Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the iconic creation of author Roald Dahl, who wrote the children’s classic novel in 1964. And Oompa Loompas, diminutive workers at the factory who love to sing and all have the same distinct look, are an integral part of the story.
When the novel was turned into a film in 1971 starring the incomparable late Gene Wilder, the Oompa Loompas were brought to life beyond book illustrations, depicted as mischievous yet hard working. They appeared again with another unique look in the 2005 version of the film starring Johnny Depp.
While we all know about the Oompa Loompa’s small stature, occupation, and penchant for breaking out into song and choreographed dance, what else is there to know about these tiny people?
9 They Were Originally Depicted as African Pygmies
While we know Oompa Loompas best from the films, picturing them as orange- or white-faced little people with green hair, Dahl initially wrote them as African pygmies who were brought as slaves to work in Willy Wonka’s factory. It’s easy to understand why people weren’t exactly pleased with this depiction.
So it comes as no surprise that following criticism, the Oompa Loompas were changed in later versions of the book to be described and pictured as still being small, but having white skin and golden hair, with no implication that they were former slaves.
8 They Hail From Loompaland
Where are Oompa Loompas from? They are from Loompaland, of course! Loompaland is a fictional region within Loompa. And Loompa, if you’re following, is an isolated island in the Hangdoodles.
While it sounds like a fun place to live, Willy Wonka describes Loompaland as being a desolate wasteland with nothing but thick jungles and terrifying beasts. Hiding out in trees and eating green caterpillars in order to escape the beasts, the Oompa Loompas were all too happy to go work for Willy Wonka and get out of their hometown.
7 They Were Hired By Willy Wonka to Prevent Industrial Espionage
Willy Wonka sure hired a lot of Oompa Loompas to work in his factory. Did they have a particular skill set? Was it their small stature that made them valuable for certain work? Why did he have such affinity for the little folks?
It seems aside from Willy seeing the chance to save the Oompa Loompas from the terrifying beasts in Loompaland, he also had selfish reasons for employing them. Willy was paranoid, worried about hiring anyone for fear that his candy-making rivals could steal his secrets. So he opted to hire the Oompa Loompas, who previously lived on an isolated island, because there was zero chance of potential industrial espionage with them.
6 They Get Paid In Cocoa Beans
Aside from being a trusted group of workers, there’s another advantage with Oompa Loompas: you don’t have to pay them money. Rather, they are paid in a currency most valuable to them: their favorite food, cocoa beans.
During the times in Loompaland when the Oompa Loompas would hide out in trees from beasts like the Hornsnozzlers, Snozzwangers, and Vermicious Knids, they had nothing to eat but green caterpillars. As they munched down on the unappetizing snacks, they craved cocoa beans. So when a job offer came that would not only save them from scary beasts but also give them 24/7 access to cocoa beans, it was a no-brainer.
5 In the Book, They Have a Very Specific Fashion Sense
In the movies, Oompa Loompas all wear traditional worker uniforms. But in Dahl’s book, their sense of fashion is much different. Men wear skins, women wear leaves, and children wear, well, nothing at all.
Interestingly, only male Oompa Loompas work in the factory, while female Oompa Loompas apparently stay mainly in the village. In illustrations in the book, this explains why some female Oompa Loompas are seen helping take (rather roll) Violet away after she turns into a blueberry. They were nearby, but don’t actually work in the factories.
4 One Actor Played Them All in the 2005 Film
In the 2005 musical fantasy film starring Johnny Depp, a single actor played every single Oompa Loompa. Hailing from Kenya, Deep Roy played 165 Oompa Loompas in all, with vocal work by Danny Elfman. This was achieved through split-screen photography and digital and front projection effects.
The actor reportedly took classes in dance and Pilates to help with his agility so he could do the numerous songs and dances throughout the movie.
In addition to being an actor, Roy, who measures just 132cm tall, is also a stuntman and puppeteer who played Keenser in Star Trek, and had roles in episodes of The X-Files, Doctor Who, and Eastbound and Down, among many other credits.
3 They Are Only Knee-High
How tall exactly are Oompa Loompas? We know they are smaller than the average human, similar in size to little people. But they are actually supposed to be even smaller than that – about knee high. Willy Wonka describes them as being no larger than medium-sized dolls.
But as portrayed in the 1971 film, the average height of all of the Oompa Loompas was about 4 feet tall. The 10 men who played them included actors who were British, Maltese, Turkish, and German.
If we are to believe that Oompa Loompas were indeed African pygmies, as Dahl originally described them to be, the average height of these folks would be about 4 feet, 11 inches.
2 They All Look Exactly Alike
Though their design has changed from African pygmies to being white-skinned and golden-haired, then orange-skinned, there is always one common thing about the appearance of Oompa Loompas: they all look the same.
In the iconic 1971 film Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory starring Gene Wilder as the title character, the Oompa Loompas were orange-skinned with green wigs and interestingly-styled hair. Their eyebrows were bushy and white, making for a stark contrast to their citrus-colored skin.
In the 2005 film, the Oompa Loompas, played by Deep Roy, were darker-skinned and more robotic, as if they were simply programmed to work and dance in unison when a moment called for it.
1 Their Songs Talk About Each Visiting Child’s Shortcomings or Mistakes
Oompa Loompa songs usually start with signature lyrics “Oompa Loompa doompa-de-doo, I have a perfect puzzle for you.” But as they continue on, you realize that the songs have meaning and moral lessons behind them. Not to mention that they’re quite clever and witty for tunes that are apparently made up on the spot.
Each time the mischievous Oompa Loompas sing, it’s usually to call out a child who has done something bad or has been acting out while on a tour of the factory. Typically, the lyrics rhyme and describe what the child has done wrong and why it’s wrong. Sometimes, the tune calls out the parents, too. For example, about the spoiled brat Veruca Salt, the Oompa Loompas sang, “If you are wise, you will listen to me. Who do you blame when your kid is a brat? Pampered and spoiled like a Siamese cat? Blaming the kids is a lie and a shame. You know exactly who’s to blame: the mother and the father!”