Despite getting a writer’s credit for Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, Roald Dahl by all accounts hated the final film, to the point where he was reluctant to allow any of his books to be filmed at all. Aware of this, his family hesitated to allow the book to be filmed a second time unless they could retain creative control. This, naturally, delayed matters still further. It was not until several years after Dahl’s death that film producers and the Dahl family could agree on hiring director Tim Burton, whose previous work seemed perfectly matched to Dahl’s grotesque visions. It took Burton another few years to develop the film, now back to its original title, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Still more delays followed: British child labor laws limited the hours that the children could legally be on set; set design turned out to be a nightmare, and the crew had to figure out how to transform forty squirrels into movie stars. (And if you are wondering how to do this, the answer is, Squirrel Training Camp.) The final result was not released until 2005.
The decision to use Real Squirrels was but one of many factors that Burton and his creative team, armed with far more money to spend, used to make a film that would be, they declared, closer to the original book than the earlier film had been. In some ways, they succeeded magnificently—perhaps too magnificently. In two major ways, they failed.
Did you know that this was the last film Brad Pitt and Jennifer Aniston’s production company worked on before their split? I didn’t. And with that pretty much entirely irrelevant aside, let’s plunge into further discussion!