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Interview with Mel Stuart

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I am a chocoholic. Are you a fan of the delicious, mouth-watering delight? If your answer is yes, then this favourite film of mine is certainly one I suggest you see. "Willy Wonka & The Chocolate. Factory," the original feel good film from 1971, is back this year 2001, with a new edition DVD for its thirtieth anniversary.

Based on one of Roald Dahl's children's novels "Charlie and Chocolate Factory" written originally in 1964, this film directed by Mel Stuart, has proven itself to be a favourite amongst children and adults alike for over three decades.

The story is about an impoverished boy named Charlie Bucket, who, along with four other children and their parents, wins a golden ticket and is entitled to visit a loony chocolatier's (Willy Wonka) mysterious candy factory. After the other kids have proven themselves to be irresponsible brats, it's Charlie who makes it to the end impressing Wonka and winning a reward beyond his wildest dreams. But before that, the tour of Wonka's factory gives a dazzling parade of delights, a child's version of winning the lottery. With Gene Wilder giving a fantastic performance as the eccentric candy man, Wonka gains an edge of menace and madness that well counterbalances the film's sweetness. It's that enthusiasm to risk a darker tone--to show that even a wonderland like Wonka's can be a strange and unsafe place if you're a naughty child.

I nervously waited in Sweden's world-renowned SHLISEN CREAMS Chocolate Parlour for Mel Stuart's arrival.

It was as though I was going back in time to 1971 when I first viewed this magical film. I felt like Charlie Bucket in the story, looking curiously through those locked front iron gates at Wonka's Chocolate factory, a place he so longed to visit. Mel Stuart however, was my Wonka factory. I was about to speak to an idle I have had since I was ten years old.

After waiting a while, my gates did finally open, and Mel Stuart walked into the Parlour.

Mel Stuart was born in New York and wanted to pursue a career in music. Instead, after graduating he chose a career as a filmmaker. He joined a production company and for the following seventeen years he produced and directed many documentaries including "The Making of the President," "Four Days in November," "Wattstax," "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory," and "If it's Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium." Mr Stuart served as president of the International Documentary Association and has won many Emmy Awards.

Stuart said that in Roald Dahl's first edition to this novel, he deliberately stereotyped the Oompa Loompas as Negroid. By portraying the workers as black African Pygmies, he perpetuated the socio-racial stereotypes that created criticism amongst some readers. Dahl constructed the Oompa Loompas so that they work for a wage of cacao beans, sing songs that are almost war chants and allow themselves to be experimented on like laboratory animals.

"Roald Dahl originally wrote Charlie and the Chocolate Factory for his own children," I said to Stuart. "His children's books always had powerful morals, including his books Matilda and James and the Giant Peach. Lessons for children had to be learnt in life, such as there are limits, and these books taught children those limits. It was reassuring that a friendly character like Willy Wonka could show them this. The book put so much towards children and their advancement in maturity. How did you portray these lessons from the book through Charlie and Willy Wonka?"

Stuart paused to think before answering my question.

"Willy Wonka was a character in

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