‘The Love Bug’ How Disney Came Up With Herbie and What’s Next
Walt Disney’s The Love Bug is a classic film that was released in 1968. The movie was a delightful comedy that centered around a sentient Volkswagen Beetle named Herbie, who had a mind and personality of its own. Here’s how The Love Bug got made and its impact at the box office:
The concept for The Love Bug was born from the mind of producer Bill Walsh, who was inspired by a story he read in a magazine about a man who had a close bond with his car. This idea evolved into the notion of a car with a personality. Walt Disney Productions saw the potential in this concept for a family-friendly film and enlisted the help of screenwriter Don DaGradi (Mary Poppins screenwriter) to develop the script.
Once the script was in place, casting became crucial. Dean Jones was chosen to play the lead role of Jim Douglas, a down-on-his-luck race car driver, and Michele Lee was cast as Carole Bennett, his love interest. Buddy Hackett played Tennessee Steinmetz, Jim’s humorous friend. However, the true star of the film was Herbie, the lovable anthropomorphic car.
The Love Bug was directed by Robert Stevenson, a seasoned Disney director known for his work on films like Mary Poppins and The Absent-Minded Professor. The production team faced some challenges, particularly in bringing Herbie to life. They used a variety of techniques, including remote control and mechanical effects, to make Herbie appear as if he had a personality.
Herbie got his name when the crew of the film was watching one of Buddy Hackett’s skits about a ski instructor with a funny accent. Then Hackett said, “If you ain’t got a herbie [pronounced as hoy-bie], I ain’t goin’.” The name stuck, permanently.
Impact at the Box Office:
When The Love Bug was released in 1968, it became an unexpected blockbuster. Audiences of all ages were charmed by the lovable Herbie and the heartwarming story of an underdog car that defied the odds. The film’s success at the box office was a testament to its universal appeal.
The Love Bug grossed over $51 million in the United States during its initial release, making it one of the highest-grossing films of the year. Its popularity extended beyond the borders of the United States, as it found success in international markets as well.
Dean Jones credits the film’s success to the fact that it was the last live-action film that Walt Disney had authorized for production.
What came next:
Four theatrical sequels followed: Herbie Rides Again, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, Herbie Goes Bananas, and Herbie: Fully Loaded. Some parts of the racing sequences from The Love Bug were later reused for Herbie’s dream sequence in Herbie Rides Again, responding to Grandma Steinmetz’s telling Willoughby Whitfield that Herbie used to be a famous racecar.
A five-episode television series, titled Herbie, the Love Bug, aired on CBS in the United States in 1982. Directed by Vincent McEveety, the series acted as a continuation of the films, with Dean Jones reprising his role as Jim Douglas. In 1997, there was a made-for-television sequel which included a Dean Jones cameo, tying it to the previous films.
We have heard Disney has been trying to revisit the franchise. It is worth noting, we had heard before the strike, that the studio was looking to develop The Love Bug as a Disney+ original, we are unsure if that means a movie or a series.