Nearly forty years after its initial release and instant box office success, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) remains to be a beloved family-friendly musical. Set at the turn of the 1900s, a windowed father and eccentric inventor Caractacus Potts (by Dick Van Dyke) must revive a broken down automobile at the persistence of his children. In doing so, Caractacus must raise enough money to save the vehicle from being destroyed by the junkyard. One of Caractacus' many schemes is to sell his candy invention to the local confectionary factory, where he receives the romantic attention of the owners' daughter, the lovely Truly Scrumptious (Sally Ann Howes). After finally taking ownership of the vehicle, dubbed "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" for the funky rythms the engine makes, and restores it to its original beautiful glory, Caractacus, his children and Truly embark on a seaside picnic. A day of fun in the sun spins into fantasy story, told by Caractacus, where they fly away in Chitty to the imaginary land of Vulgaria as Baron Bomburst does everything he can to get his hands on their magical car. On-screen, the story is filled with song, dance and adventure. And, its creation to being a box-office smash is filled with just as many interesting twists and turns.
You might not have been able to tell by the quirky and charming atmosphere of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang world that the novel, for which the film is based, was written by Ian Fleming, the creator of the most popular spy agent, James Bond. You probably could connect the dots, however, that the fanciful nature of the film was created by children's author and novelist, Roald Dahl, with the help of Kevin Hughes. Was the adaptation close? Unfortunately, not. The aspect of an old automobile being renovated and revealing its magical powers is still used. However, in Fleming's original story, Commander Caractacus Potts, with his wife and children in tow, are forced to protect themselves and their beloved car from ruthless gangsters across Europe, who actually kidnap the children and use them as ploys in their attempt to rob a famous chocolate shop in Paris. The imaginary country of Vulgaria, Baron Bombuster, and The Child Catcher were original ideas derived by Road Dahl. Other concrete connections Chitty Chitty Bang Bang has to the James Brond franchise, is Albert R. Broccoli, who produced Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the James Bond film series. As well three actors from the James Bond films also appear in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang: Gert Fröbe as Baron Bomburst, Desmond Llewelyn as Mr. Coggins, Anna Quayle as Baroness Bomburst.
Though "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" (1968) is easily assumed by audiences and fans to be one of Disney's many successful real-action films, "Chitty Chitty Bang" is in fact not a Disney production. However, in a press release for "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang", it is reported that Dick had quipped, "This will out-Disney Disney." The comment supposedly angered Disney studio heads enough for Dick not to be invited back to work for the company for a number of years. If you find yourself singing along with the films' tunes like Toot Sweets and Hushabye Mountain, you have Disney master scorers The Sherman Brothers to thank. The duo have arranged countless catchy scores for Disney, for films such as Mary Poppins, and Disney World theme park attractions like It's A Small World.
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang remains in the public eye today through different venues. The film still airs on television regularly for families to enjoy at home. It was also converted into a Broadway musical production, which received respectful critical acclaim.