UltimateDisney.com's Top 30 Live Action Disney Movies Countdown
11. The Love Bug (1969)
The top-grossing film of 1969, Disney's The Love Bug, showcased a Volkswagen Beetle named "Herbie" with a mind of his own. Herbie is able to see the good inside the heart of a narcissistic washed-up race car driver, Jim Douglas (played by Dean Jones), and attempts to "shift" Jim's career & love life into high gear. Out to put up a road block in Herbie's plans are a rival race car driver and entrepreneur, Peter Thorndyke, played to perfection by David Tomlinson (George Banks in Mary Poppins).

Directed by Robert Stevenson (who performed the same duties for The Shaggy Dog, Mary Poppins and The Absent Minded Professor), The Love Bug does appear to have an incredulous plot. Similar to such far-fetched story premises of The Shaggy Dog's spell that can transform a boy into an Old English Sheepdog or The Absent Minded Professor's invention of a flying rubber substance that can solve all of life's problems, The Love Bug follows a Tibetan belief that all objects (both living and inanimate) have a soul, which is the explanation given in how a car can have human feelings and thoughts. However, Disney's live action comedy films of this era were not meant to be thought-provoking movies, just a fun humorous diversion from our everyday lives. Disney has definitely met this goal and won me over with this slapstick lighthearted family entertainment.

In order to get even more mileage out of this successful Volkswagen Beetle motion picture, The Love Bug produced three later models, Herbie Rides Again in 1974, Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo in 1977 and Herbie Goes Bananas in 1980. Two years later, a short-lived television series, "Herbie the Love Bug," premiered. In 1997, a remake named after the title film, The Love Bug, debuted.

Last year, The Love Bug entered the DVD race with an award-winning look and a full tank of features sure to win over most Disney enthusiasts. Finishing with a time of 107 minutes, The Love Bug speeds along with more laughs per hour than most of the films currently shown in movie theaters. Although Herbie's car number may be "53", The Love Bug definitely made my Top Ten List of the best Disney live-action comedy films of all time, and I highly recommend that you give this Disney film a test drive or add it to your garage of Disney DVDs soon.

-Jeff Miller

One measure of a movie is how it withstands the test of time. The Love Bug's brilliance is validated by the laughter of children today, more than three decades after its initial release.

An excellent comedic cast, great San Francisco and Gold Rush country scenery, and the beloved Herbie make this film succeed. There's a certain magic about Herbie that kids still pick up on and plenty of humor that works on an adult level too. Buddy Hackett plays a wonderful character and has some surprisingly insightful lines that foreshadow the technological revolution we were heading towards.

There have been other Disney comedies from the same era that I had fond memories of that didn't seem as funny anymore when I viewed them in the last few years (e.g. The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes). The Love Bug is just as funny as I remembered and it was fun to see that today's kids enjoy it just as much.

-Jim Miller

The Box Office Champion of 1969 wasn’t the X-rated Best Picture Winner Midnight Cowboy or the lavish Barbra Streisand musical Hello Dolly! No, it was Herbie, the Volkswagen racing car (No. 53) , the title character of the Disney classic The Love Bug. I saw it that year (in a drive-in) and today, almost 35 years later, it’s still one wild and joyous ride. Propelled by the ingenious fantasy of a car with a mind and heart of its own, this movie deftly mixes comedy, sentiment, and special effects to produce a story that represents Disney at its very best.

Everything clicks in this movie. The entire cast seems to be having a ball throughout; Dean Jones and Michelle Lee lend just the right amount of charm and spice to their romance; David Tomlinson and Joe Flynn bumble their way through various attempts to foil the little Bug; and Buddy Hackett is hilarious as the sidekick who “digs” Herbie right from the start.

Most importantly, Herbie emerges as a real character, not just a bunch of clever feats pulled off by the Special Effects team. Midway through the film, when the little Bug feels abandoned by his owner (played by Dean Jones), he weaves aimlessly through the streets of San Francisco, his horn making pitiful sounds. He stops at the Golden Gate Bridge, determined to jump; at the last moment he is rescued by Jones, who has come to realize how much the little car means to him. In print, this sounds corny, but on film it works. We care very much what happens to Herbie…and to all his friends… which makes the cross country finale all the more fun.

Herbie appeared again in three movie sequels--Herbie Rides Again, Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo and Herbie Goes Bananas--- in a short-lived 1980’s TV comedy series, and in a 1990’s TV remake, but, not surprisingly, none of them capture the winning combination of the original. Its success and popularity are well deserved, with one added benefit for Disney fans. The profit Herbie made in 1969 enabled the studio to finally greenlight a project they’d been sitting on for years… Bedknobs and Broomsticks. Thanks, Herbie.

-Joe Linden

When The Love Bug came out in 1969, our country was going through some very turbulent times, and one way we chose to deal with it was through escapism. The Love Bug seemed to be just the vehicle to do the trick. It became the highest grossing picture of 1969 and truly stands out as Disney's best zany comedy. It spawned three sequels, a short-lived TV series and a made-for-TV remake. But The Love Bug remains one of a kind. The real magic of this charming, fast-paced, hilarious movie is quite simply Herbie himself. He was the star of the movie! Somehow they managed to give this little VW beetle real personality. The human characters were just the supporting cast and I think they knew it, because they never try to steal the spotlight from the real star. Thirty-five years later this movie still holds up and new generations will get a kick out of The Love Bug.

-Mark Probst

This film simply contains some of the best slapstick humor around. Of course it's filled with cheesy melodrama, over-acting characters, and dated sets -- it is a film gem all the same. This film has entertained two full generations including myself and my son (who also rates this as one of his favorite Disney films). How can you not root for the little car that represents all the underdogs of the world?

-Jim Hudson

The Love Bug is a great movie that is enjoyable watching it again and again. Herbie is that little car that keeps trying and finally wins. It is quite fun to see all of the interesting antics that Herbie pulls off.

- Benjamin Waldman

DVD Details
• Disney put together a very nice 2-disc set for their beloved live action comedy in their Vault Disney line under the guise of "Special Edition." Presented in anamorphic widescreen and remixed in Dolby Digital 5.1, the film looks wonderful, is accompanied by some delightful movie-themed extras. These include interviews with comedian and co-star Buddy Hackett, recorded just a few months before he passed away. With all the work that went into such a great DVD set, you'd think Disney would try harder to get word of it out and maybe some copies in stores! In June of 2004, the recently-released sequels were put together with the double-disc Special Edition of the first film in a low-priced box set.
Buy The Love Bug
Read the complete Love Bug DVD Review
Read DVD reviews of the 3 Herbie sequels
Buy The Herbie Collection - 5-disc set containing all 4 films
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