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Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka
Johnny Depp as Willy Wonka

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory

Charlie And The Chocolate Factory is this summer's biggest blockbuster. We spoke to Patrick Johnson, a special effects technician from Norwich, who built the candy boat especially for the film.


Charlie And The Chocolate Factory is set to be one of the biggest films of the summer, with the tried and tested recipe of director Tim Burton and star Johnny Depp making the film instantly appealing.

Blast reporter Michael Saunders reports

As we all know, this film has been made before and Roald Dahl was less than happy with the 1971 version.

Apparently he stormed out of the premiere and was so angry he refused to give director Mel Stuart the rights to the sequel, Charlie And The Great Glass Elevator.

Working behind the scenes, to create some of the Wonka magic in the 2005 version of the film, was the Norwich-based special effects technician Patrick Johnson.

One of Patrick's biggest projects was in creating the Oompa Loompa's giant candy boat, which took 20 weeks to build! We spoke to Patrick about his mammoth task as special effects technician on the film.

Was Patrick excited or nervous when he heard about this remake?

"I was actually working on Harry Potter. I knew it was coming to an end and I knew that there was a Charlie And The Chocolate Factory film starting up and that they were looking for crew," he said.

"A good friend of mine happened to be working on it as well, so I knew I stood a good chance and obviously I was quite excited by it," he added.

We asked Patrick what he thought of the special effects for the 1971 version and he assured us that things have advanced since then.

"I think I have to make a distinction here between what we call special effects and visual effects and of what the public know as special effects," he said.

"Because what we tend to call visual effects - i.e. all the stuff that's generated on the computer – the public seem to think are special effects, but special effects within the industry is a lot more practical and a lot more hands-on.

Willy Wonka, Charlie and Grandpa Joe
Willy Wonka, Charlie and Grandpa Joe

"You're making contraptions, mechanisms. It's a much more honest way of making a film," he added.

A flamboyant boat

One of the main special effects Patrick was involved in was the large candy boat, like the one in the original film. Patrick explained how this boat is a lot more flamboyant.

"It rows itself down the chocolate river and I was responsible for designing and making that mechanism to fit into this boat, so the Oompa Loompas, which are rowing this boat, are made to look a lot more authentic," he said.

However, while the notion of making 54 animatronic dolls row a boat may seem like the best thing in the world, Patrick's work isn't all fun and games and it's not as easy as it looks.

"Going into making this one effect, which, when you see the film, you might not think that it warrants that much work, but it does. Because if it looks wrong, it will be wrong and it wouldn't be convincing," he said.

Of course, all these tinkerings and minor changes take a good chunk of time.

Hard night's work

"There are lots of late nights. There were times when I was there at 1 o'clock in the morning, the night before shooting, just making sure everything's OK, just doing the last run through so that everything is absolutely checked and double checked," he said.

"We've tested it for hours and hours and hours so we know it's going to be reliable, because the last thing you want to do if for a camera crew to turn up - and you'd be amazed how often this does happen - you've been testing things for literally weeks in a workshop and then you put it in front of a camera and it does something unplanned!"

"But that's where the reward of it comes from – solving those headaches, treating them as challenges, working long hours and using yours and other peoples skills to come to a satisfactory conclusion," he added.

The chocolate room at Wonka HQ
The chocolate room at Wonka HQ

Chocolate waterfalls? Candy boats filled with Oompa Loompas?

Hold on a minute, let's just take a step back. We're treating it here like an everyday occurrence – did he ever have to stop on set and just think, "What is going on here?"

"Absolutely. It's something I'm sure a lot of people will be very impressed by that particular set – and it was very impressive.

"I think, even if you've been in the industry for 20 or 30 years, you would still be very impressed by that level of creativity and work and effort going into anything," he said.

"I don't think people realise how much skill, hard work, trial and error and research and development go into these things."

However, the trial and error segment does need to be controlled, and each part of making the film is tightly scheduled.

"This sort of thing costs a lot of money, I think the budget for Charlie And The Chocolate Factory was £18 million. We can't be sort of sitting around twiddling our thumbs," he added.

And finally, the question on everyone’s lips. The chocolate waterfall - was it real chocolate?

"Well, it wasn't real chocolate, but it was real liquid, and it is a real waterfall, and it was quite magnificent. We're talking about thousands and thousands of litres – that was really all there."

Fascinating facts

  • There were 110,000 plastic chocolate bars made for the film and nearly 2,000 real ones.
  • More than 927,410 litres of fluid were used in the chocolate waterfall and river.
  • Other people considered to play Willy Wonka included Robin Williams, Jim Carey, Nicholas Cage and Adam Sandler. Marilyn Manson was also desperate to play the part.

last updated: 29/07/05
Have Your Say
Have you seen the new Charlie And The Chocolate Factory? What did you think of the special effects in the film?
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brooke cassar
i like charlie and the chocolate factory .but i love pirates of the carabbian so so so so much.i love love you so much jhonny depp.xxx kiss
Sun Nov 19 20:19:58 2006

lewis
i love charlie and the chocolate factory it is the best flim in the world
Sat Jul 29 15:15:57 2006

penny jagger
i thought the first film was so good, i have a big crush on gene wilder! i love him with all my heart!
Sun Jul 23 17:40:30 2006

annie clarke
i think that the special effects were great on the new charlie and the chocolate film much better than the old version. congragulations annie clarke
Sat Jul 22 19:50:51 2006

Courtney Larrison
Who cares! Johnny Depp is in it!
Tue Jul 4 16:39:33 2006

shannon
this is one of the best films in the world, i love it to bits 10 out of 10, really it's so fab
Wed May 17 18:24:35 2006

Holy
I think that Charlie and the chocolate factory is great i like all the music xxxxxx
Sun Feb 26 14:59:47 2006

myob
The movie was awesome Johnny Depp was great!!! So are the Oompa Loompas.I've watched it 50x's!!!!!! Loved it!!!!!
Sat Jan 28 18:32:02 2006

David Jackieson
I though the movie was bril! I liked the twist where we get to Willy Wonka (Johnny Depp) and his Dad (Chistopher Lee)!
Sun Nov 27 10:53:16 2005

sophie
I thought the film was gr8! I have the game boy advance game and its even better!!! GR8 job!!
Fri Nov 25 20:48:43 2005

Frances McDermott
As a 63 year old grandmother of two children, I am, of course, forced to see many childrens films!. This film is brilliant, we enjoyed it from the start. All that glorious scenery, S.E's and Johnny Depp, so gorgeous to look at. Was it my imagination, or was it intended, somehow JD reminded me of Michael Jackson? My Grandson who is 15, and very cool, enjoyed it, what more can you ask. I Have asked for the DVD in my stocking.
Thu Nov 24 12:28:01 2005

jersey-annaca
i l-o-v-e-d it!! also i know Julia Winter (the girl who played Veruca SAlt) she goes to my drama class and is a pleasure to talk to! also Freddie and my brother are in the same year at school! i loved Johnny aswell!! xxx
Mon Nov 14 19:58:06 2005

nick
awesome but how many pounds of real chocolate were used
Sat Nov 12 18:19:05 2005

jaime
the movie was AWESOME!! I bought it because it was sooo good
Wed Nov 9 00:30:57 2005

gorgousgirlie
Charlie and the choc factory is great! I've been to see it two times and it was brilliant both times i saw it! Johnny depp is much better than gene wilder - and by the way, my sister has a crush on gene wilder.
Mon Nov 7 21:02:42 2005

Jasmine (age 9)
brill!!!!!!!!! best film ever
Sat Nov 5 11:54:41 2005

Jennifer Andriszak
Yes I saw the movie. I thought that the movie was great. Johnny Depp played his part very well, like always. Great job Johnny.
Sat Nov 5 03:07:46 2005

dayna
it was awesome, i usually dnt like re-makes of movies but this one is optional. jhonny depp was GREAT!!!!
Thu Oct 27 19:02:27 2005

ShovelDuct
I've heard Tim Burton say that it was real chocolate in the river. Was he lying to us just to make us happy?
Tue Oct 18 02:19:21 2005

Marian O' Brien
I have not seen the new film. I don't think you can get better than the first movie, the old classics are the best!
Mon Sep 19 17:16:46 2005

The Chickmeister
a real let-down
Wed Sep 7 19:15:48 2005

Jaz
It was bril. I love Johnny Depp.
Wed Sep 7 17:46:52 2005

Marta
Johnny as Willy Wonka was great! I watched that movie 4 times and I will °have DVD
Wed Sep 7 15:45:17 2005

charlotte
Liked Johnny Depp. The special effects were amazing. The people who have not seen it should see it now.
Tue Sep 6 17:39:24 2005

kavita
it was fantastic
Mon Aug 29 18:30:33 2005

Rachel
I thought the film, all together, was one of the best movies I have ever seen! I am a huge fan of Johnny Depp and adore his work. I thought he played the part of Willy Wonka full of feeling and humour! The special effects were amazing! Everything just fitted in and it was so real, as if you were standing in front of it. Simply amazing is all that can be said.
Wed Aug 24 20:05:00 2005

Karyn Scott
I thought the effects were Fantastic! I loved the candy boat, the way it moved, smoothly up and down along the chocolate river, especially in the flashing lights.
Tue Aug 23 21:23:05 2005

LaFiz
Jeez i went to see this with my mates and i was cracked up through parts of it. That bit about cannibals rofl! Its excellent, really blows your mind. So creative and axplosive, and I wasn't scared of the oompa-loompas like I was in the old version x Everyone should see this movie
Sun Aug 21 09:56:43 2005

Daniel
I think it is the best film I have ever seen. It has fantastic graphics and is an amazing movie. The effects are also very good. Some of the other things I thought were magnificent were the chocolate river, the Oompa Loompas and the factory itself. The soft, creamy, hot, melted chocolate looked so yummy and scrupscious. The film is just great and I recommend it to anyone out there.
Tue Aug 16 18:53:35 2005

jack
excellent and exciting
Tue Aug 16 18:06:59 2005

Hannah Rodger
I thought that all of the film was totally amazing - everything looked just like real chocolate. I enjoyed the journey on the chocolate river in the pink boat. I was a bit disappointed that the oompa lumpas were cloned. I can understand that they couldn't have had all of the oompa lumpas as people but I thought that there could at least have been 20 real people. But apart from that, I have throughly enjoyed it and can't wait for when it comes out on DVD.
Fri Aug 12 13:04:23 2005

Jo
This film was great, I loved it! Johnny Depp was amazing and so was little Freddie Highmore. You have to see this movie!
Mon Aug 8 10:29:39 2005

Bex
oh wow!! it was brilliant and Johnny Depp was just amazing!!
Mon Aug 8 09:29:15 2005

Kayla
Its the best movie ever i have seen it 4 times cuz it is so good!!!
Mon Aug 8 04:40:52 2005

Holly
The film was great and i adored Jhonny Depp as willy wonka! He's so gorgous and i fancy him at 11 years old!Ilove you jhonny depp!
Fri Aug 5 11:43:36 2005

Elena
The film is amazing and fantastic,I could not turn out my eyes of screen, the effects they just catch you, more then imagination can do. I did not see the original - bcs. it was not in my contry ( I,m foreigner) but this charmed me completely.
Fri Aug 5 10:27:51 2005

jason mcginlay
it a great movie and I loved it itwas a great movie and I realy injoyed it
Fri Aug 5 10:26:27 2005

Billy from Pontypridd,S.Wales.
This is a great movie, jonny depp is proberbly the right choice for this role, although i would have liked to have seen marilyn manson in a slighty darker version maybe for adults. But no complaints except i think this is more of a christmas release movie than summer.
Fri Aug 5 10:22:52 2005

rob
this film is fantastic everyone who hasnt seen it should
Fri Aug 5 10:15:32 2005

Bob
i thought it was really rubbish! To me it was the worst film in the world. I like the old version of charlie and the chocolate factory better than the new one
Fri Aug 5 09:04:40 2005

chloe
i think it was a good birthday treat 2 go and see it
Fri Aug 5 08:45:47 2005

Olivia Common
i thought that the special effects were excellent and were, well, very special! i thought the film was much better than the original and Johnny Depp made a brilliant and very dark Willy Wonka.
Thu Aug 4 19:16:52 2005

Abi, Wales
I saw it the day it came out and I was so excited because it looked really good from the bits I saw on T.V. Wasn't disappointed at all. FANTASTIC! Johnny Depp is a great actor and he is brilliant at playing Wonka. He looks quite strange but he is still gorgeous! Loved it, better than previous film. Very funny!! Must see
Thu Aug 4 19:10:18 2005

emma
i thought it was great but it wasnt as good as the first movie.
Thu Aug 4 18:02:45 2005

sam
i love jhonny depp hes my best actor RIGHT ON JHONNY I LOVE YOU THE FILM WAS PERFECT LOVE YA SAM XXX
Wed Aug 3 17:03:20 2005

Jack Cavell
Hi, I havent seen the film yet but im going this week it looks brillient!
Wed Aug 3 16:42:22 2005

lynne
love the effects and te movie... Johnny Depp is great
Wed Aug 3 15:28:32 2005

claudia
I WACHED IT YESTERDAY IT WAS THE BEST CHARLIE IS THE AT BEING AN ACTER HE , S GOOD AT IT .
Wed Aug 3 14:51:49 2005

Samantha
I watched the film on Tuesday and thought it was fantastic. I adore Johnny Depp - he's the best. This version is better than the old one.
Tue Aug 2 20:25:45 2005

Humaira - 7 years old
this movie is yummy i like it because u can eat the grass and trees and johnny depp says: "u can eat me too"
Tue Aug 2 11:55:03 2005

William, Wales
I watched the film last night and I didn't think this version was as good as the previous one with Gene Wilder. Johnny Depp was good but it wasn't the same and don't feel this film will be a hit.
Tue Aug 2 08:11:58 2005

Neelam Khan
I've seen the film and it is soo good. Johnny Depp is sort of weird in dis movie - but he is gorjussss!
Mon Aug 1 21:10:33 2005

Cay
The effects and sets were incredible!! They all blew me out of the water! If you can, go see it in IMAX, it jsut really enables you to see the sets as they were meant to be seen.
Mon Aug 1 18:20:51 2005

joseph bushell
I saw the film on Friday and thought the effects were brilliant - Wonka was just amazing!
Sun Jul 31 14:15:52 2005

Isabella
I prefer the original...lol...but johnny depp is really good as willy wonka...complete different spinoff
Sun Jul 31 12:48:03 2005

Rachel Flack
not as good as the original one. i was not impressed with it at all i will not be buying it on DvD when it comes out
Sun Jul 31 12:42:30 2005

Neelam
Looks really good...gonna watch it soon...getting d video tonight..ive seen the adverts on tv...lookz scrumdidliumpshus :P
Sun Jul 31 12:39:42 2005

squeakz!
excellent, awesome,interestin and exciting!
Sat Jul 30 20:57:44 2005

jennifer
it was absoulotly brilliant
Sat Jul 30 20:16:05 2005

cathy
As i was scared of Edward Sissorhands and this is the same people who make it i was wondering will i get scared?
Sat Jul 30 18:29:26 2005

NIKE
I AVEN'T SEEN DA FILM YET BUT I LUV JOHNNY DEPP SO IAM LOOKING 4WARD 2 SEEING IT LUV NIKE
Sat Jul 30 14:42:18 2005

abi lockwood
i think this film is just the same as the old one but the old one is better!!! that is my opiniun and louise gallegers
Sat Jul 30 14:38:31 2005

Tom White
Brillent!Johnny Depp steals the show with his amazing acting an wierd appearences! If you have the chance a must see! Great acting and superb storyline!
Sat Jul 30 13:52:08 2005

amy hunstone
jhonny depp was the best ever i liked some the facial empressions he used
Sat Jul 30 13:04:25 2005

Gladys Kay
Fantastic, great, super, fab, the best out of this world! I love Johnny. Could watch again and again!
Fri Jul 29 20:35:44 2005

Ellie Jagger
I saw the movie today (Friday). I thought the special effects were brilliant and the movie was excellent. I will definitely buy it on DVD.
Fri Jul 29 20:27:23 2005

Catherine Hall
I took my younger brother to see one of the first showings of the new film! I thought it was fantastic plus the humour too made it that much better. The Oompa Loompas were the best with all their singing and dancing! Definitely one to see!
Fri Jul 29 19:16:06 2005

mia rogerson
I think it looks really good. I'm looking forword to seeing it.
Fri Jul 29 18:38:44 2005

rebecca gregory
i havent seen it yet but im going to the adverts ive seen on t.v with the special effects look absoltly amazing
Thu Jul 28 19:21:42 2005

stacey hawkins
it was good but it was differnt to the other frilm i like the bit about his dad being a dentist and him not allowed to eat chocolate and the songs they sing is good and better then the other songs in the other movie.
Thu Jul 28 18:56:56 2005

Maria
It looks so cool. I'm gonna watch as soon as possible.
Thu Jul 28 13:48:30 2005

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