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Ouch Q&A: Oompa-Loompas

by Ouch Team

25th July 2005

Everything you ever wanted to know about the ultimate 'little people'(or people of restricted growth) - the Oompa-Loompas from Roald Dahl's Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.

Q: What is an Oompa-Loompa?

A: Oompa-Loompas are the 'little people' - characters of restricted growth, if you like - featured in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the classic childrens' book by Roald Dahl. They live and work in Willy Wonka's chocolate factory, making all the candy delights: marshmallows that taste of violets, caramels that change colour every ten seconds, and chewing gum that never loses its taste.
The new space-age Oompa-Loompa factory worker, as played by actor Deep Roy

Q: Why are we talking about them now?

A: Because they're back again thanks to the cinema release of the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory movie re-make, directed by Tim Burton. It goes on general release on Friday 29 July across the UK, and stars Johnny Depp.

Q: These characters work in the factory, you say?

A: Yes. But no one knows about them. You see, Willy Wonka had this issue. It was well recognised by rival candy companies - like those run by Mr Prodnose and Mr Slugworth - that Wonka made the best sweets in the whole world. So they sent spies in as workers to steal the secrets and improve their own products. Well, when Mr Wonka discovered this, he had no option but to shut the factory down. Everyone was sad at the closure and they were very surprised a few months later when, without warning, the factory started up again. But no workers went in and none ever came out! Who was running the factory now? At the beginning of the story, Charlie's Grandpa Joe explains:
"... that is one of the great mysteries of the chocolate-making world. We know only one thing about them. They are very small. The faint shadows that sometimes appear behind the windows, especially late at night when the lights are on, are those of tiny people, people no taller than my knee."
The Oompa-Loompas greet Willy Wonka

Q: So where did they come from?

A: They came from Loompaland, of course. Willy Wonka describes Loompaland as:
"Nothing but thick jungles infested by the most dangerous beasts in the world - hornswogglers and snozzwangers and those terrible wicked whangdoodles."
Wangdoodles, it seems, would eat 10 Oompa-Loompas for breakfast and then come back for more. So you can kind of see why Wonka described the place as "terrible".

Willy offered the Oompa-Loompas a home and, in return, they work for him.
"When I went out there, I found the little Oompa-Loompas living in tree houses. They had to live in tree houses to escape from the whangdoodles and the hornswogglers and the snozzwangers. And they were living on green caterpillars, and the caterpillars tasted revolting ..."
The Oompa-Loompas loved the cacao bean most of all and, being a chocolate factory, Wonka had loads of these and the deal was struck.

Q: Do we know anything else about Oompa-Loompas?

A: Roald Dahl wrote that the male Oompa-Loompas wear deer skins, the females wear leaves, and the children wear nothing at all.

We know that they're a happy folk, though possibly with a dark edge. In the book, Wonka explains to one of the golden ticket winners, Violet Beauregarde, that: "They're always laughing! They think everything's a colossal joke!" It seems that Wonka is a little unethical with the little folk and uses them to test new products out on. Butterscotch and Buttergin is their favourite tipple, and they're probably best known for their rather dark rhymes and songs that they sing as each of the golden ticket winners exits the story thanks to their own greedy confectionary-based misadventures. Can you sing: "Oompa Loompa loompety loo?"

The original film, Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (1971), starring Gene Wilder, portrayed them as rather dour looking, a bit orange too - a mysteriously intense and jowelly tribal folk. You pays your money, you takes your choice. In the new 2005 film, though, the Oompa-Loompas are a bit more space-age, dressed in modern factory wear, with colourful dungarees and slicked-back hair.
The all-singing, all-dancing Oompa-Loompas

Q: So who plays the Oompa-Loompas in the new movie?

A: There are 165 Oompa-Loompas in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Interestingly though, they are all played by just one actor; one man duplicated many times by the magic of cinema and CGI. His name is Deep Roy, and at four foot and four inches he's a real life person of restricted growth. Roy previously worked with director Tim Burton in the movies Big Fish and Planet of the Apes. His debut was as an asassin in The Pink Panther Strikes Again, and he also appeared in Van Helsing.

The movie trickery goes one stage further though. The singing voices you hear in the Oompa-Loompa song and the dance routines is not that of Roy. Instead, the vocals are by film soundtrack supremo Danny Elfman, who is perhaps best known for writing the score for The Simpsons cartoon series and the modern cute horror musical animation The Nightmare Before Christmas.
Photos: Images from the new movie courtesy of Warner Bros Pictures.
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