Sunday, April 20, 2014

Disney's The Love Bug (1968)


Now that Disney owns Star Wars, it seems only fitting to finally address one of my wildest but fully-endorsed (by me) classic film connections to the Star Wars saga.

Just as Maria in Fritz Lang's film Metropolis inspired C-3PO, the little Volkswagen bug in Disney's The Love Bug - also known as "Herbie" - was clearly an inspiration for R2-D2.

Crazy, am I? Well, then: Let’s go crazy.

Any Lucas follower knows Lucas was really into cars in his teen years and, as the legend goes, if he never had that dreaded car accident as a youngin’, he may never have gone on to college, made American Graffiti, and so on and so forth.


That said, once he started making films in college, cars were prominent in his films – like in his film “1 42 08 A Man and His Car.” Or, better yet, see the George Lucas student film named “Herbie.” Oh, have I got your attention, now?




Granted, “Herbie” in Lucas’ film is a nod to jazz musician Herbie Hancock – but the love of “the car” is present, too. And, if you haven’t seen American Graffiti yet, and call yourself a Star Wars fan, well…you should see it. All I’ll spoil is that cars are very, very important to the film.

In The Love Bug (1968), a whiny, downtrodden racer inherits a small Volkswagen bug soon-to-be-named “Herbie” and quickly learns Herbie has a mind of its own and often disobeys commands with the best interests in mind for everyone. With a chrome and white chassis, Herbie features red, blue and black markings and communicates to others through a series of beeps and whistles. The nemesis of Herbie’s owner sends men to repossess Herbie. They fail repeatedly, but do manage to hurt Herbie on occasion. In the last stretch of the big finale, Herbie – after having been sabotaged by the villain multiple times – falls apart before the final victory, seemingly destroyed forever. However, Herbie’s team goes on to win the final race. Thankfully, in the film’s final scene, Herbie is already put back together – good as new and ready for another adventure.



 In Star Wars (1977), a whiny, depressed space farm boy acquires a small Astromech droid named R2-D2 and quickly learns that “Artoo” has a mind of its own and often disobeys commands with the best interests in mind for everyone (In Artoo’s case, it’s the best interest of the Rebellion against the Empire). With a chrome and white chassis, Artoo features red, blue and black lights and markings and communicates to others through a series of beeps and whistles. Darth Vader, the nemesis of Luke Skywalker/Ben Kenobi, sends stormtroopers to Tatooine to repossess Artoo.  They fail repeatedly, but Vader does manage to blow up Artoo in the last stretch of the big finale – the trench run. Artoo is seemingly destroyed forever, right before the final victory – the destruction of the first Death Star. However, Artoo’s fellow rebels go on to win the final battle. Thankfully, in the film’s final scene, Artoo is already put back together – good as new and ready for another adventure.

Go ahead, call me crazy. Or agree with me. Either way, write a comment below and let me know your thoughts.


3 comments:

  1. I can see the similarities, absolutely. The time frame fits well too with Lucas' days in college. Herbie and Artoo do look similar and communicate the same way. I would still like to see Lucas in an interview mention Herbie to be sure, but studying this particular piece of film history and crossing it with Lucas inspiration does have its merits. Nicely done Chris.

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  2. Good post. I thought of this 10 years ago and mentioned it to a friend at work who thought about it for a second and then said I was probably right. Don't forget the rounded-off hood, which makes both of them more cuddly, and the facts that they roll on wheels and have opening compartments. I don't think this was an intentional homage, but was simply what grew out of the universe of ideas Lucas was exposed to at that time. Just like Darth Vader has elements of Dr. Doom and an intelligent hairy humanoid beast like Chewbacca made sense in the era of Planet of the Apes. Let's not forget that so many scenes and story elements in Star Wars are documented to be direct homages to well-known films. Herbie was of less interest to film scholars and critics as The Hidden Fortress and less direct of a connection than Flash Gordon, but nevertheless could've been an inspiration.

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