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Oompa Loompas… The Original Ones!

Music | December 13, 2017

NEW YORK, NY - OCTOBER 18: Rusty Goffe, who starred in the 1971 version of the film, and the Oompa Loompas hand out Golden Tickets for the '40th Anniversary (Getty Images)

Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory is a classic story that most of us know. Willy Wonka, played by Gene Wilder in the 1971 movie release, was known as a mysterious, reclusive and eccentric candy maker who owned a factory that produced chocolate and other confections.   

As the story goes, he eventually found himself in search of a child to take over his mission in the event he was no longer able to do so. In his effort to find the right child, he sent out the famous golden tickets as invitations for children to visit the factory to see if they were worthy… unbeknownst to them.

To the general public, Willy Wonka seemingly ran the chocolate factory by himself. No person was ever seen going in or out of the factory. The truth, however, was that he did have help… from the Oompa Loompas!

The Oompa Loompas were mischievous natives of Loompaland, in the region of Loompa, which was represented to be a small, isolated island in the Hangdoodles. Willy Wonka discovered them and realized that they were being mistreated by the Whangdoodles, Hornswogglers and Snozzwangers. Wonka took them home to work in his factory and to give them a better life, making his Gobstoppers and other sugary treats. He rescued them but they also rescued him because he needed their help. There was a mutual and loving respect that they shared. Beneficial to both sides was the fact that the Oompa Loompa’s diet consisted mainly of cacao beans which were rich in chocolate flavor.

We never heard or saw the Oompa Loompas have on-screen conversations. They did, however, sing witty, rhyming songs. The tune of their songs was always the same and the lyrics of their songs always mimicked whatever the current situation was. They were known to cleverly make up songs on the spot.

The movie was filmed in Munich, and producers had a difficult time finding actors that spoke English. Finally, they assembled a group of 10 actors to play the Oompa Loompas, which included Brittish, Maltese, Turkish and German actors;  only one being a female. Because of a language barrier for some of the actors, filming proved to be somewhat frustrating because everything had to be explained in several languages.

Because most of the actors that portrayed the Oompa Loompas did not speak English, they found it difficult to learn the words to the songs. If you look closely, you can see some of their lip-syncing to be “off”. Because of this, songs recorded in the movie reportedly took countless takes.  

Choreographers for the film had all of the dance scenes planned out only to find out that most of the dances had to be changed. The average height of the Oompa Loompas was somewhere in the neighborhood of 4 feet. Their legs were so short that they physically couldn’t pull off the dance moves that had been originally planned.

The original story was written as a novel which described the Oompa Loompas as African Pygmies; with white skin and golden hair. In 1971, when Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory was released, the Oompa Loompas were still portrayed as small people, but with green hair and orangish skin. That is how most of us probably think of them.

In the 1971 movie, Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory, the Oompa Loompas were portrayed by Rusty Goffe, Rudy Borgstaller, George Claydon, Malcolm Dixon, Ismed Hassan, Norman McGlen, Angelo Muscat, Pepe Poupee, Marcus Powell and Albert Wilkinson. Their characters were, surprisingly, very in tune to the (mostly) ill-intentions of the children that had possession of the golden tickets. Even our hero Charlie, remember, cannot resist sampling the forbidden Fizzy Lifting Drink.

In the 2005 production of Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Johnny Depp portrays Willy Wonka and Deep Roy was all 165 Oompa Loompas. Deep Roy reportedly had to take Pilates and dance classes to perfect his role. I have nothing against Depp or Roy, but I still prefer the 1971 version.

Curiously, the Oompa Loompas were portrayed, in all versions, to have been male. How, then, did they reproduce? OK… maybe we won’t go there. Some things are better left to the ignorance of our childhood!  

While the Oompa Loompas were known to be mischievous, they also knew when to behave and were extremely hard workers. I guess we could all learn something from them.  

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Rebeka Knott

Writer

Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.