Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory – 4K UHD Blu-ray Review
Film Title: Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971)
Release Date: 2021
Runtime: 100 minutes
Region Coding: Region Free
Audio Format: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
High Dynamic Range: HDR10
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Version Reviewed: 4K UHD Blu-ray
Release Date: 6/29/21
Director: Mel Stuart
Cast: Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum, Roy Kinnear, Julie Dawn Cole, Leonard Stone, Denise Nickerson, Nora Denney, Paris Themmen, Ursula Reit, Michael Bollner, Diana Sowle, Günter Meisner
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Movie | Video | Audio | Bonus | Closing | Screenshots
Full 4K Tech Specs found at the bottom
“Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” was a 1971 film adaptation of the Roald Dahl children’s novel originally titled “Charlie & the Chocolate Factory“ from 1964. The film was directed by Mel Stuart, best known for directing mostly documentaries about a bit more serious subject matter. However, Stuart had also done some feature-length traditional films before this such as “If It’s Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium” (1969). The screenplay, officially, was adapted by the author Roald Dahl himself. However, unofficially and uncredited, it’s known that David Seltzer contributed some things. Seltzer would go on to write the screenplays to some pretty memorable horror films like “The Omen” (1976) and “Prophecy” (1979), as well as both writing and directing the film “Lucas” (1986).
The story of the film, slightly adapted from Dahl’s original novel, involved a young boy from a lower class named “Charlie Bucket” (Peter Ostrum). Charlie, daily after school, watches the other more upper-class children enjoy treats at a local candy store where the name of “Willy Wonka” is all the rage with his chocolate bars and other confectionery delights. He’s too poor and too busy working a paper route, to be able to afford luxurious items like chocolates at a candy store. Charlie has a family back at home that means a lot more to him than any candy bar ever could.
Charlie lives with his single mother “Mrs. Bucket” (Diana Sowle) and his grandparents, including his “Grandpa Joe” (Jack Albertson) who he seems the fondest of. Although Charlie and his family are used to eating stuff as nasty as cabbage soup, he’s able to use his salary from his paper route to be able to buy them all a loaf of bread. It’s obvious that Charlie isn’t like the typical children, and thinks about the bigger picture. However, when Willy Wonka manages to launch a contest to give away five “Golden Tickets” inside of his candy bars, it’s pretty hard for even Charlie to resist trying to find one of those tickets. See, the ticket grants you and one family member admission to Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory which has been kept heavily under secrecy for years. Charlie walks by the factory daily, so it’s a bit of something that hits close to home for him and the idea of getting to tour is a dream for a child like him, but he still desires for that dream to come true.
Meanwhile, there will be other winners of these Golden Tickets that get admission to Wonka’s chocolate factory, and if Charlie ends up there, you’ll just have to find out how as I’m not spoiling that bit for those who actually have never seen a fifty-year-old film. First to find a Golden Ticket is an American gum-chewing young girl by the name of “Violet Beauregarde” (Denise Nickerson), as we see her at her father’s used car lot with TV crews surrounding her announcing this. After that, there’s a German boy rather fond of eating everything (including chocolate) by the name of “Augustus Gloop” (Michael Bollner) who has found a Golden Ticket. Then, there’s a spoiled young British girl named “Veruca Salt” (Julie Dawn Cole) who forces her rather well-off father to force his workers to open Wonka Bars until they find her a Golden Ticket. And, then there’s “Mike Teevee” (Paris Themmen) who sits watching TV, appropriately enough back in the United States as another Golden Ticket finder.
Eventually, as promised on the Golden Tickets, on the first day of October “Willy Wonka” (Gene Wilder) comes out of hiding and opens his factory to the five winners with the flashy admission they found beside candy bars. To say that Wonka is a rather eccentric but lovable chap would be a bit of an understatement but it is still true, nonetheless. Let’s just say he is what we often refer to as a dreamer or visionary. The kids and their accompanying parents are about to be in for one definite treat, and not just the kind that is sweet.
Movie Rating: 5 (out of 5)
“Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” on 4K UHD Blu-ray is presented in the intended 1.85:1 aspect ratio, unlike the original 2009 Blu-ray which was framed in a 1.78:1 aspect ratio (filling the screen). The movie was originally shot in the 1.66:1 aspect ratio. As a result, it has been cropped a few times over the years. It was intended for a 1.85:1 aspect ratio with tiny black bars at the top and bottom of a typical 4K display such as a TV screen. More on the issues regarding the framing of the original image source material later. Most importantly, this was shot on 35mm film using Arriflex 35 IIC and Mitchell BNCR cameras with spherical lenses. Warner has given this a new 4K DI (digital intermediate) master and 4K remaster.
Next, let me get technical, for a bit, in regards to the 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc itself here. This release is using a BD-66 (66 gigabytes) disc, 60.10 gigabytes total, and 58.9 gigabytes for the film itself. Let’s take a look back at the original 2009 Blu-ray Disc release of the film. That release was using a BD-25 (25 gigabytes) disc, 20.84 gigabytes total, and 18.8 gigabytes for the film itself. So, technically, this new 4K version uses a file over 3 times the original size in all due fairness here. That itself is actually impressive but it also raises concern as to why the film was ever that small on Blu-ray as a file, to begin with. A 100-minute film should have used much more space than it did back then, and most of us are used to only animated films in HD getting file sizes that small.
So, is it amazing that the film (now in 4K) has an almost 60 gigabytes file versus the original Blu-ray in HD being under 20 gigabytes? Yes, and also no. As I said before, the file should have never been that small on Blu-ray and also it’s not really that much disc space to be using here for the film when the 4K UHD Blu-ray only contains the audio commentary track and other language tracks. They could have easily put this on a BD-100 and let it use 70 to 80 gigabytes if they wanted to. Let’s be realistic here, independent distributors manage to do this for archive films. So, why can’t a company as big and reputable as Warner Bros. manage to do BD-100 on catalog releases like this? I can’t say, but I can’t help but feel it could have benefited slightly and maybe had a bit more visible film grain. I felt that way long before I started to analyze the content here, and I still feel that way.
Now, I want to do a visual comparison here between the original Blu-ray and the 4K UHD Blu-ray. Instead of just offering you the still screenshots for both the 2009 Blu-ray Disc and the new 2021 4K UHD Blu-ray releases, I’ll be [back to] giving you some video slideshow screenshots comparison over on the site’s YouTube channel, embedded below. Also, though, for those who want to see more Blu-ray VS. 4K screenshots, click the text above screenshots.
Blu-ray VS. 4K Screenshots Comparison:
SOURCES: 2009 Blu-ray (left), 2021 4K UHD Blu-ray (right)
As you can tell, there’s some shift in the framing here, which would appear as “cropping” to most. First and foremost, you’ll first notice during the film’s opening credits that it no longer has black bars around the sequence and has been framed correctly now on the 4K release, compared to the original 2009 Blu-ray (as first shown in the shots above). They [Warner] did a great job of fixing this beautiful opening title sequence, and it really makes things feel so much better now watching it from the start. Speaking of which, they’ve also reinstated the original Paramount Pictures logo at the beginning. Yes, this film was originally released and distributed during its 1971 theatrical run by Paramount. The previous Blu-ray started up with a Warner Home Video logo or such. So, that’s also been fixed.
Also, I want to explain that you’ll actually see some shots where they actually match up out of the 54 shots total I did, about 4 or 5 do and haven’t been framed differently. Not every bit of this has been framed up differently than you have seen before in the two different 16×9 (widescreen) aspect ratios on the two physical discs. However, I would off the top of my head say about 80% of the film has been framed differently as you’ll be able to tell from just my screenshots themselves.
There’s a reason behind this new framing here on the 4K UHD Blu-ray and thankfully I have a way to show you all why via a video that some folks suggested to me on social media after sharing a screenshot comparison. This video explains how the 2009 Blu-ray had an incorrect aspect ratio of 1.78:1 and totally didn’t utilize the original 1.85:1 intended aspect ratio with its framing. Once you’ve watched this video, it’s going to make a little bit more sense, and we will continue. Trust me. I know the video is a bit hard to follow at times and will need to be paused at times, but the person is right in what they’re saying.
So, as you can tell by that video in conjunction with my screenshots comparison video and images above, this is actually utilizing the original 1.85:1 aspect ratio framing, which as I said before that this video claims and my screenshots show that it was lacking. It’s now centered vertically. So, let me explain this a bit to some of you that still might be a tad bit confused here. Essentially, what seems almost alien to you to see now when compared side-by-side to the previous framing you’ve seen on that 2009 Blu-ray, you cannot simply unsee it. It’s something you really need to forget about, and just observe the new 4K version and the correct 1.85:1 aspect ratio. It’s unfair, in ways (in my own honest opinion), to compare the two more than just once or twice when looking over something such as this review or the companion video.
Once you’ve seen all of that, just go with the new 4K screenshots and look at those, or if you’ve purchased it just go with what you’re seeing and don’t go popping in the original 2009 Blu-ray that’s included and trying to over-analyze this. You’ll get too into it, and go down the rabbit hole, and end up forgetting to enjoy this film. You’ll also forget to appreciate the work that the folks at Warner Bros. have done here, likely at the MPI (Motion Picture Imaging) labs on the studio lot.
Simply put, with the whole change of aspect ratio and shift of framing aside, this new 4K presentation comes with a very nice amount of detail, a pretty healthy amount of film grain left intact that you never saw in HD on the previous Blu-ray, and it comes with a very solid black level. The Blu-ray felt way too bright, and now with the addition of HDR10 form of high dynamic range, it makes for a more realistic sense of lighting during daytime outdoors scenes and indoors scenes with artificial lighting.
You’ll notice how the skin tones may seem different to you here in 4K with HDR (presented in SDR to you via screenshots) but those flesh tones are actually now accurate and the original was incorrect. The colors for all of the costumes and set pieces and such also look more realistic here and feel like they have a new feel to them, that you have never experienced on any other previous home video presentation.
I’d go as far as to say that the closest that you have seen this ever being in a correct manner would be the original DVD release in terms of framing, but obviously not in terms of definition or color. That video I showed you should probably make you have realized that by now, with the green bar area looking nearly identical to the 4K screenshots.
All and all, this new 4K UHD Blu-ray makes for a good debut on the format. It’s not what I would go as far as to rate as perfect, to be quite honest, and no that’s not because of the shift of framing on some shots or such. It’s because I just am putting it up side-by-side with other 4K physical releases that I believe merit a perfect score. That being said, this still manages to earn itself what I would call a very impressive 4.75 rating for video quality.
But, “you don’t have to take my word for it.” See for yourself in the opening first 10 minutes of the film after the opening credits in 4K 2160p without HDR over on YouTube.
Video Quality Rating: 4.75 (out of 5)
“Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” makes its debut to the 4K UHD Blu-ray format in DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround sound, unlike the previous 2009 Blu-ray which contained a 5.1 mix in another format.
The first thing you’ll notice here, during the opening title sequence is that the music gets a nice amount of rear channel presence as well as comes with a nice amount of LFE that you’ll feel mostly via the subwoofer. Once the credits finish, you’ll notice that the dialogue is delivered distinctively from the center channel speaker. And, when a musical number breaks out you’ll hear the vocals through that very same center channel, with the music filling the rest of the 5.1 surround speaker configuration as described before.
All of your favorite musical numbers such as Gene Wilder singing the song “Pure Imagination” sound really good and also have a pretty good bit of oomph to them at the right points. Sound effects also have a bit of oomph to them as well, as the film gets a bit more intense during the latter half. The mix really didn’t need to be turned into something like Dolby Atmos or such, in my honest opinion. You should keep in mind that this came from a Mono sound source, after all here.
All and all, the original 5.1 surround sound lossless mix (albeit in a new sound format) proves to still be all that impressive some 12 years after its original release. Sure, it’s not perfect, and because of it coming from a Mono source and such it has some tiny issues but nothing one could really deduct from the overall verdict or rating. That said, “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” on 4K UHD Blu-ray with its DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround mix earns itself a very respectable and impressible 4.5 rating for audio quality. For a film like this, it gets the job done and then some.
Audio Quality Rating: 4.5 (out of 5)
- A Digital Copy of the film is included via a paper insert with redeem code, which is compatible with Movies Anywhere. This means you’ll get the film digitally in 4K on a variety of online video platforms including AppleTV (iTunes), Vudu, FandangoNow, and more.
- A Blu-ray Disc (the original 2009 release) of the film is included in this “combo pack” release featuring a 1080p HD video presentation in the 1.78:1 aspect ratio and Dolby TrueHD 5.1 lossless surround sound. Aside from the audio commentary track (also included), the majority of the bonus materials for the release are housed on this disc.
Bonus materials included on the 4K UHD Blu-ray Disc are listed below.
- Audio Commentary with the Wonka Kids
Bonus Materials are (as mentioned) primarily included on the Blu-ray Disc here and are listed below. These are all in SD (standard definition 480p) video quality with Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo sound.
- Audio Commentary with the Wonka Kids includes Peter Ostrum (“Charlie Bucket”), Michael Bollner (“Augustus Gloop”), Julie Dawn Cole (“Veruca Salt”), Denise Nickerson (“Violet Beauregarde”), and Paris Themmen (“Mike Teevee”).
- “Pure Imagination: The Story of Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory“ (30 minutes, 25 seconds – SD) includes interviews with Mel Stuart (director), David L. Wolper (producer), David Seltzer (uncredited co-screenwriter), Gene Wilder (“Willy Wonka”), Rusty Goffe (“Oompa Loompa”), and the Wonka Kids including Peter Ostrum (“Charlie Bucket”), Michael Bollner (“Augustus Gloop”), Julie Dawn Cole (“Veruca Salt”), Denise Nickerson (“Violet Beauregarde”), and Paris Themmen (“Mike Teevee”).
- “Vintage 1971 Featurette” (4 minutes, 2 seconds – SD) featured some behind-the-scenes footage as well as audio interviews with Harper Goff (art director) and even Roald Dahl (author & screenwriter). You also will get to see some on-set footage with the author & screenwriter Roald Dahl talking to star Gene Wilder, as well as some scenes from the film thrown in as clips. Mel Stuart, Peter Ostrom, and Jack Albertson all make some on-set appearances here.
- Fun + Games: “Sing Along Songs” (8 minutes, 12 seconds – SD) features a “play all” function and is comprised of the following four songs:
- “I’ve Got a Golden Ticket”
- “Pure Imagination”
- “I Want It Now”
- Theatrical Trailer (3 minutes, 11 seconds – SD) is presented in 1.33:1 aspect ratio (4×3) with black pillar bars on the sides and is very rough quality.
Overall, the bonus materials here are just the original 2009 Blu-ray extras and the audio commentary included on the 4K disc. You also get a 4K digital copy of the film which is compatible with Movies Anywhere. So, there’s that bit of value and such. It’s a pretty decent set of extras but nothing has been added.
Bonus Materials Rating: 2.5 (out of 5)
Looking back at it, “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” from 1971, now celebrating its 50th anniversary, remains one of my all-time favorite films from my childhood and I know has for so many others over the decades. This film adaptation has really stood up to the test of time and left us with some unforgettable moments, performances, and even songs.
Undeniably the most memorable part of this film was the amazing performance by the late great Gene Wilder in the title role of Willy Wonka. I know there was a remake of this film, directed by Tim Burton, that featured Johnny Depp in the lead role but I could never get into that version. It’s also worth noting that neither could Gene Wilder, as he was not at all a fan of that remake or the idea of it. Also, the story here with Charlie and his Grandpa Joe both were always really well acted by Peter Ostrum and the late Jack Albertson. Plus, all of the other Wonka Kids (as they became known) gave some amazing performances, as well as the actors playing their parents. This was just a real masterpiece of a film that works for both adult and children audiences.
Here’s a fun fact. It was said by one of the filmmakers that 3 million dollars were put up by the Quaker Oats Company to produce the film, as a tie-in for a [“Wonka Bar”] candy bar that would be released in conjunction with the film. The chocolate treat never was released in time for the film but would just so happen to go on to later become successful. And, that Wonka Bar candy bar, because of this film, has lasted the test of time despite the fact that Quaker Oats Company was not able to successfully launch the actual candy bar itself as planned, which essentially got the film made, to begin with.
In terms of video quality, on this 4K UHD Blu-ray debut of the film, this is just excellent once you realize that the framing here is the correct intended 1.85:1 aspect ratio as it was meant to be and totally fixes all that the original 2009 Blu-ray release did wrong. I mean, even the opening credits have been fixed here and don’t show up in a black-framed box area, instead fill the screen except for the tiny black bars at the top and bottom (because of the aspect ratio). There’s a great amount of detail to be found here in every single shot, and a healthy amount of film grain has been left intact that you can finally see now. So there’s a lot of newfound detail here from the very start. Then, factor in the addition of HDR10 form of high dynamic range and how it adds a much deeper black level, more realistic lighting conditions, accurate flesh-tone representations, and just a more believable amount of “pop” to the bright vibrant colors. Whereas the previous Blu-ray felt way too bright, in hindsight, aside from its framing problems. This is an impressive 4K presentation that will surely merit an upgrade if you owned that tragic Blu-ray from before.
In terms of audio quality, you get a new DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless surround mix that is only in a new format, unlike the previous (original) 2009 Blu-ray. And yes, there’s no Dolby Atmos mix but you might want to keep in mind that this came from a Mono sound source. It really would have been pushing it to have tried to attempt Atmos for this. It was best to leave it in a 5.1 surround configuration and a lossless format. All and all, it works and the musical numbers sound great, the dialogue is delivered perfectly, and the sound effects come with a little bit of oomph at times. It’s a somewhat impressive lossless 5.1 surround mix and manages to get the job done.
In terms of bonus materials, this release puts the audio commentary track (with the Wonka Kids) on the 4K disc as well as includes the original 2009 Blu-ray, with a new label, where you’ll find the majority of the bonus materials. There’s an audio commentary (as mentioned), a 30-minute documentary of sorts, a 4-minute vintage featurette, some sing-alongs, and the theatrical trailer on the Blu-ray Disc. Finally, there’s a digital copy of the film you get which will redeem as 4K UHD with HDR10 on services like iTunes (Apple TV). It’s a pretty decent set of extras.
“Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory” with its 4K UHD Blu-ray debut makes for a very unique recommended upgrade that left me saying: “Yeah, That’s the ticket!” There’s a whole different visual experience to be found here than what you have grown accustomed to on the previous Blu-ray and even on DVD. The sound mix isn’t much or if at all really improved here, it’s just in a new format, so don’t go expecting anything new there. Just enjoy the fact that this now-classic film, 50 years in age, has made it to the 4K physical format.
In terms of 4K UHD Blu-ray release, this gets:
4.75 (out of 5) for video quality
4.5 (out of 5) for audio quality
2.5 (out of 5) for bonus materials
Yeah, That’s the Ticket!
4K UHD Blu-ray Screenshots:
Blu-ray VS. 4K Screenshots Comparison:
SOURCES: 2009 Blu-ray (left), 2021 4K UHD Blu-ray (right)
4K UHD Blu-ray Technical Specifications:
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
Exact Runtime(s): 1:34:00
Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (with a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 core), English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (with a DTS 5.1 core), English DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono (with a DTS 1.0 Mono core), French DTS-HD Master Audio 1.0 Mono (with a DTS 1.0 core)
Languages: English, French
Subtitles: English, French, Spanish
HDR: HDR10, Dolby Vision
Disc Size: BD-100
Disc Use: 91.76GB total / 64.6GB for the film