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Building Wonka's World
Once inside the factory walls, offers Zanuck, "the children discover an entire world complete with a chocolate waterfall and chocolate river, edible trees and unbelievable machinery that only a mind such as Roald Dahl, interpreted by a mind such as Tim Burton, could possibly imagine. It's fantasy, it's fun, it's completely outrageous and awe-inspiring. You don't know where to look first.” 

In creating the landscape of Wonka's world, the filmmakers began at the source, to tap into, as Burton describes, "the textural, visceral quality of Dahl's images and the scope. We tried to keep as true to the book as possible in creating specific places like the nut room and the TV room. Still, there is a lot of room for interpretation, which is the wonderful thing about doing an adaptation like this. Each room has its own flavor and possibilities.

"Instead of relying too much on blue or green screen effects we tried to build as much of the settings as possible,” the director continues. "We built most of the sets at 360 degrees so the actors are really enveloped in the environment.” 

It was a huge compliment to the production when Felicity Dahl first stepped onto the Pinewood soundstages to examine the work in progress and enthusiastically declared, "it's magical! I know that if Roald had seen it, he would have loved it. He would have said this is exactly what he had in mind.”

What Dahl had in mind proved no small task to construct. His Chocolate Factory contained cavernous rooms wherein whole environments were housed, like the one in which the Oompa-Loompas both worked and lived beside a chocolate waterfall and flowing chocolate river, where candy cane trees grew, giant peapods produced Wonka gobstoppers and even the grass was edible. Unwieldy one-of-a-kind machinery pumped out Wonka's fanciful confections while in other rooms equally outlandish contraptions were engaged in experiments to create even more exotic and delicious candies. Traveling through the factory meant navigating the river in a translucent boat of spun pink sugar or climbing aboard a glass elevator that sped not only up and down but, as the text declares, "sideways and longways and slantways and any other way you can think of,” including blasting up through the roof at rocket speed.

Production utilized seven stages and much of the back lot at Pinewood Studios in the UK, including the famous James Bond stage, which houses one of the largest soundstage pools in the world. Says Production Designer Alex McDowell (Art Directors Guild Award winner for The Terminal and nominee for Minority Report; Fight Club, The Crow), "We pretty much took over the studio lot – lock, stock and barrel.”

Because Burton preferred to accomplish as much as possible with practical effects, a great deal of what appears on screen was created physically with prosthetic and special effects coordinated by Special Effects Supervisor Joss Williams, whose previous collaboration with Burton, Sleepy Hollow, earned him a BAFTA nomination. "When those reached their natural limitations, we took over in the digital realm,” says Visual Effects Supervisor Nick Davis (AFI and BAFTA nominee for Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone), who oversaw the integration of advanced motion capture technology and CGI "for anything that could not be achieved practically on set. It was a collaborative effort among multiple departments and it all began with Tim, who had all these ideas and kept producing drawings to show us what he wanted.” 

Early pre-planning and ongoing communication were key, since images morphed instantly from one process to another and back again in the same scene. Sets were built and used simultaneously on the back lot, in the computer and in 24-scale miniature models. "I spent a lot of time in pre-production working with conceptual artists and Nick Davis, so that everything was cohesive,” says McD

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