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HTF REVIEW: "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory" (Widescreen)

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#1 of 48 OFFLINE   Ronald Epstein

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Posted November 07 2001 - 04:33 PM

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Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory

"If you want to view paradise, simply look
around and view it"

It's funny how a movie brings back the earliest
of your childhood memories. It was 1971, and I
was 8 years old. My parents took me to the
Paramount Theater in Asbury Park where I first
saw Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory.
I clearly remember coming home and acting out the
movie in the basement of my home. Later, I read
the original book that the movie was based upon,
as well as the book's sequel (Charlie and the glass
Elevator) that put Wonka and company into outer
space (ala the Wonka Elevator) to fight vernicious
Kinids. But that's another story! Suffice to say,
the movie remains my absolute favorite childhood
film that hasn't shown any wear now watching it
as an adult.

When my DVD screener arrived in the mail today,
I felt like I had the Golden Ticket in my hand!
This was more than a beloved movie I was holding --
it represented a success story of battling a studio
who initially refused to release this film in
widescreen. The DVD represented a trophy to everyone
on this forum and other forums on the internet who
loudly crusaded against Warner Brothers for deciding
that family features ought to be released in Pan and
Scan only. Because of each and every one of us
who took a stand and signed a petition, we now have
the ultimate reward on DVD.

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is
indeed one of the most magical movies ever made.
It came at a time where grand musical movies were
starting to fade out. As you will find out in the
supplemental documentary, the movie was made to
promote a candy bar.

While the transfer of this DVD generally looks
good, I was disappointed that it didn't look as
great as I had hoped for this Special Edition.
Colors are very pronounced, but not vivid. The
picture is a bit on the soft side and contains
a bit of noticeable graininess. Still, the overall
quality of the transfer is the best I have seen on
any format to date.

The disc packaging states that the film has
been remixed to 5.1 stereo surround. Actually,
I didn't detect the surround ambiance, and thought
it sounded better in 2-channel stereo. Sound is
quite good.

Warner Brothers has put together a really cool
menu that puts you in the Wonka Elevator. As you
select each menu option, the elevator doors close
shut, and you are whizzed up, down, and sideways as
you arrive at your destination. Once you arrive,
a short scene from the movie preludes the menu
which you have selected.

The real treat of this disc is the Supplemental
features that I promise the most die-hard Wonka
fans are going to enjoy. In fact, I have never
enjoyed supplemental material as much as I have on
this disc. It ultimately brought a tear to my eye.

I urge everyone to start with the original short
featurette from 1971. Filmed on the set of the
chocolate factory, the film pays homage to the Art
Director, Harper Goff, who designed the massive
(and beautiful) sets that made up Wonka. Here we
see raw footage of Gene Wilder romping through the
chocolate factory and taking blocking directions
from Director Mel Stuart. It's like watching a
very precious piece of lost artwork that has never
been seen before. I could feel my heart racing
knowing that this was never before seen
footage direct from the set. Unfortunately, the
featurette is a short 10 minutes in length.

The documentary that will really warm your heart,
is Pure Imagination: The Story of Willy Wonka.
This is the documentary put together a year ago
where the entire casts reunites and talks about the
experience of making the most beloved children's film
of all time.

What is interesting to learn is that the idea to
make this film actually came from Director Mel
Stuart's daughter. She read the original Roal Dahl
book, and wanted her Dad to make this film. On a
shoestring budget and pure luck, the film was put
together in desperation. It was a wild gamble to
make such an immense movie on a limited budget and
to then make it into a musical.

The documentary has filmed interviews with all
the child actors including Peter Ostrum (Charlie),
Julie Dawn Cole (Veruca), Paris Themmen (Mike Teevee),
Michael Bollner (Augustus Gloop), Denise Nickerson
(Violet Beauregarde), and even one of the original
Oompa Loompa's. Each of them relates personal
stories from the filming, as well as telling us what
they are doing with their lives now.

But it is the moment that an elderly Gene Wilder
comes on camera that your heart drops. He lovingly
recalls his experience playing Wonka and what inspired
him to play the role as he did. You will be surprised
how many of the pivotal character slants Wonka displays
were originally all Gene's ideas. There never has
been any question that Gene Wilder was the absolute
perfect casting choice, and that the role has become
the staple of his career. I sat and watched this
elderly man talk about the movie of his career, and
I actually had a tear in my eye. It's like sitting
down and watching a beloved screen idol talk about
one of the happiest movies of your childhood. Of
course Gene Wilder answers the ultimate WONKA
questions: Was all the candy in the factory
real?; Did you really eat the buttercup?

The documentary is the sweetest of all treats for
fans of this movie. There's even raw footage of
Anthony Newley presenting for the first time,
the final arrangement of "Pure Imagination", which
he sings. Wilder later recalls how Newley came to
set the day the song was to be recorded and wished
him luck.

Let's move on, because I can talk about this
documentary forever....

There's a very small Photo Gallery of black
and white studio publicity stills which is sort
of interesting to look at, though none of it is
taken from behind-the-scenes.

Sing-along Songs is a gimmicky little
something for the kids that want to learn the
words to the songs. Actual musical scenes are
played in their entirety aided by large bubble-size
lyrics on the screen.

The ORIGINAL trailer is included. I was a bit
disappointed that the reissue trailer was not.

There is a feature-length commentary with
the Wonka kids. Unfortunately, I did not have
time to listen to it. Next viewing, for sure!

Final thoughts.....

It was a long, difficult task to change the tides
and get Warner Brothers to release Willy Wonka
widescreen. It's sort of good that they chose this
film as the one to initially make the bad decision on.
I don't think any other film in their library would
have evoked such anger had it been announced as a
pan and scan only release. This is the definitive
childhood movie that we, as adults, love just as
much as the new generation of kids who will be watching
this film for the very first time.

It belongs in EVERY DVD collection!

Release Date: November 13th

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Ronald Epstein (pronounced like the English "Ronald Epstein")
Circa 2000
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#2 of 48 OFFLINE   David Lambert

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Posted November 07 2001 - 04:54 PM

Thank you, Ron, for that nice review. I'm looking forward to picking this up...hopefully next week.

I want to take this opportunity to remind everyone that I called Best Buy's corporate HQ, asking about the stocking of WS Wonka on-time, on the 11/13th release date. The customer rep I talked to asked their buyer, and then e-mailed me an answer. This was the ultimate answer I got:


He (the buyer) stated that we (Best Buy) will be carrying the Willy Wonka wide-screen anniversary DVD. He states that the product should be available in stores within 2-3 weeks. However, since Best Buy and Bestbuy.com are separate commences and carry different inventories, the stores cannot guarantee the 11/13-release date at this specific time.


I'll point out that I talked to Josh Sabarra at WB, who emphatically stated that the release date for this title is still 11/13, that he's checked with others and confirmed it, and if Best Buy fails to have this title in-stock on 11/13, it is by their own choice and for no other reason.

I ask everyone intersted in this title to join me in asking at your local Best Buy for Widescreen Willie Wonka on this coming Tuesday. Let's make sure they know that NO OAR = NO SALE, so that they can add their voices to ours when they speak to all studios, not just WB.


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#3 of 48 OFFLINE   Steve Lockwood

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Posted November 07 2001 - 04:57 PM

Excellent! I look foward to getting my hands on this. ------------------ -Everybody knows that the dice are loaded-™
-I am a Death Dealer, sworn to destroy those known as the Lycans.

#4 of 48 ONLINE   Carlo Medina

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Posted November 07 2001 - 05:16 PM

This is wonderful news. I am very proud that we were able to bring this title about with our voices. I truly am prouder than ever to be a part of the HTF community.

No OAR = No Sale

Posted Image to WB for finally seeing the light. Kids can understand OAR too (especially if I explain it to them) Posted Image

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#5 of 48 OFFLINE   Kenneth Cummings

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Posted November 07 2001 - 05:37 PM

Thanks you for not revealing all of the tricks of the features Roanld ^^. I can't wait to get this next week(finally going to get the Toy Story Ultimate Toy Box and Wonka in it true OAR too).

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#6 of 48 OFFLINE   Scott Weinberg

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Posted November 07 2001 - 05:58 PM

One question, Ron:

Do you like this DVD? Posted Image

I concur with your every point. This is a great DVD, and the fact that we got it on Widescreen is just sooo sweet. Posted Image

Scott Weinberg

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#7 of 48 OFFLINE   Patrick Larkin

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Posted November 07 2001 - 07:51 PM

Just ordered it. My daughter has a love-hate relationship with the Oompa-Loompas! BTW, EVERYONE on this forum that values OAR should order this disc whether you want it or not. This disc sets a precedent. We need to reward WB for doing the right thing.

#8 of 48 OFFLINE   bill lopez

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Posted November 07 2001 - 07:57 PM

So is it the same dvd except this one is widescreen than the one that was already released? Please answer Ron!

#9 of 48 OFFLINE   Inspector Hammer!

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Posted November 07 2001 - 08:08 PM

Thanks Ron for the review, a definate buy for me! It truly is a symbol of what we accomplished, and I am damn proud to have been part of it! BTW, thanks for the info David, but if BB doesn't have this title on it's release date, i'm taking my business elsewhere. If they don't want to carry it on time for their own ignorant reasons, than I know plenty of other places that WILL have it. ------------------ To the men and women of the N.Y. police and fire department God bless you. To the victims and their families God keep you. To the dirtbags who caused all this God help you!!!
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#10 of 48 OFFLINE   cafink



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Posted November 07 2001 - 08:41 PM

Is that the actual cover? I expected to see a large ugly "widescreen" banner across the top. I'm glad to see it absent, but it looks like the widescreen version has box art that's identical to that of the full-screen version, which can only lead to confusion and frustration.


#11 of 48 OFFLINE   Chad Gregory

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Posted November 07 2001 - 08:45 PM

Carl, That is not the cover. There is a "Special Widescreen Edition" red banner across the top. It is up over at dvdempire.com -Chad

#12 of 48 OFFLINE   SteveGon


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Posted November 07 2001 - 09:23 PM

Sounds like a nice disc! I'm embarrassed to say that I've never seen WWatCF. Still, I think I'll pick it up, watch it, and give it to my nephews for Christmas.

#13 of 48 OFFLINE   Oscar W

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Posted November 07 2001 - 09:33 PM


Of course Gene Wilder answers the ultimate WONKA
questions: Was all the candy in the factory
real?; Did you really eat the buttercup?


ACK!!!! Your gonna make me wait? Posted Image


My DVD's

#14 of 48 OFFLINE   Michael Dueppen

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Posted November 12 2001 - 02:26 AM

I have never seen this movie.
I will get the DVD to support our fight for OAR. But since everybody seems to like this movie I guess I will get a great movie as an "added bonus" to the OAR issue Posted Image
Thanks WB.

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My DVD collection
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My DVD collection

#15 of 48 OFFLINE   Brian O

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Posted November 12 2001 - 02:33 AM

This is a great movie that I really enjoyed seeing as a child during its initial release. Gene Wilder's performance of Pure Imagination is just magical, too. I would buy the disc just for that! Widescreen, here I come! ------------------ [Edited last by Brian O on November 12, 2001 at 04:34 AM]

#16 of 48 OFFLINE   SteveBjr


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Posted November 12 2001 - 12:13 PM

I'm very excited about this DVD. I'll be picking up my copy tomorrow. I've never seen this movie in Widescreen so hopefully i'm in for a big treat. Can't wait to check out those extras Posted Image

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#17 of 48 OFFLINE   David Lambert

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Posted November 12 2001 - 04:30 PM

Unfortunately, I was asking in Best Buy today as to whether the WS version of Wonka will be in-store tomorrow, as scheduled by WB.

The lovely lady there found the entry in their inventory system readily enough. However, none on-hand waiting in the back for street date. None shown on-order.

Unless some get drop-shipped at the last moment, there will be no Wonka WS tomorrow, at least at MY local BB.


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#18 of 48 OFFLINE   Sean Patrick

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Posted November 12 2001 - 04:58 PM

I have the original dvd from 1997 (which was also anamorphic) - how much of an improvement is the picture quality? i know the extras are great, and i plan on picking it up in the future, but unless it has a totally 100% better looking transfer i might wait a few months.

#19 of 48 OFFLINE   Darren Davis

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Posted November 12 2001 - 05:08 PM

you know, I still think Gene Wilder is one of the greatest actors. He has the voice, passion, presence, everything. His performance in this movie is worth the purchase alone. Anyways, thanks for the great review. I love this movie and it has been added to my list. ------------------

#20 of 48 OFFLINE   David Lambert

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Posted November 13 2001 - 01:30 PM

Good news! The music store that TRIED (without success) to get me a WS copy of Cats & Dogs...has copies in-stock right now of WS Wonka! I'm off to go get one, assuming there's no mistake from the teenie-bopper who I talked to. I'll let you all know how it is!


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