Volkswagen’s much beloved and instantly recognizable Beetle – or Bug — (officially Type 1) received a further boost in popularity, especially among baby boomers, when it was first cast in the classic 1968 Disney comedy film, ‘The Love Bug.’ The movie proved to be so successful that it spawned four sequels, including the more modern remake in 2005 starring Lindsay Lohan. Classic cars and hot rods have always played a special part in Hollywood films.
There’s no doubt that a major appeal of the film became the little car that’s central to the racing plot. The ‘love bug’ as it came to be known was named Herbie and took on its own personality in the film. While in development the movie was a more straightforward race film, but Walt Disney suggested a more comedic take based on the book ‘Car, Boy, Girl’ by Gordon Buford.
One of the most interesting aspects about the making of the movie was that it was not originally conceived with Herbie as a VW bug. Although the classic 1963 model car is now so clearly linked to the film and part, it had to audition for the role just like a human actor might. Similar to the General Lee, the 1969 Dodge Charger featured in The Dukes of Hazzard, the VW Bug has also earned it’s spot as a lead in film history. Disney set up a casting call of over a dozen cars to see which make and model might work best for the film. While many aspects of each one were considered for the role, the VW Bug won out when it caused various crewmembers and casting people to actually reach out and pet it. The car still remains a favorite among many classic car enthusiasts. With such a visceral reaction to a classic car, Disney knew he had found his ‘star.’