Charlie & The Chocolate Factory 2005 vs. 1971: Differences Explained

Charlie & The Chocolate Factory 2005 vs. 1971: Differences Explained

Roald Dahl’s children’s book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory has been adapted to the big screen twice. So when it comes down to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 2005 vs 1971, which one was better? The 1971 version with Gene Wilder as Willy Wonka is now considered a classic, but Tim Burton’s 2005 film also offered an interesting interpretation of that world – and here’s how his version compares to the first film. Roald Dahl is best known and remembered for his children’s books, which have some underlying darkness, a peculiar sense of humor, and in which adults played the part of villains. Many of his works have been adapted to the big screen for years, most notably Matilda, Fantastic Mr. Fox, and The Witches.


One of his most famous works is the 1964 novel Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, which has been adapted to different media for years, though the most memorable ones are its film versions. In 1971, the musical film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was released, directed by Mel Stuart and with Gene Wilder as eccentric candymaker Willy Wonka. The film was well-received by critics and is now considered a classic, and Wilder’s performance was widely praised.

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Another version arrived in 2005 with Tim Burton as director and frequent collaborator Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka. Though not a remake per se and more of an adaptation of the book, viewers couldn’t help but compare both versions, especially Wilder and Depp’s performances. Tim Burton’s movie Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was a critical and financial success, and though both films have their strengths and are entertaining in their own ways, there are a lot of differences between them. Here’s how Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 2005 vs 1971 shakes out.

Willy Wonka in the Original Movie & Tim Burton’s Remake

Willy Wonka compare Gene Wilder Johnny Depp

Willy Wonka is the founder of the Wonka Candy Company and the owner of the Wonka Chocolate Factory and was the main character (along with Charlie Bucket) of the novels Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator. Wonka’s reputation as a candymaker is unlike any other, as he’s known for creating truly unique candies that are a whole experience rather than just a regular sweet. The book describes him as a man with a black top hat, a purple jacket, silver gloves, bottle-green pants, and a cane. He’s older than he looks and has gray hair. He’s sassy, jumpy, hyperactive, and giddy, so much so that he sometimes danced his way from one room to the other.

Both big-screen versions of Willy Wonka are different from the one in the book, but they keep some characteristics. Wilder’s portrayal of Wonka is eccentric and more subtle, but there’s also a lot of anger in him and a touch of evil at times. On the other hand, Depp’s performance is over the top and childlike, which is funny when seeing how much Wonka dislikes children. Depp’s version also has an evil side, and because his is not subtle like Wilder’s, it’s perceived by most viewers as a psychotic version of the character, though they both have that quality – it’s just portrayed in different ways. Depp’s is also more tragic as he was given a backstory, which explains (in part, at least) why he acts the way he does and why he isn’t fond of children and families in general. So when looking at Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 2005 vs 1971, 2005’s version features a Willy Wonka that’s closer to the book.

The Oompa-Loompas

Willy Wonka oompa loompas

Oompa-Loompas are small humans who reside and work at the Wonka Factory. In early editions of the novel, they were described as African Pygmies, but they were changed to be white-skinned and golden-haired, and their country of origin to be Loompaland. When Willy Wonka found them, they lived in huts in the trees to escape from various creatures and were struggling to get food. They ate mashed caterpillars, which tasted terrible, and would mash them with other things like eucalyptus leaves or beetles to make them taste better, but what they truly wanted were cacao beans. To help them, Wonka offered them to work for him and live at the factory, where he would pay them with cacao beans, and they could also eat all the chocolate they wanted.

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Each film has had its own version of the Oompa-Loompas: in the 1971 version, they were orange-skinned, with green hair, and wore brown shirts with striped wrists and collars, and baggy lederhosen-like pants (unlike in the book, where they insisted on keeping their native clothing: animal skins for men, leaves for women, and nothing for children). They were all played by different actors, whereas in Burton’s version, they were played by Star Trek 4’s Deep Roy, who also played the female Oompa-Loompa, Doris. In this film, the Oompa-Loompas wore uniforms of different colors, depending on the area they worked in. Their roles were the same (as Wonka Factory workers), but they were given more relevance in Burton’s film, as they also served as Wonka’s confidants.

The Chocolate Factory

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory

The sets and effects in Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory may now look outdated, but they’re actually quite impressive when considering the limitations in special effects at the time. Its effects are practical, and the factory is as colorful and unreal as expected. Burton’s version, on the other hand, is more spectacular as that’s what his films are all about, and also because the technology was already advanced enough to allow him to bring heavily detailed and colorful scenarios to life and make horrific chocolate factory scenes like Violet blowing up into a giant blueberry and Mike getting trapped in a TV look more believable, even if some argue that Burton relied a bit too much on CGI. It’s worth noting that the chocolate river was a practical effect on both, but a bigger budget helped the production crew of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory make it look better than in the first film.

The Story

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory grandpa Joe Charlie

Both films follow the book’s central idea: Willy Wonka hid five golden tickets in chocolate bars, and the kids who found them were granted entrance to the factory. Throughout the tour, various mishaps resulted in the group being reduced more and more until only one kid was left, who got a big prize at the end. Willy Wonka included scenes from the book (some of them with a couple of changes, like the “fizzy lifting drink” ) that Charlie and the Chocolate Factory didn’t, and added elements that weren’t that necessary, such as turning Slugworth into a spy (who, in the book, is only a minor character).

A significant addition to the story in Burton’s version was Willy Wonka’s backstory, which explained in part why he’s so dedicated to candy, why he doesn’t like kids, and why he has trouble with parents and the whole concept of “family.” To some, Willy Wonka feels more like a Charlie Bucket story and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory like a Willy Wonka one, while others think it’s the other way around.

Related: Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator Updates: A Sequel Is Happening (On Netflix)

The Songs

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory songs

One of the most significant differences between Willy Wonka and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is that the first one is a musical, with Wonka himself and other characters breaking into songs (such as “Pure Imagination” and “The Candy Man”). In contrast, in the second film, only the Oompa-Loompas have their musical numbers. In the 1971 film, the Oompa-Loompas’ songs are puzzles, and Burton’s version was more faithful to the book as Danny Elfman took the songs directly from the novel.

Tim Burton’s Charlie & The Chocolate Factory Is More Faithful To The Book

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory family

When discussing Charlie and the Chocolate Factory 2005 vs 1971, it’s worth noting that 2005’s follows the book better. As mentioned above, Willy Wonka added many scenes from the book, some of which were changed for narrative and visual purposes, but in the end, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is more faithful to the book. Both omitted some scenes from the book that weren’t important (such as the square candies that look ‘round), but the characters and their flaws (including Wonka himself), their appearance, the songs, and the factory are truer to the book’s descriptions in Burton’s version. In addition, author Roald Dahl disowned the 1971 version for a couple of reasons, mainly because he thought it placed “too much emphasis on Willy Wonka and not enough on Charlie”, and wasn’t really ok with Gene Wilder being cast instead of Spike Milligan. Dahl also wasn’t on board with making Slugworth a spy, the way the “fizzy lifting drink” scene was written, the inclusion of music other than the Oompa-Loompa compositions, and the ending dialogue.

Which Version Of Charlie & The Chocolate Factory Is Better

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory book

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is more a family film than Burton’s version (even if the tunnel scene was the source of nightmares to many), and will continue to be a classic, but Charlie and the Chocolate Factory ends up being a better version of Roald Dahl’s book. As discussed above, Burton’s version is more faithful to the book: the songs come directly from the source material, the children and their flaws are as described in the book, and Johnny Depp’s performance as Wonka, though with his own quirks and style, is more like the one in the book. Burton modernized the scenarios and stories so they could connect with the audience, and even though it obviously omitted scenes from the book, it made up for that by expanding on Willy Wonka’s backstory and giving other characters more screen time, as is the case of Charlie’s grandparents and his father, who wasn’t even included in the first film.

Burton’s production design, accompanied by a score by Danny Elfman and the performances of Johnny Depp and a young Freddie Highmore, elevate the story and help make a fantasy world like the one inside Wonka’s factory a believable one. Highmore’s portrayal of Charlie Bucket is more moving and believable than the one in the 1971 film, as he genuinely managed to play the part of an innocent kid who comes from a very, very humble home. Nostalgia, as always, plays a big role when comparing two different versions of a story, so in the end, it’s up to every viewer and their own experience to decide which film did it best: Willy Wonka or Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Related: Dark Theory Claims Willy Wonka Is Performing The Cabin In The Woods Ritual

How Wonka Can Avoid Comparisons With Either Chocolate Factory Movie

In 2018, it was announced that there would be a Willy Wonka prequel movie hitting the big screen, with director Paul King (Paddington) at the helm. Considering that the upcoming movie is a prequel, there may be little to draw from in terms of comparison between the story’s two previous adaptations. The rights for the character of Willy Wonka were bought by Warner Bros. Pictures in 2016, so it was inevitable that more of Matilda’s Roald Dahl Chocolate Factory content would be on the way at some point. Initially, the list of actors considered for the role of young Willy Wonka included Donald Glover, Ryan Gosling, and Ezra Miller. It wasn’t until May of 2021 that it was revealed that Timothée Chalamet was cast in the role of the young chocolate factory owner. It’s also been disclosed that the series will return to its original Gene Wilder roots by including musical numbers once again.

Based on the latest footage and pictures from the set, it appears that the studio is going for the original look and feel of Willy Wonka from Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory. Folding musical numbers into the mix only enhances the notion that studios are departing from Tim Burton’s rendition of the story and returning to the magic that the original film held dear. While plot details are being held close to the chest, including whether or not the beloved Oompa Loompas will be making a return, the basic premise that the new movie chronicles a young Willy Wonka and his adventures prior to owning his famed chocolate factory. The cast so far also includes Rowan Atkinson, Keegan-Michael Key, and Olivia Coleman in undisclosed roles.

So far, Wonka is set to hit the theaters on December 15th, 2023, after facing delays due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as per most movies coming out during this time. The film serves as a prequel to Roald Dahl’s famous children’s book, so the narrative is completely uncharted territory, but further comparisons will no doubt be made once Wonka hits theaters. By the looks of things, though, studios are moving away from Tim Burton and Johnny Depp’s strange iteration of the character and back to what made the original movie great. They’ll likely keep the more modern appearance seen in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, but the addition of musical numbers and Wonka’s costume alone suggest that the prequel film will be basing its groundwork on Gene Wilder’s portrayal of the character.

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About The Author

Adrienne Tyler
(3533 Articles Published)

Adrienne Tyler is a features writer for Screen Rant. She is an Audiovisual Communication graduate who wanted to be a filmmaker, but life had other plans (and it turned out great). Prior to Screen Rant, she wrote for Pop Wrapped, 4 Your Excitement (4YE), and D20Crit, where she was also a regular guest at Netfreaks podcast. She was also a contributor for FanSided’s BamSmackPow and 1428 Elm. Adrienne is very into films and she enjoys a bit of everything: from superhero films to heartbreaking dramas, to low-budget horror films. Every time she manages to commit to a TV show without getting bored, an angel gets its wings.

When she’s not writing, you can find her trying to learn a new language, watching hockey (go Avs!), or wondering what life would have been like had Pushing Daisies, Firefly, and Limitless not been cancelled. Breakfast food is life and coffee is what makes the world go round.

Guillermo del Toro said “hi” to her once. It was great.

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