The 1971 musical film Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, starring Gene Wilder, became a cult classic within a few years of its release. The film, which is based on Roald Dahl's children's book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, has sparked numerous memes, musicals, parodies, spinoffs, and follow-up adaptations.
Although the author was notably displeased with this adaptation of his materials, the fan following for Willy Wonka has sparked another discussion: is Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory a Christmas movie!? Here's what we know.
Is 'Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory' a Christmas movie?
The loose idea of what encompasses a "Christmas movie" has a surprising number of qualifications. To start, what defines a "Christmas movie" is described by The Hollywood Reporter as "the meaningful use of Christmas in their storytelling. In a full-fledged Christmas movie, some aspect of the season informs our experience of the story in a significant way."
"Aspects of the season" also defined by The Hollywood Reporter include "the joy, love and nostalgia that define the season" or "loneliness, cynicism and family dysfunction." Typically, "Christmas movies" are also set on, before, during or immediately after Christmas Day.
As such, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory isn't quite a Christmas movie. The story isn't set during December, and while there are obvious parallels between Willy Wonka's gift giving, unlike a Christmas movie, which might take presents at face value, Willy Wonka's factory isn't somewhere to play around.
The film does add bright, musical elements that Roald Dahl himself detested, per BBC News, saying at the time that the movie was "saccharine, sappy and sentimental." He was also disappointed because the film "placed too much emphasis on Willy Wonka and not enough on Charlie" and because of Gene Wilder's casting — Roald's personal preference was actor Spike Milligan.
One user on Reddit suggests that the original version of the book Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was meant to be a Christmas story: "I believe Dahl's idea was a story about Santa bringing 5 kids into his workshop for a lifetime supply of toys. Santa's elves are short, funny-looking humans, that are supposedly very musical and very hard workers, just like the Oompa-Loompas. Santa has a wacky-magical way of travel being his sleigh, much like Willy Wonka's glass elevator."
Several other "unconventional" Christmas films play around December yearly, such as Die Hard and Batman Returns, but with both of the examples, they carry clear elements of Christmastime in a way that Willy Wonka ultimately does not.
However, some families may turn to Willy Wonka as a family classic they can watch together in between re-runs of A Charlie Brown Christmas, so really, what makes a "Christmas movie" is in the eye of the viewer.