Willy Wonka died on Monday, August 29th. Yes, I know his name was Gene Wilder, but stick with me here. For most of us in our mid-forties at this time, Wilder’s portrayal of Roald Dahl’s Willy Wonka, from Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, is a significant piece of our childhood. For this reason, though Wilder did several other great films, many of us still view him as Willy Wonka.
The movie, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, had a bit of everything in it. Well, not romance, and I’m okay with that. It had action, mystery, a cool storyline, memorable characters, hope, and yes, a resolution at the end. It also had quirky humor, which as a kid, I couldn’t fully appreciate. As an adult, however, I find it refreshing, even now.
Take for instance, this exchange between Wonka and Mr. Salt (whose daughter was Veruca, a bratty child if there ever were one. I guess she would have been considered entitled in today’s society.):
Mr. Salt: What is this, Wonka? Some kind of fun house?
Wonka: Why? Are you having fun?
Or we can look at this statement, after Wonka is asked about the legitimacy of a contract (yes, there was a contract in the movie):
I’m sorry, but all questions must be submitted in writing.
One thing that was evident to me when I was a kid was that all of the children who won golden tickets (with the exception of Charlie) and their parents were all brats. Yes, the parents were brats, maybe even more so than the children. It was always the behavior of the children (and their parents) that led to something drastic happening, thus leading to many people’s favorite scenes involving the Oompa Loompas.
(I want an Oompa Loompa right now!)
If you are not aware, the Oompa Loompas trotted out after one of the kids did something they shouldn’t have and they sang a little ditty. There were always three verses to the songs, and the Oompa Loompas always appeared as if they were begging you to heed their warnings.
Oompa Loompa doompadee doo
I’ve got another puzzle for you
Oompa Loompa doompadee dee
If you are wise you will listen to me
Then came the puzzle, which was never really a puzzle at all, but more of a declaration on manners, something that 45 years ago, when the movie came out, was more of a topic than it is now. Yeah, hard to believe, isn’t it? My favorite declaration…err…puzzle is as follows:
Who do you blame when your kid is a brat
Pampered and spoiled like a Siamese cat?
Blaming the kids is a lion of shame
You know exactly who’s to blame:
The mother and the father!
Like I said, that’s not a puzzle, but a declaration.
They always closed with a message about doing things the right way.
Oompa Loompa doompadee dah
If you’re not spoiled then you will go far
You will live in happiness too
Like the Oompa Loompa doompadee do
In a way, each verse to the Oompa Loompa’s songs was like a story, with a beginning, a middle and an ending. Only these stories were more like parables, meant as a lesson to anyone who would listen. And that is one of the beauties of the book, and by extension, the movie, which expanded on Dahl’s thoughts.
There was more to Willy Wonka then just lessons that, as children, most of us missed. There was wisdom.
A little nonsense now and then, is relished by the wisest men.
This was Wonka’s response to Mr. Salt (yet again) when he said ‘that’s a lot of nonsense,’ to the fact that the geese that laid golden eggs didn’t know Easter was over. I always wondered what he meant to this. Was it Wonka’s way of saying all work and no play makes Mr. Salt a dull boy? I don’t know, but there is a ring of truth to it: too much seriousness can make you totally unhappy. And sometimes being naive to something is not necessarily a bad thing.
One of my favorite nuggets in the movie is how Wonka replies to Veruca (go figure) when she says, “Snozzberries? Who’s ever heard of a snozzberry?” His response was to grab her cheeks with one hand and turn her face to his and state:
We are the music makers, and we are the dreamers of dreams.
It’s not an original saying. In fact, that is the opening portion to a poem simply titled, ‘Ode,’ by Arthur O’Shaughnessy. But when you think about it, both O’Shaughnessy and Wonka were right. We really are the music makers. We really are the dreamers of dreams. All of us, whether we realize it or not, are dreamers and our souls and hearts are the music makers. The dreamers of the world are the ones who make changes. They are the ones who don’t tend to conform to societal standards. They are the ones who not only think outside the box, but they break the box down and throw it into the incinerator. And then they build their own boxes that someone else can think out of and destroy at a later date.
Dare to dream. Dare to make music that is different than the norm. Dare to write what you want to write and not conform to the rigidity of the rules of writing. Dare to tell a story that moves people. Just dare.
The rest of that poem is as follows, just in case you were wondering:
We are the music-makers,
And we are the dreamers of dreams,
Wandering by lone sea-breakers
And sitting by desolate streams;
World losers and world forsakers,
On whom the pale moon gleams:
Yet we are the movers and shakers
Of the world for ever, it seems.
With wonderful deathless ditties
We build up the world’s great cities.
And out of a fabulous story
We fashion an empire’s glory:
One man with a dream, at pleasure,
Shall go forth and conquer a crown;
And three with a new song’s measure
Can trample an empire down.
We, in the ages lying
In the buried past of the earth,
Built Nineveh with our sighing,
And Babel itself with our mirth;
And o’erthrew them with prophesying
To the old of the new world’s worth;
For each age is a dream that is dying,
Or one that is coming to birth.
Lessons, lessons, lessons all about life are present throughout the movie and brought to life by Gene Wilder’s work as the quirky, and somewhat Eeyore-ish, Willy Wonka. Again, to quote the movie:
So much time, so little to do. Wait a minute. Strike that. Reverse it.
So much to do, so little time is what he meant, but if you weren’t paying attention you missed it when watching the movie. There is so much truth to that. We all want to do so much, but do we use our time wise enough so that we can get those things done and enjoy life as well?
Though there is so much more I can go into with the brilliance of this movie, there is only really one more thing to touch on. At one point, shortly after everyone is allowed into Wonka’s candy land (literally), Gene Wilder sings a song. The song is titled Pure Imagination and it was written by Leslie Bricusse and Anthony Newley specifically for Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. I have always thought the song went so well with the movie and especially the poem, ‘Ode.’
How, you ask?
We are the dreamers of dreams and these lyrics:
If you want to view paradise
Simply look around and view it
Anything you want to, do it
Want to change the world?
There’s nothing to it
If you want to make changes in the world, you have to dream those dreams and then get after it. Willy Wonka wanted to create candy children would love. He wanted to give a home to the Oompa Loompas. He wanted to create the everlasting gobstopper. He dreamed the dreams and then made the music…err…candy so many people in the movie loved.
Willy Wonka was different. So was Gene Wilder, who really epitomized the concept of being your own person. They both taught us to dream and to chase those dreams and to not be like everyone else.
(Anything you want to, do it.)
Today I say goodbye to Willy Wonka and Gene Wilder. Thank you for your whimsical view on life and the way you gave a generation of children hope.
(What to change the world? There’s nothing to it.)
Until we meet again my friends, be kind to one another.