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Much to the dismay of an entire generation of movie fans, Warner Home Video initially released their DVD special edition of WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY ($25) in a full frame only presentation. After the loudest pubic outcry that I can remember, Warner Home Video rethought their release plans and immediately put into production, a second wide screen DVD release of this beloved childhood favorite.


What I like most about WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is the fact that it isn’t the typical Disney-esque children’s film. Sure, there are songs, family values and a good deal comedy. However, just beneath the surface of WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY there is something dark- and just a little bit twisted about the story and the title character. Based upon the book Charlie And The Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl, WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY tells the story of a poor boy named Charlie, who dreams of winning a contest that is causing a worldwide frenzy. It seems that Willy Wonka, the reclusive candy maker, has hidden five golden tickets inside of his candy bars. The finder of each ticket will be entitled to a year’s supply of chocolate, as well as a tour of Wonka’s top-secret candy making facilities.

One by one, the golden tickets are found by various children, with the final ticket going to young Charlie, but only after the boy suffers a few disappointments. The visit to the Chocolate Factory proves to be both magical and strange, with the other children having their tour brought to an abrupt halt, as they each succumb to their own foibles. Although made on a tight budget, WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY benefits from an imaginative production design, delightful songs from Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley, and most of all, a brilliant performance by Gene Wilder as the slightly mad candy man. The cast of WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY also features Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum, Roy Kinnear, Julie Dawn Cole, Leonard Stone, Denise Nickerson, Nora Denney, Paris Themmen, Ursula Reit, Michael Bollner, Diana Sowle, Aubrey Woods, David Battley and GŁnter Meisner.

In this second incarnation of their special edition DVD release, Warner Home Video has made WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY available in a 1.78:1 wide screen presentation that features the anamorphic enhancement for 16:9 displays. The transfer is quite pleasing, producing a clear and well-defined image. Some of the scenes filmed outside the studio environment appear a bit soft and grainy, but for the most part WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY looks great. Colors are bright and bold, with appealing flesh tones. The deepest hues of Wonka’s candy colored world are rendered with chroma noise or smearing. Blacks are suitably inky and the picture provides respectable shadow detail. The dual layer DVD is free from noticeable signs of digital compression artifacts.

WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is presented with a Dolby Digital 5.1 channel sound mix. Considering that the movie is thirty years old, Warner has done a good job of reworking these older sound elements. The majority of the sound emanates from the forward soundstage, and the center channel in particular. Occasional effects do make it into the other channels, but the sound is never pushed beyond its limitations. Dialogue is cleanly reproduced, with complete intelligibility. However, the track really comes to life for the musical numbers. Songs like The Candy Man and Pure Imagination have a wonderfully full-bodied sound that reproduces at a higher fidelity than the rest of the track. The orchestrations have a lively quality and the music doesn’t sound at all compressed. Also, the musical component of the soundtrack makes better use of all the channels, with strong representation in the forward soundstage and fill coming from the rears. The bass channel serves to solidify the music at the low end, which complements the higher frequency musical instruments. French, Spanish and Portuguese monaural soundtracks are also encoded onto the DVD, as are English, French, Spanish and Portuguese subtitles.

Animation, music and sound serve to enhance the DVD’s delightfully designed interactive menus. Through the menus, one has access to standard scene selection and set up features, as well as the DVD’s solid supplements. Starting things off is a running audio commentary featuring the five "Wonka Kids" from the movie. This is a fun commentary, with the now adult "Wonka Kids" reflecting back on the movie they made thirty years ago. Next up is the thirty-minute documentary, Pure Imagination: The Making of Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Featuring all new interviews with cast and crew, this is an enjoyable program that also allows fans a "where are they now" look at the grown up "Wonka Kids." Also included on the DVD is an original featurette on the film’s production design. A theatrical trailer, cast list, small still gallery and Sing-Along of Wonka Songs close out the DVD’s supplemental section.

WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY remains as delightful and engaging today as it was thirty years ago. Warner has done right by fans of the movie by giving them a wonderful 16:9 enhanced wide screen presentation of the film on DVD. Coupled with the extras and the good sounding soundtrack- the wide screen version of WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY is a must have DVD.

Note: if your local retailer isn’t carrying the wide screen version of WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY, don’t settle for the full frame version- you can pick up the wide screen DVD on-line.


Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (30th Anniversary Edition - Widescreen)


DVD reviews are Copyright © 2001 THE CINEMA LASER and may not be copied or reprinted without the written consent of the publisher.
THE CINEMA LASER is written, edited and published by Derek M. Germano.



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