big surprise, considering Dahl himself wrote the first version of the screenplay.
The new 4K edition of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory comes with a Blu-ray Disc (movie + features) and digital code. The slipcover is particularly snazzy, printed on a glittery metallic stock (the same as Birds of Prey, as a recent example).
The film is famously colorful, its bright and bold palette filling up every inch of the factory, with incredible set designs and elaborate contraptions, making it a terrific selection for full 4K with HDR. But its real world environs (shot in Germany) and grubby, unglamorous sets like Charlie’s school and house also benefit from the enhanced visual clarity, enhancing the divide between Charlie’s home life and the wonderful world of Wonka.
Special Features and Extras
This edition carries over existing DVD bonus features on the Blu-ray disc, presented as they were created in SD video. The Commentary is available on both the 4K and Blu-ray discs.
- Commentary with the Wonka Kids
The actors who played the children reunited 30 years later to view the film together and record this commentary, sharing stories and memories of the film’s making, behind the scenes details, and lots of laughter (incredibly, this commentary track is now 20 years old).
- Pure Imagination: The Story of Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory (30:25) — cast and crew discuss the film’s making. Many of the key figures, including director Mel Stuart, producer David Wolper, and star Gene Wilder, have since passed on, making this likely the definitive document.
- 4 Sing-alongs (8:12)
with karoake style lyrics
- The Movie Makers (4:01)
A vintage featurette focused on lively production design by art director Harper Goff. To my delight, Roald Dahl also makes an appearance.
- Theatrical Trailer (3:11)
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Except where noted, all 16:9 screen images in this review are direct captures from the disc(s) in question with no editing applied, but may have compression or resizing inherent to file formats and Medium’s image system.