Nov 22, 2015

Singing, and Smelling, Along With Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory at SIFF Film Center

This weekend I had the opportunity to take my girls to a special SIFF screening of the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory sing-along, presented in Smell-O-Vision. We'd never seen the film in a theater before, and that alone was pretty astonishing, what with the enormous Oompah-Loompas and the chance to see Gene Wilder's mesmerizing baby blues up close. It was a fun showing though, with lots of special touches that gave it the feel of a community event.

As we entered the theater, we were each handed a bag with props to use during the film. With items including a scratch and sniff card, bubble gum, a party popper, gobstoppers, mini bubbles and a Hershey kiss, it was like getting a sack of party favors. We were told to wait for onscreen instructions as to how to use all these things.

My Smell-o-Vision card. Who wouldn't want to get a good whiff of Charlie's Grandpa Joe?

Before the movie began, we were treated to a short film about chocolate-making, made by the Hershey corporation. It was as mouth-watering as you'd expect, and dated enough to offer a few unintended laughs.

Then the main feature, which has got to be one of the most crowd-pleasing movies ever made. It's one of those rare films that truly has something for everyone: sharp satire for the adults, crazy moments for the kids and Gene Wilder for everyone. Part of the pleasure of seeing it with an audience was that you could sense how happy we all were to be there.

Getting all our props out in a timely way was a challenge, especially with one kid too young to read the onscreen instructions, but it was also a lot of fun. I still tear up thinking about how I felt watching Wilder sing Pure Imagination with a chocolate kiss melting in my mouth. The bubbles we blew, during the scene where Charlie and his Grandpa were soaring among bubbles themselves, lingered for a while afterwards, which seemed to fascinate a lot of the kids. There was a palpable feeling of wonder in the theater. It was a more moving experience than I'd expected.

If you are going to be in the Seattle area anytime over the next month, I recommend checking it out. Links below go to the schedule for Wonka and a few other audience participation events SIFF will be presenting over the next month.

Nov 26-Jan 3 | SIFF Film Center | Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory in Smell-O-Vision
Nov 26-Jan 3 | SIFF Film Center | The Princess Bride Quote Along
Fri Dec 25 | SIFF Cinema Uptown | Fiddler on the Roof Sing Along
Thu Dec 31 | SIFF Cinema Uptown | Moulin Rouge! New Year's Eve Sing Along

My kid is ready for more. She's dying to go to the Princess Bride Quote Along, and she's not going to have to work hard to convince me to take her.

Many thanks to SIFF for providing tickets to the film.


  1. That is awesome! I hope to see that here, soon.

  2. I think it was a special SIFF event, but I'm always hoping that if I write about these things, someone somewhere else will get inspired to do events like that too. If only you could grab a flight and catch it here!