Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Apr 4, 2018 | by Jessika Loucks
Start your engines!
By the 1960’s not many musicals were being filmed, but lucky for us in 1967 director Ken Hughes decided to take on the challenge of bringing Chitty Chitty Bang Bang to life! Dick Van Dyke was the perfect actor to cast as the colorful Mr. Potts, but due to his widely-mocked accent in 1964’s Mary Poppins, Van Dyke only accepted the role of Caracatus Potts on the condition that he would not have to speak with an accent. The castle used in the film was built in the 1800’s and was designed for Bavarian King Ludwig II, also known as “the mad king of Bavaria.” Oddly enough, the castle was also the model for the Sleeping Beauty castle at Disneyland as well as the Walt Disney Studio’s logo.
Speaking of Disney, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was the first non-Disney film to feature songs by Richard and Robert Sherman, whose fun musical numbers have an eerie Disney feel that is coupled with extremely difficult choreography and whimsical melodies. This film seems to have a touch of Disney magic. But is it really as magical as critics say?
“Is that all you do Mr. Potts, invent things?” –Truly Scrumptious
The beginning of the film starts off with a fun car race and an energizing score. We are introduced to Chitty, a motor car known for winning all sorts of races. As we watch Chitty win race after race it’s hard not to cringe when the beloved car gets into a bad wreck and is forced to live out its days in a junkyard. Enter the Potts children, Jeremy (Adrian Hall) and Jemima (Heather Ripley), play-acting in a worn-out Chitty.
After a man shows up wanting to buy Chitty (with the intent to melt her down for scrap metal), the children convince the junk man to sell Chitty to them instead. The junk man agrees – but only if they can pay him what the other man was going to give him – 30 shillings!
On the way home from the junkyard the children run into – or should I say almost get hit by – Truly Scrumptious’ (Sally Ann Howes) car. Mortified that the children are running around town and not in school (let alone running into streets with cars), she convinces them to let her give them a ride home. While dropping the children off we meet their father, Caractacus Potts (Dick Van Dyke), an inventor who lives with his children and his eccentric father (Lionel Jeffries) – known for his outhouse adventures.
Mr. Potts has absolutely no problem with his children running wild, which causes Truly to give him a stern talking-to about how to raise his children. This quickly turns into an argument, ending in a very angry Truly driving away. The next day, after promising the children he will get the money to buy Chitty for them, Mr. Potts decides to take in his latest creation to the Scrumptious candy factory. His invention: candy with holes that whistle while you eat them.
While there, Mr. Potts runs into Truly again and finds out that her father is the owner of the factory. Discouraged, and feeling he has no chance at selling his candy to Mr. Scrumptious, Truly pushes him to not take “no” for an answer. After a fun song, a new friendship is formed between Truly and Caractacus – even though they didn’t make the sale to her father.
Bonus Fun Fact: The current owner of Chitty is Peter Jackson, director of Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit. It’s said that he could be seen in New Zealand at the WETA Workshop driving Hobbit cast members around while playing the film’s main theme through a sound system.
Mr. Potts eventually comes up with the money to buy Chitty and begins to fix her up. After she is complete and ready to drive, the Potts family (including Truly) decide to take her out for a picnic at the beach. This moment is where the movie really takes off! While they are all having their picnic, Mr. Potts tells a magical adventure story about an evil Baron who lives in a faraway land called Vulgaria.
The Baron Bomburst (Gert Frobe) and his wife have a strong dislike of children and keeps the town’s children locked up in his dungeon. Not only does he hate children, but he has one mission on his mind – to get his hands on their magical car named Chitty. Thinking that grandpa Potts is Mr. Potts (the inventor of the flying car), the Baron kidnaps him and takes him to his castle. We are swept away as we encounter twists, turns, music and lots of adventure! Will Truly and Mr. Potts fall in love? Will they be able to save grandpa from the evil Baron? And will Mr. Potts ever sell one of his inventions?
”Well, maybe my children like running wild in the street. Did that ever occur to you?” –Caractacus Potts
Content for Concern
The “child catcher” could be frightening for smaller children. In another scene Chitty goes over a cliff, looking like it will be hit by rocks – but pulls up and flies at the last minute. Throughout the film, the Potts family and Truly are constantly chased by the Baron and his men. Lastly, the Baron’s wife is seen in lingerie (but this is not supposed to be sexual in any way).
“I’m so glad you came. It’s much more fun with two grown-ups”- Jeremy
With a runtime of two hours and 20 minutes (making this one of the longest children’s’ films in history) one might think that this movie would feel slow in places. This is definitely not the case: the comedy, colorful sets and beautiful musical numbers will keep you on your toes and wanting more. So is this movie really as magical as a Disney film? My vote is yes! If you enjoy a whimsical story, dance, comedy and song – this is the choice for you!