Timothy W. Burton is a renowned award winning American film director better known for producing “dark quirky themed” films that include The Nightmare before Christmas, Sleepy Hollow and Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street. His most recent works, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland feature one of his seemingly favourite workmate and collaborator, Johnny Depp, who has been Burton’s esteemed long-time friend (Fleming, 20). A lot has been said regarding both films aforementioned. This paper seeks to address the parallels and dissimilarities present in the two. This scholar largely looks at the similarities and differences between the plots, themes, motifs and other elements present in either or both films.
Both films have an intricate plot. The events are interwoven in a web of artistic mastery to bring out stories that the audience eventually relates with. In Alice in wonderland, Alice returns to a fictitious land, known as Underland. Events lead to her being told that a monster dragon like creature who is under the influence of the Red queen, the antagonist in the film, oppress the citizen of Underland. She finds herself in a world that resembles the nightmares she had as a child such as meeting animals that can talk, vengeful noblewomen and knights. Alice realizes her reason for showing up in Underland is to conquer the dreadful monster known as Jabberwocky and eventually reinstate the deserving queen to her throne.
On the other hand In Charlie and the chocolate factory, Charlie Bucket comes from a not-so-moneyed background and perhaps the reason why he spends most of his time dreaming about the chocolate that he is fond of but cannot afford. Subsequently, things change when Wily Wonka, owner of the very popular Wonka Chocolate factory announces a contest in which five gold tickets have been hidden in chocolate bars. The kids who find the tickets will be taken on a tour of the factory. Charlie incredibly finds a ticket, along with four other children.
The two films feature a collaboration of Johnny Depp and Tim burton. The pair had both collaborated in films such as Edward Scissorhands (1994) and Sleepy Hollow (1999). It is notable that most of their collaborations including Alice in wonderland and Charlie and the chocolate factory have exceled outside the sphere of fantasy and create something weird and genuinely moving (Salisbury and Burton). This perhaps has been the reason why both films have been a financial success and popular among film lovers worldwide.
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The two films’ setting are bizarre and woven in fantastically colourful environment; at the same time one cannot help but get an impression of dark gothic presence in both. Both have incorporated bright, pastel, candy-coloured set designs that bring out the uniquely sophisticated stories. However, Alice in wonderland is set with an almost adult Alice being played by Australian actress Mia Wasikowska. When Alice falls down the rabbit hole she is transported to the land she visited as a child many years ago, with all our favourite characters including the Cheshire cat White Rabbit, Mad Hatter and Tweedledum.
In Charlie and the chocolate factory, The Bucket family home, has a "timeless" setting and is not set in a specific country. The town, whose design was shaped by the black and white urban photography, is arranged like a medieval village, with Wonka's estate on top and the Bucket shack below. The chocolate factory is both bright and colourful but in contrast is set in a dank and gloomy world. There are no specifics as per the actual physical location. This arguably gives the story a sense of universality. Taking it from the other side, Wonka's Factory looks similar as other factory, but the inside is unbelievable.
It is apparent that both films are aimed at a younger audience. Underland has a very colourful and vibrant visage, full of flowers, trees and a stately garden of wonder and glory. Likewise Charlie’s little town is a magical confectionery. The film begins in a contemporary industrial area known simply as "a great town." “Both movies are children’s story book adaptations” (Gabriele, p.29). Charlie and the chocolate factory are based on a similarly titled book written by English author Roald Dahl. The book features Dahl’s twisted humour which is essentially captured in the film nearly intact; such as the fact that even the world of a candy factory isn't all pleasantness and light (The New York Times).
Alice in wonderland is based on a novel written by English author Charles Lutwidge Dodgson under the pseudonym Lewis Carroll (BBC's Greatest English Books list). It is considered to be one of the best examples of the literary nonsense genre by renowned publications, and its narrative course and structure have been enormously influential especially in the fantasy genre (Gabriele).
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Both films feature a variety of characters, many of whom are based on characters that are featured in works of the respective books where the films were each adapted from. Perhaps for the stronger part they both feature a colourful array of weird, wacky, fantastic and imaginable characters. In Alice in wonderland, Alice meets many of these personalities such as the White Rabbit, the Caterpillar, and some who are unbalanced humans as is the case with the Mad Hatter. The in its entirety captured the physical characteristics of most characters like the White Rabbit and Caterpillar.
One can look at Alice from a societal point of view. Although facing pressures to conform to society's expectations, Alice grows into a stronger-willed and empowered heroine who chooses her own path; essentially Alice can be described as role model for girls because she is stubborn, brave and genuine. Another colourful character is Iracebeth, the Red Queen, which is a combination of the Red Queen and the Queen of Hearts. Her first name is wordplay on ‘irascible’, as she is easily irritated and quick to anger. She subject animal had labour, meaning that she hates animals.
On the other hand the audience meets Charlie in Charlie and the chocolate Factory. Charlie Bucket is generous and has a great imagination which was crucial to Willy Wonka. He comes across as a well-behaved boy from a poor family. Charlie Bucket; the Bucket suggests emptiness. It is the audience that fills in the outline by becoming Charlie. This characteristic is extrapolated from Roald Dahl’s characterization of Charlie in his book. This is important in that the filmmakers propel the audience into the story in a very direct way by providing a character that stands for the reader. Charlie Bucket is a young boy coming from a lovely family who on the other side are poor. The main aim of Charlie is to get a ticket of joining the chocolate factory which is run by inventor and owner Willy Wonka.
The four other ticket winners are loathsome, spoilt brats who are accompanied on the tour, given by the normally cloistered Wonka, by their equally abhorrent parents. "Enjoy yourselves, but don't touch," commands Wonka who clearly isn’t connected nor concerned with the children. There is something a little headstrong in this story in which most of the youngsters are so repulsive. It's certainly an attribute the director, Tim Burton exploits to the full, particularly in the creative punishments that transpire those who misbehave.
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Willy Wonka's weirdness is viewed more as a sympathetic, if humorous, character flaw. These traits of Wonka's personality are illustrated in the relationship with his father, the dentist Wilbur Wonka. Wonka may be a bit off, but he's a smart man. He seems to know a lot about human nature, as he seemed to already have predicted what was going to happen when he walks into the glass elevator several times, hitting his head (211).
Both films are charismatic and stunning to watch. They offer a fantastic and visually impressive camera movements and imaginable characters and objects. Needless to emphasize though, Alice in Wonderland delivers best on its visual effects. “Every frame of the film is picture perfect” (Fleming, p.64). The re-imagining of each of the familiar characters from the Blue Caterpillar to the red and white knights is simply candy to the eye. It's most notable with Alice whose all of her costumes give her dramatically different looks. In one scene she may be a giant and everything being quite small. In another scene she is minute and every blade of grass is colossal. The director has assuredly delivered on every front with the visuals. Both films have invested heavily on costuming, art direction, production design and cinematography.
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Themes are the central and widely accepted ideas explored in any artistic work. Overall themes portrayed in both film are dynamic and indiscreet. In Charlie and the chocolate factory it appears that being a good person will always prevail over dishonesty. Every child in the film that has any sort of bad personality is punished for it.
In addition, it appears things are either good or bad, and one way the director, Tim Burton attributes goodness to something is to make it small. When the audience first meets Mr Wonka, his initial appearance focuses on his small slim stature. Charlie’s pitiful appearance believes his inner strength and ability to outlast the other children and eventually take control of the entire chocolate factory. "This is a story of an ordinary boy," (215) states the opening voice-over. His poverty struck family is crammed into a ramshackle house that leans at a gravity-defying angle. Despite their circumstance they are impossibly upbeat, a trait illustrated by young Charlie. The young boy's obsession with the nearby chocolate factory where his grandfather once worked reaches a climax when he finds one of the five lucky golden tickets.
Furthermore, poverty helps form the background for the morality of the story. Money is treacherous, especially when it is used deviously. Poverty can sometimes show the way to better things. Charlie is extremely poor; he sleeps on the floor with his parents. But the formality with which Charlie switches his poverty makes him an adorable character. Yet he is ultimately compensated with riches beyond his wildest dreams.
Each character is rewarded or punished according to his or her personality. The wicked children—Verruca, Violet, Mike, and Augustus—receive punishments. Augustus, who overeats as a hobby, gets himself stuck in a chocolate pump that eventually flattens him out literally. There is no ambiguity in the moral world of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. This means that children are either good or bad. Charlie is good precisely because he has no palpable vices. The bad children are obviously noticeable as they are the embodiment of their cheekiness. Augustus is greedy, Verruca is bratty, Violet is an obsessive gum chewer, and Mike is obsessed with television. This perhaps gives the reason for Charlie to be crowned as the hero this story.
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Punishment is used to underline the moral code in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Good children are dutiful and respectful, whereas bad children are anything but. Just like in the original Roald Dahl book, the proper punishment is the only thing that can transform a bad child into a good one. (Sparknotes). Symbolism has been extensively utilized to represent abstract ideas so largely present in both films. The Chocolate factory must be the physical representation of the difference between poverty and wealth. Charlie’s poverty-stricken home stands in the shadow of the towering chocolate factory, which is filled with inexpressible riches. The chocolate factory also represents the idea that one should not judge things by outside appearance.
Like the chocolate factory, the golden ticket is a symbol that contrasts poverty and wealth. Charlie finally lives his dream after finding the golden ticket. The golden ticket is made of gold, just as indicated by the name. According to Charlie, the golden ticket is the most precious thing Charlie has ever touched.Almost everything in Underland functions as a symbol, but nothing clearly represents any specifics. The symbolic qualities of Underland objects, generally work together to convey a particular meaning. All these symbols portraits a nice picture in Underland.
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In conclusion, Alice in wonderland and Charlie and the chocolate factory have the ability to captivate the imagination of young—and old alike. With the concerted creativity and elegance of the film makers led by director Tim Burton and lead actor Johnny Depp, both films do more to push the boundaries and achieve their goal—which comes out as simply to entertain the audience. Both films have worked well to depict their intended themes, some of which are common and the audience can relate too quite directly. They are fantastical and set in a magic environment, perhaps to engage the audience in the hope for a more different, new world that every individual dreams of. Probably the filmmakers’ intentions were to show that these fantastic environments would be better than ours, or worse for that matter. They are stories of hope, because the main characters in both, Alice and Charlie, eventually make their world a better place in a happy-ever-after fashion, more so they themselves are rewarded in the end for their efforts. Their effort makes them to be wealthy, after along struggle and troubles. Therefore, people should not lose hope but they should just struggle and have better life in future.