When you think of Gene Wilder in the timeless Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, most people simply remember how his iconic portrayal of Willy Wonka perfectly captured the spirit of the character and story in a way that could not be matched (looking at you Johnny Depp). What those people don’t realize is that the true story is much, much darker. In researching the role of Willy Wonka, Wilder became obsessed with alchemical processes that could be used to turn ordinary sugary confections into more potent treats. Indeed, these would be the kind of treats that a self-proclaimed candy king like Willy Wonka himself would sacrifice anything for (including a few those creepy oompa loompas). And so it was for Wilder.
As a tireless artisan and method actor, Wilder devoted himself fully to his craft and spent countless hours and sleepless nights conjuring various recipes and formulas that would make his turn as Wonka all that much more memorable. But even after the movie had finished shooting and Wilder moved on to other roles, his obsessive alchemy persisted. Rumors swirled that his greatest concoction was called out in the movie itself: the snozzberry. Not only were these snozzberries supposed to be the most delicious of the berries, they were also rumored to have special chemical compositions that would imbue anyone eating them with great health and longevity. But Wilder never shared the snozberry recipe and with his tragic death most feared that it would be forever lost.
However, where most saw tragedy, the good folks at Sportland Tea Company saw opportunity. It turns out, in addition to being experts in the ancient art of tea making, the founders of Sportland Tea are also highly adept in the dark arts of necromancy, including communicating with departed souls. (They have also successfully raised several skeleton armies to wage war against competing tea companies, but that’s a story for another day.)
After hearing of Wilder’s death, the Sportland founders wasted no time in constructing a summoning pentacle made of a proprietary cayenne tea blend (a favorite of mystical spirits everywhere). With candles and incense burning at each point of the pentacle, the founders began their chant to call forth the spirit of Wilder:
Round the world and home again
That's the sailor's way
Faster faster, faster faster
There's no earthly way of knowing
Which direction we are going
There's no knowing where we're rowing
Or which way the river's flowing
Is it raining, is it snowing
Is a hurricane a-blowing
Not a speck of light is showing
So the danger must be growing
Are the fires of Hell a-glowing
Is the grisly reaper mowing
Yes, the danger must be growing
For the rowers keep on rowing
And they're certainly not showing
Any signs that they are slowing
And with a blast of green flame the ghostly spectre of Wilder appeared in the pentacle. After exchanging pleasantries and expressing their gratitude for Wilder’s various cinematic contributions, they got down to business. The founders explained that they needed the snozberry recipe and that they were willing to give Wonka whatever he wished in exchange for the information. The spectre of Wilder briefly considered and then said, “In exchange for my snozberry recipe, I require you to make a pair of sunglasses for my oompa loompas. They love to run, but need eye protection, as the copious amounts of LSD they have consumed over the years have caused them to have extreme photosensitivity.” As makers of tea, and not sunglasses, Sportland knew just who to call. And the rest, as they say, is history.