Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) marks the eleventh collaboration between composer Danny Elfman and director Tim Burton, a relationship almost as powerful and eclectic as Burton’s visual style itself. Previous collaborations between Burton and Elfman include Pee-wee’s Big Adventure and Beetlejuice, films that tend to draw on gothic imagery combined with bright, cartoonish colours, outlandish elements and a bunch of strange, reclusive characters. In Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Elfman returns to the musical brilliance of Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas, giving his own sweet-sounding spin to the magical world created by Roald Dahl in the 1964 children’s book.
Charlie and the Chocolate Factory was met with positive reviews back in 2005, with The Guardian describing the film as Burton’s “best film for years”. Burton vividly brings Dahl’s story to life by making us step into a surreal, fantastical landscape with chocolate waterfalls, cotton candy sheep and a flying elevator – giving us enough eye candy to almost forget about the cleverly composed songs as we follow Charlie on his trip through the mysterious sweet factory of Willy Wonka – but not quite. Elfman’s musical contribution is crucial to the film, adding to its playful tone but simultaneously expressing a warm, whimsy sense of sentimentality. Opening tune “Wonka’s Welcome Song” sounds like a twisted version of Disney’s “It’s a Small World”, boasting a vintage calliope-style that reminds you of children’s funfairs in the 1960s, yet containing so many deliberately annoying hoots and chirps that it echoes the surreal, schizophrenic nature of the film..
The four songs that stand out the most on the soundtrack are the character songs that were adapted from Roald Dahl’s own poems in the book. “Augustus Gloop”, “Violet Beauregarde”, “Veruca Salt” and “Mike Teavee” are songs sung by the Oompa Loompa’s (voiced by Elfman himself), dedicated to the four spoiled kids who accompany Charlie to the chocolate factory and who each get eliminated by their own greed. “Augustus Gloop” is a big-band tribute to the Oompa Loompa’s tribal origins, “Violet Beauregarde” is a funky disco piece for the hot-headed gum-chewer Violet, “Veruca Salt” explores Beach Boys-esque harmonies whilst sending the rich kid off to the garbage chute, and “Mike Teavee” is an aggressive power-rock cacophony that might be the ultimate homage to the postmodern. Each song reflects a different side of Elfman’s eclectic musical style.
The transition between the songs sung by Elfman and the instrumental part is marked by “Main Titles”, a song that starts calm and mysterious before the bombastic strings kick in, reminiscent of the aggressive sounds of machinery. Other gems like “The Indian Palace” and “Loompa Land” take you all the way to India and the jungle respectively, with the sounds of the sitar and some heavy Oompa Loompa tribal chanting welcoming you into other worlds. The short but sweet “Charlie Declines” and the cheerful “Finale” leave you with that serene ‘happy ending’ feeling at the end, as if you’ve just been on a fun rollercoaster ride, and show Elfman’s talent as an innovative and versatile composer.
The “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory Original Motion Soundtrack” is now for the first time released on vinyl, exclusively available on Zavvi.com as part of our Secret Soundtrack subscription plan! There’s only 500 copies available, each of which is individually numbered and stickered.
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