Extra Movie Information!

In 1999 I received an e-mail from B. Baker, a “long-time member of the cult of Mr. Willy Wonka.” He pointed out some facts about the movie that I was missing…

“So long as you’re going to mention some of the technical crew of WONKA, you might as well go ahead and list the credit, “Production Design by Harper Goff.” Goff was an unsung hero of the movie; no one else was quite so responsible for giving a relatively moderate budget film such a “big” look. His use of space in the both the deceptively tiny candy shop at the beginning of the film and in the movie’s glorious “Chocolate Room” is terrifically intelligent, economical and striking. [It would be interesting to know about the interplay and possible dialogue between choreographer Howard Jeffrey and Goff in staging the “Candy Man” number entirely in the little candy store… At any rate, it turned out perfectly.]

Goff worked for Disney in the ‘fifties and is the actual production designer of 20,000 LEAGUES UNDER THE SEA, though he was denied both the credit and eventual Oscar for his work because he was not at that time in the union. He also contributed to the design of Disneyland — some of the Main Street U.S.A. section remain close to his original concepts.

Also, when first released in the Summer of 1971, WONKA was distributed by Paramount Pictures. Although Paramount stood to make money if the film proved successful, the primary equity in the film was held by David L. Wolper’s company and The Quaker Oats Company. I’ve always felt that the studio might have tried a bit harder and been more creative in promoting and exploiting this admittedly unusual movie if it had actually made and owned the film. I certainly believe that Paramount would have pressed harder for an 1971 Oscar nomination for the Newley/Bricusse “Pure Imagination” if it just had been more interested in the movie. At any rate, Wolper’s company was acquired by Warner Communications in the mid-seventies; after a time, Paramount’s rights to the film expired and reverted to Wolper, and it has been a Warner property ever since. [I have no idea whether Quaker has retained its interest in the movie by this time.]”