“We are the music makers, we are the dreamers of dreams” – Willy Wonka
Charlie Bucket, Violet Beauregarde, Augustus Gloop, Mike Teevee, Veruca Salt and Willy Wonka are a part of my childhood. When their names appear, story lines get quoted or a mysterious meme crosses my social media feed featuring any one of them, I smile. This week the world lost a giant, but nothing can stop the flood of memories. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory® wasn’t just a movie – it’s colourful depictions, quirky Candy Man and land of imagination taught us more about life than it did about chocolate. What did Willy Wonka teach you?
“If you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. Anything you want to do, do it. Wanna change the world? There’s nothing to it” – Willy Wonka
My dad loves Mel Brooks movies and Westerns. I can remember seeing images of Gene Wilder appear on my television on more than one occasion. My mom often talks about Roseann Roseannadanna, one of Gilda Radner’s many characters on Saturday Night Live® and whenever ‘nevermind’ crosses my lips, I remember and smile. My mom also often reminds me that today’s world is actually one of Mike Teevee’s dreams where information flies through the airwaves at impeccable speeds. My siblings and I watched Charlie and the Chocolate Factory® often and even dreamt of having a river of chocolate run through our own house. For me (and millions of others), Gene Wilder will always be Willy Wonka. He will always be the dreamer, the giver, the man who provided pure imagination and rivers of chocolate to millions of children and families around the world. He believed in curiosity, journey, honesty, change, growth, dreams, trust, legacy, trial and error, comebacks, loyalty, kindness and that simple joys are priceless. He believed in giving people a chance, promoting good deeds, changing the situation, sharing the wealth, trying something that’s never before been done, that there’s learning in failure, that success is earned and that reaching for the stars and breaking through glass ceilings is worth everything.
“There is no life I know to compare with pure imagination. Living there, you’ll be free if you truly wish to be.” – Willy Wonka
The story may have been Roald Dahl’s, but the image engrained in my memory is of a top-hatted Gene Wilder hobbling, stumbling and somersaulting down a carpet offering a world of endless possibilities to a group of children and their parents. Without him there would be no snozberries or lickawallpaper, no everlasting gobstoppers or fizzy-lifting drinks. That golden ticket, like Dumbo’s magic feather, gave Grandpa Joe a reason to try to get out of bed. It gave the honest and humble Charlie Bucket a chance at a completely different life for a family who truly loved and believed in him and it created a generation of children who will forever remember the magic of a ticket, a chocolate bar, a story, a factory and a character who believed that imagination is priceless and that we can all make our own magic in the world.
“And Charlie, don’t forget whatever happened to the man who suddenly got everything he ever wanted. He lived happily ever after. ” – Willy Wonka
I will forever remember Gene Wilder’s love of Gilda and his entire family, ability to make us laugh and truly feel, his comedic timing and of course, his chocolate factory. The world may have lost its Candy Man, but his Pure Imagination is embedded so deeply within the fabric of each of us that there’s no question it’s here to stay. To honor him is to continue to look at the world through open eyes, with compassion, with a desire to do better, to give back, to leave a legacy, to stay honest and humble and kind, to dream and the knowledge that if you can change one life for the better, you’ve made a difference in this world. Believe in magic, be a dreamer, eat chocolate, love, laugh, truly see people and ‘change the world – there’s nothing to it’. Thanks, Mr. Wonka.