Gene Wilder’s Willy Wonka brings awareness to Alzheimer’s disease with ‘Pure Imagination’ campaign

Pure Imagination for the Alzheimer's Association

Gene Wilder’s beloved portrayal of Willy Wonka has returned in honor of National Alzheimer’s Disease Awareness Month to promote awareness of the disease that took him from us in 2016.

From today (November 6), the Alzheimer’s Association's campaign, 'The Pure Imagination Project', will encourag people to learn more about the disease and join the efforts to fulfill the organization’s vision of a world without Alzheimer’s.

Reflecting the creativity and charm of Wonka, the campaign has been designed to include the famous ‘Pure Imagination’ scene from ‘Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,’ but it has reinterpreted the magical, candy-filled world with the sweets disappearing piece by piece, much like Alzheimer’s as it takes people’s imagination piece by piece for five million Americans across the country.

“Alzheimer’s disease is a brutal and unforgiving enemy that can rob a person of his self-expression, the ability to walk, to read, to write and to find joy in the world. Simply, the person loses himself,” said Wilder’s widow Karen B. Wilder. “When I saw this campaign, I knew that it brilliantly and beautifully captured all that Alzheimer’s can take away, and my hope is that it will motivate people to learn more and to seek to change the course of this disease for future generations.”

The Pure Imagination Project was developed pro bono by a creative team at MullenLowe’s Winston-Salem office, all of whose families have been touched by Alzheimer’s disease. The campaign encourages all to lend their imagination to the fight and support efforts aimed at ending this devastating disease.

Chief creative officer Mark Wenneker is admittedly a big fan of Wilder, so when the actor was lost to Alzheimer’s last year, Wenneker penned a eulogy of sorts for the mentor he’d never met and shared it with the agency. This sparked an idea in one of MullenLowe’s group creative directors, David Olsen — to reinterpret the magical world of Wonka with poignant parallels between disappearing candy and the effect of the disease. David gathered a team, all of whose families have been touched by the disease, and set out to imagine a world without Alzheimer’s.

In addition to MullenLowe, the Alzheimer’s Association’s Pure Imagination Project is also made possible thanks to the support of the Gene Wilder estate, Warner Bros and Universal Music, with visual effects by Significant Others, all recognizing the urgency of this mission and honoring Wilder for his fight against the disease.

“The Alzheimer’s Association is honored to have the opportunity to reimagine this legendary film scene in such a powerful and poignant way,” said Michael Carson, chief marketing officer at the Alzheimer’s Association. “The Alzheimer’s Association is relentless in our fight to end this disease through our support of innovative and novel research initiatives, and unwavering support of families who have been affected. This campaign is an inspiring reminder that there is a lot of work to be done, but a world without Alzheimer’s is possible if we join together.”

“Having lost my father to Alzheimer’s, and my mother a year later from the toll of being his caregiver, I know firsthand there is no sugar-coating the impact of this disease,” said David Olsen, group creative director at MullenLowe Winston-Salem. “Just as Gene inspired millions to believe anything is possible with the power of pure imagination, we hope this work will inspire others to help fulfill the Alzheimer’s Association’s mission to imagine a world without Alzheimer’s.”

The Pure Imagination Project will encourage people to imagine a world without Alzheimer’s with additional support from in-kind media partners, including Amobee, Dstillery and Samba TV. Follow along on official Alzheimer’s Association social channels.

To view the spot, please click the Creative Works box below.

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Kyle O'Brien

I am a reporter for The Drum covering a wide array of topics but always trying to tell the best stories possible. I am a former west coaster from California and Portland, Oregon, now living in Pennsylvania — with time spent in NYC each week.

I also play saxophone professionally.

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