‘But Willy Wonka has a beard!’

After my son finished reading “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” I told him we could watch the movie. The original, of course. Not the remake. Johnny Depp, I love you, but you are no Gene Wilder.

The kids adored the movie. My son insisted on getting up and dancing during some of the songs (in his defense, they are catchy). They loved the first room in the factory with all the edible everything. They thought the Oompa Loompas were funny. They were suitably appalled by Veruca Salt. My favorite scene, from now on, is the one where Charlie finally — finally! — sloooowly unwraps that bonus Wonka bar and sees the golden ticket peeking out, because my son let out a gasp like you’ve never heard. Really that’s the best scene, isn’t it? Right then, Charlie’s already won, because he never thought he would get so lucky, and he completely deserves it.

My son, however, also noticed a few other things. Like, movie Willy Wonka has neither a beard nor a pointed chin. Veruca sees golden egg-laying geese, not squirrels, in the room where she meets her downfall. Spying Slugworth, and a dangerous near-miss involving Fizzy Lifting Drinks, are not in the book. The end of the book, where Charlie, Grandpa Joe and Willy Wonka fly the Great Glass Elevator to pick up the rest of the family, is not in the movie.

I’m delighted he noticed these things. If you’re going to be a fan of books, and occasionally movies based on books, you’re going to have to be aware of how a story changes from page to film. It’s interesting, from a purely artistic sense, to see what stays and what goes, and how to distill a work to its essence in order to make it filmable. It’s also, occasionally, exasperating from a fan standpoint (was the Fizzy Lifting Drinks scene out of character?). So we’ve resolved to make the kids aware, whenever applicable, of the differences between each medium, so they can appreciate each on its own terms.

I can’t wait to see what my son thinks of the “James and the Giant Peach” movie. Or “Matilda.” Or “The Witches.” (Although we should read that one first.)

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2 thoughts on “‘But Willy Wonka has a beard!’

  1. It’s great when kids notice those small details. I was tutoring a child last year, and we were reading one of my favorite books, That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown, when she noticed the illustrator had moved the slippers on one of pages. I was thrilled she noticed. Fun post, Marlaina! p.s. With my son, we did Charlie and then Matilda. I need to read The Witches.

    • Thanks Robin! I agree, it is fun when they notice those details (and we have to read “That Rabbit Belongs to Emily Brown” too). I shamefully admit I’ve never read “The Witches” but I loved the movie. Next on the list …

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