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Cooke Anamorphic/i FF lenses bring the magic to Wonka

Still from the film Wonka
By: The Cooke Team  |   1 min de lecture

‘Wonka’ tells the wondrous story of how the world’s greatest inventor, magician and chocolate-maker became the beloved Willy Wonka we know today… This irresistibly vivid and inventive big screen spectacle introduces audiences to a young Willy Wonka, chock-full of ideas and determined to change the world one delectable bite at a time — proving that the best things in life begin with a dream, and if you’re lucky enough to meet Willy Wonka, anything is possible. 


Released in Christmas of 2023 as the perfect Christmas indulgence ‘Wonka’ balances taking inspiration from Roald Dahl’s books whilst also paying homage to the world built in the 1971 film starring Gene Wilder, all whilst expanding the lore and motivations of the titular character. Battling against the gatekeepers of the chocolate industry Wonka assembles a team of plucky allies in a quest to fulfil the final promise he made to his mother of sharing her chocolate with the world. There’s a healthy dose of miniaturised and orange-urised Hugh Grant as well; something for the whole family! 


The look is tasteful and timeless, distinguishing the film from the two prior versions but not severing the connection entirely. There’s an almost analogue sense to the world despite the fantastical elements. Cinematographer Chung-hoon Chung ASC captured the musical on Cooke Anamorphic/i FF lenses for director Paul King. 

Behind the scenes from Wonka
Behind the scenes from Wonka

Chung-hoon Chung, ASC was born in Seoul, South Korea in 1970. He started out as a child actor going on to major in theatre at Dongguk University from 1990. Thankfully for the world of cinematographer he later switched his focus and directed three shorts whilst studying before making his feature debut as DP on a film called ‘Yuri’ (1996), based on a famous Korean novel. The film was selected for Cannes and there was a sense that Chung’s career would take off. Instead what followed was two years mandatory military service and then a struggle to find work for the following five.

South Korea has a tradition of adhering strictly to the camera department hierarchy, working up through the grades; as Chung begun as a cinematographer he was rejected from the society – at times he even considered quitting and opening an ice cream shop! Thankfully his big break came on Park Chan-wook’s ‘Oldboy’ (2003) which led to more work with the director including his English-language debut ‘Stoker’ (2013) which was well received at Sundance. People drew parallels between his work and Gregory Crewdson’s eerily high-key Americana photography. Since then, he’s lensed projects such as ‘Last Night in Soho’ (2021) and ‘Kenobi’ (2022).

When Seamus McGarvey ASC BSC ISC stepped away from the production, he reached out to Chung who quickly came on board and felt an immediate harmony with director Paul King. “Our thoughts and ideas on the film were very similar. It was a delight to work with him because we didn’t waste any time coordinating options for the scenes and filming.”

Chung’s approach was a classic one, drawing inspiration from the Wilder film in terms of its analogue nature. As much as possible the world was created in camera even when opting for VFX may have been simpler. Chung collaborated closed with VFX supervisor Graham Page to make sure their work blended seamlessly.

“From my viewpoint as a cinematographer, the creation is not about obsessing on making new things that no one has created before but to combine things that fit the film with the right balance.” 

Chung-hoon Chung, ASC | Cinematographer

The film is set in an unspecified European city – a blend that includes elements of Georgian London, Brussels, Switzerland and others. Production Designer Nathan Crowley thinks of it as “the best of Europe!” On-location filming included St Paul’s Cathedral, Bath and Oxford. The crew also spent 21 weeks in Warner Bros. Leavesden Studios to shoot on 50 sets across three different stages and 35foot high sets on backlots.
Crowley’s production design along with Lindy Hemming’s costumes take centre stage and Chung showcases them beautifully with sweeping shots of the film’s ensemble and elegant establishing shots. The wider aspect gained through anamorphic capture is ideal for showcasing the grandeur of Wonka’s World whilst the smooth bokeh and flares accentuate the film’s fantastical elements.
“I put a lot of thought into blending the fantasy elements of the story into the scenes seamlessly, it is easy to get caught up in the extravagance and have the camera follow every bit and try to highlight that. But if the camera doesn’t distance itself from the extravagance, it will only leave the audience overwhelmed and perhaps even confused.”
The light is at times playful – shadows and wild chromatic hues mirror fanciful candy creations. The result is magical yet contemporary, the images don’t feel polluted or foggy nor are they overly clinical and crisp. Chung very much sees part of his responsibilities as accommodating the performances rather than limiting them and in collaboration with gaffer Lee Walters the film was lit mostly with LED lights all fed to a dimmer desk which could be quickly updated to suit the choreography.


Overall the film portrays an elevated and beautifully exaggerated version of reality, mirroring director King’s distinctive storytelling style, resulting in a truly enchanting experience. When the work feels this meticulously considered the audience is encouraged to surrender fully to its enchanting charms and step into a world of pure imagination.

Wonka was released on Home Media in the US on27th February 2024, and in the UK on4th  March 2024. It will hit US streaming service Max on 8th March and is already available to stream in the UK on Amazon VoD.