Warner Bros. has released Mel Stuart’s Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (1971) to a new 4k Ultra HD Blu-ray edition under the SDS (Studio Distribution Services) label. The combo edition includes a 4k Blu-ray, 1080p Blu-ray, and Digital Copy (via a redeemable code). Here’s a review of the 4k/HDR presentation of this treasured, albiet bizarre, classic based on the book of the same name by Roald Dahl.
The 4k Blu-ray presentation of ‘Willy Wonka’ has improved upon previous (and multiple) 1080p Blu-ray releases of the film that formatted the image in 1.78:1 by going back to its intended 1.85:1 aspect ratio. The new disc ratio should leave a small strip of black on the top and bottom of a common 16×9 screen (called letterboxing), so it’s a good idea to make sure that strip is a solid black to ensure your TV’s brightness is not too high before viewing.
It’s probably safe to say most of us who have watched Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory remember how much color is in the second half of the film (when the golden ticket winners finally get to the chocolate factory), rather than the drab-looking back stories to the characters that take up the first half. That’s why it was exciting to see hear Warner Bros. was formatting the video with HDR10 – the specification that can expand color depth to 10-bits rather than the 8-bit limit on Blu-rays.
And, we’re happy to say the HDR treatment was tastefully done with rich colors that almost look too realistic to believe, but in this fantasy world made of candy the color is in every way a signature of the film. HDR has also expanded the range of all values so there is more detail in shadows and bright areas. This is true of even the scenes outside the Wonka factory. However, even with HDR turned off the new 4k Digital Intermediate shows off a very rich palette and improvement over Blu-ray presentations.
As far as sharpness, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is fairly representative of the late 60s. Shot on 35mm, the restored negatives reveal a nice grain structure (much better than even some films half its age) that isn’t exactly razor-sharp in closeups but enough detail that you can appreciate the resolution upgrade.
‘Willy Wonka’ was Oscar-nominated for Best Music, Scoring Adaptation, and Original Song Score, and arguably has some of the most memorable soundtrack moments in film history. You might recall “The Candy Man, “Pure Imagination,” and the “Oompa Loompa” song to name a few that are known by multiple generations.
The 4k Blu-ray edition includes a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack (the Blu-ray Dolby TrueHD 5.1), and subtitles are included in English SDH, French, and Spanish.
There seem to be a bit more surround effects with the DTS-HD MA 5.1 track, although some of the movie’s audio imperfections are still there. And, it would have been great if Warner Bros. included the original mono track for “old times” sake.
All of the included bonus material has been previously released on Blu-ray editions, although the 4k Blu-ray does let you turn on audio commentary.
We might also mention the Blu-ray slip cover art that sparkles in the masthead and ‘Willy Wonka’ title logo. It’s a nice little touch for those of us who love packaged media.
You also get a Digital Copy (in 4k where available) that’s redeemable through either Movies Anywhere or Vudu. Why anyone would redeem only through Vudu might be a bit of mystery at this point, as Movies Anywhere has many partnering digital services (including Vudu) from which to view the movie.
If you’re a fan of The Wizard of Oz and other films that fall into the same genre as ‘Willy Wonka’ and enjoy the highest quality available in home theater these days, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory (we’re talking the 1971 version, of course), is a great addition to your disc library. It’s a classic that didn’t get much attention when first released to theaters but has since become recognized for bringing a unique (and what some might call creepy) visual translation of the book by Roald Dahl. In short, the Oompa Loompas never looked so good as they do in this new 4k/HDR presentation.
Ultra HD Blu-ray & Blu-ray
- Commentary with the Wonka Kids
- Pure Imagination: The Story of Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory
- The Moviemakers
- Sing-Along: Pure Imagination
- Sing-Along: I Want It Now!
- Sing-Along: I’ve Got A Golden Ticket
- Sing-Along: Oompa-Loompa-Doompa-De-Do
- Theatrical Trailer