The 5 million copy
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Willy Wonka

Surely there are few out there who don’t recall Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? The (still) marvellous book, in other words, not the terrible 1970s musical based on it or the even worse Tim Burton ‘reimagining’. But just in case…

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the book, only the book – this can’t be stressed enough – is a celebration of all things sweet, including good behaviour in children.

The winners of the 5 golden tickets (in the order they discovered them)

  1. Augustus Gloop, a fat boy who eats as a hobby.
  2. Veruca Salt, a spoiled brat whose father bought thousands of bars to help her get one of the prized tickets.
  3. Violet Beauregarde, an obnoxious, gum-chewing girl.
  4. Mike Teavee, the television addict, get it?
  5. And finally Charlie, thanks to a 50 pence piece he finds and spends on two bars of Wonka’s Whipple-Scrumptious Fudgemallow Delight.


Charlie, a very poor but very nice boy who only gets one bar of chocolate a year, on his birthday, lives in sight – and smell – of the world’s most famous and secretive chocolate factory, Wonka’s, owned by Mr Willy Wonka. One day, a competition is announced. Five Golden Tickets will be hidden in bars of the chocolate, the finding of which will allow the holder to see inside the factory. What the children and their chaperones (and the readers) don’t know is that the tour is really a test to see who Willy Wonka can trust to run his fantastical factory after he’s sauntered through the chocolatey gates of heaven.


(SPOILER ALERT. If you’re not already familiar with the plot, this will spoil your appetite.) The first four children are undone by their particular flaws. The greedy Augustus Gloop drinks from Wonka’s chocolate river – ‘no other factory in the world mixes its chocolate by waterfall! But it’s the only way to do it properly!’ – falls in and is sucked up a pipe. Violet Beauregarde ignores advice and falls foul of an experimental three course meal in a stick of gum that turns her into a blueberry. Veruca Salt decides she wants one of the squirrels that Wonka uses to sort nuts, but the squirrels test her for flaws – by rapping her on her head – and discard her down the chute for bad nuts. Mike Teavee hijacks an experiment, sends himself across the room by TV, and ends up an inch tall. As the only survivor, and because at least in children’s fiction the nice guy wins, Charlie is awarded the factory by Willy Wonka.


The first film version in 1975 cast Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka – wrong, wrong, wrong, because as every chocolate lover knows, Willy Wonka is tiny, dark haired and has a beard. And it added songs and ignored pretty much everything Roald Dahl had done. Although Dahl wrote the original screenplay, director Mel Stuart brought in (the uncredited) David Seltzer to rewrite it. There was so little of Dahl’s vision left – they even make Charlie badly behaved which completely misses the point – the author disowned the film and then refused to sell the film rights to the sequel, Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator.


Tim Burton’s 2005 remake is perhaps even worse, which is a remarkable achievement. While more faithful to Dahl’s story, Johnny Depp is woefully miscast (seriously, a pointy beard, is it too much to ask?) and is apparently channelling Michael Jackson in his pale-faced, effeminate and high pitched performance. Burton also attempts to explain Wonka’s love of sweets by inventing an evil dentist father played by Christopher Lee, adding a whole new level of wrongness to the adaptation.

Maximum Bluffing Value

Being 6’ 5 ¾” earned Roald Dahl the nickname ‘Lofty’ in the RAF. And Walt Disney – who worked on the film of The Gremlins and couldn’t pronounce ‘Roald’ – called him ‘Stalky’ (after a beanstalk presumably).

DO SAY ‘Roald Dahl used to have a KitKat every day with his lunch and would wrap the silver foil around yesterday’s snack to make a silver foil ball which grew a little larger each day.’

DON’T SAY ‘It’s a mystery to me why Wonka thought trusting any child around truckloads of chocolate was a good idea.’


Happy Bluffing!

Neil Davey

All bluffed up on Charlie and the Chocolate Factory? Move on to the sequel…Neil Davey’s Bluffer’s Guide to Chocolate!