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U.S.A. Popcorn Adventure #7
May 09, 2007

Chocolate Revolution

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory + Artisan Chocolate Shop

When it comes to chocolate, some folks like milk, and others prefer dark. Taste in films, we discovered, is just as deliciously quixotic. When we compared the adaptations of Roald Dahl's classic kids story, some of us gravitated towards Tim Burton's dark and edgy Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, while others yearned for the milkier musical Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Either way, watching spoiled Veruka Salt, obnoxious Violet Beauregard, screen-obsessed Mike Teavee and gluttonous Augustus Gloop get their just desserts is delightful. When Charlie Bucket inherits the chocolate kingdom, it is sweet revenge, because only he “mixes it with love and makes the world feel good.”

Talk about a kid in candy store: it's one of life's guilty pleasures to take your kids chocolate tasting in the name of culture. Glimpsing row after row of chocolates upon walking into an artisan chocolate shop, our nine year-old could not believe his good fortune. His mission was to sample a plate of chocolates, don his critic's hat and rate each one. But which to choose? He went for color (violet swirls), name (what boy can resist a soccer legend?) and, of course, maternal influence (hmmm, caramel with sea salt). After taking a bite out of each, he put them in taste order, took another bite to re-check his results, and, like a true critic, didn't sugar coat his reaction: Curry-filled chocolate received a "Yuck!," but one with peanut butter filling fared better with "You gotta' have it!" If only every day could be so sweet.

Film Title: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory
Directed By: Mel Stuart
1971, Rated G, 100 minutes

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this film:
  • Why this Film is Worth It: We prefer the older film to Burton's recent remake, partly out of nostalgia but also because it seems a more loyal take on Roald Dahl's classic story. Children of all ages will get a sugar high from the silly songs and Gene Wilder's gentle take on Wonka. Why not develop your junior film critics by comparing both films? Older children, in particular, will love Burton's zany set design and boundless imagination. We liked the clever updates of the characters' bad manners. Other plusses included Deep Roy playing all the Oompa Loompas and composer Danny Elfman's use of Dahl's original words for his songs.
  • Red Flags: Be warned that all the children (except Charlie) who visit the chocolate factory meet their end in dastardly ways. They're such hideous children that we applaud their comeuppance. Dahl moralizes against appalling children, offering parents a nice opening to discuss manners with their kids.
  • Creative partnerships: Tim Burton and Johnny Depp have a long history of collaboration (Edward Scissorhands, Corpse Bride). Johnny Depp and Freddie Highmore (Charlie Bucket) played against each other in Finding Neverland.
  • COOL FACT: Peter Ostrum, who played Charlie Bucket in the 1971 film, never acted again. He grew up to be a vet.

Our tips for talking to your kids about this film:

  • Cinema Savvy: Comparing the two films is a good way to introduce the concept of what a director does. Tim Burton's signature is writ large in the 2005 film; as viewers, we are more aware of his vision than of either the author's story or actors' performances.  In the 1971 film, the director's touch is almost invisible and the story, characters and music emerge in a seemingly effortless fashion.  Ask your kids which film they prefer.
  • Literary Savvy: After the kids decide which Wonka they prefer, they can compare Gene's Wilder's dialogue to Johnny Depp's stylized speech. Wilder's lines, while not always true to the novel, drew from Shakespeare, Ogden Nash and Oscar Wilde; Depp delivers eccentric lines like "Good morning, starship. The earth says hello." Click here for more on Roald Dahl.


Visit an Artisan Chocolate Shop

Time Allotment: 45 minutes
Age Recommendation: All chocolate lovers!

Our Buttery Bits of Wisdom about this Popcorn Adventure:

  • What Worked for Us: Half the fun is choosing what to sample; so let the kids take their time salivating over their choices. Let them point to what looks best - the clerk will warn them away from something they won't like. We chose about six truffles and cut them into small pieces so everyone had a bite. Have some water on hand to cleanse the palate in between tastes. It's surprising how satisfying a small piece of good chocolate can be.
  • Before You Go: We found a few delectable choices by googling chocolate shops and reading local newspaper and magazine articles; believe us, reporters love the assignment of finding the best chocolate.
  • Developing the Palate: The goal is to get the kids to talk about what they are tasting -- not always easy in the excitement of the moment. Warm them up with some easy questions, like identifying their favorites; then, move on to more sophisticated follow-up, like choosing the sweetest, the strongest after-taste, etc.
  • Chocolate is good for you: Click here for a worthy explanation of why! And click here to learn more about how chocolate itself is made from cacao beans.

 Our City Editors' tips for enjoying this Popcorn Adventure all around the USA:

  • Anywhere: Google best chocolate shop + your city; or visit
  • Boston: Step into the cozy environment of Burdick’s Chocolate Shop in Harvard Square, and you might think that Willy Wonka himself created the signature white and dark chocolate mice, the freshly dipped fruit, the assortment of classic and novelty chocolates and pastries. Everyone must experience the “over-the-top” rich and creamy hot chocolate, no matter the season. The café is at 52 D Brattle Street in the heart of Harvard Square. Open 7 days.
  • Houston: Step through the doors of Chocolate Designs and enter sensory heaven.  Ask for the behind the scenes tour, where the owner will wow you with tales about special chocolate creations and secret Swiss recipes. 
  • New York: Continue the Willly Wonka dream, and head over to New York's very own Loompaland at Max Brenner, Chocolate by the Bald Man. The chocolate quite literally circulates through pipes in the ceiling into churning vats. Some of our favorites were the chocolate pizza, fondue, and an amazing menu of creative "choctails" of the hot and cold variety. Your kids will enjoy sipping hot cocoa in a specially designed "Hug Mug" and sipping shakes through a stainless steel straw. Two locations: 841 Broadway (in Union Square, off 14th Street) and 141 Second Avenue (at 9th Street).
  • San Francisco: Visit Scharffen Berger Chocolate Maker in Berkeley (914 Heinz Ave) and attend their hour long program, which includes a history of cacao, the history of Scharffen Berger, tastings and a brief factory tour! Reservations needed.  Check out the factory’s Café Cacao and leave lots of room for dessert! Reservations recommended
  • Washington, DC: Check out quaint Kingsbury Chocolates over the bridge in Old Town Alexandria (1017 King St.) Thirty kinds of truffles and lots of unique hot chocolates.  It's worth the trip!  If you prefer to stick closer to home try Kron Chocolatier, known for their truffles, in Mazza Gallerie, or for Belgian chocolate, Leonidas (1531 Wisconsin Ave. in Georgetown). All serving up scrumptious selections.

Our suggestions for extending this Popcorn Adventure at home:

  • Do a home tasting. A chocolate tasting party is conducted like a wine or cheese tasting party. Here are some suggestions for getting started (thanks to The Chocolate Connoisseur, by Chloe Doutre-Roussel): Compare like chocolates - all milk, or all dark, and with similar concentrations of cocoa butter. Compare three or four bars at once, and cleanse your palate with water or bread between bites. Be sure to include a bar you already like (Hershey's) so you can really distinguish between each.
  • Get help finding the good chocolate.  You can find the gourmet brands in specialty stores, or on-line at or  Doutre-Roussel suggests: Amedi, Bonnat, Chocovic, Michel Cluisel, Domori, El Rey, Guittard, Marcolini, Michael Recchiuti, Pralus, Scharffen Berger and Valrhona.
  • Younger kids might prefer comparing hot chocolates. Try Nestle's freeze-dried marshmallow brand versus a few new-fangled flavors. Whole Foods is currently carrying a selection of Single Origin cocoa mixes by Allegro.

Want more? Here are KOTC's picks of films, books, music, and websites that connect your family to more culture.

Want to see more Tim Burton films? Click here to visit the Kids Off the Couch store at

Want to read up on chocolate? Click here to visit the Kids Off the Couch store at