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A series of Disney live-action films (the first in the series was one of the last movies personally overseen by Walt Disney himself) concerning the adventures of Sentient Vehicle Herbie, a '63 Volkswagen Beetle with a mind and heart of its own.The main series consists of:
The Love Bug (1968) — Down-on-his-luck racing driver Jim Douglas gets more than he bargained for when he acquires a second-hand Beetle. The car is named "Herbie" by his mechanic, Tennessee Steinmetz, who is the first to realise that the car's odd behavior is more than just an idiosyncratic collection of mechanical faults. Peter Thorndyke, the snooty car salesman and race car driver who sold Herbie to Jim, is driven crazy when Jim starts winning races with his new car. Thorndyke tries to find out the secret of "the little car" while also sabotaging it. Meanwhile, Jim falls in love with Carole, Thorndyke's assistant.
Herbie Rides Again (1974) — Herbie is left with Tennessee's aunt while Jim and Tennessee are out of the country, and helps save her home from an evil property developer.
Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo (1977) — Herbie and Jim reunite for a career comeback in a French car rally. To add to their troubles, jewel thieves hide a stolen diamond in Herbie.
Herbie Goes Bananas (1980) — Jim's nephew, Pete Stancheck, takes Herbie to South America for a big race. They encounter gold thieves, bull fights, a heartwarming orphan pickpocket, and some bananas.
Herbie: Fully Loaded (2005) — Herbie is bought from a junkyard as a college graduation present for Maggie Peyton, the youngest member of a racing family, and maneuvers to become a racing car again.
Herbie also made two forays into television:
Herbie, the Love Bug (1982) — Only lasted six episodes. Jim Douglas runs a driving school and romances a divorcee. Watch the opening credits (complete with cheesy theme song sung by Dean Jones/Jim Douglas) here.
The Love Bug (1997) — TV movie. Repeats the basic "Herbie helps out a down-on-his-luck driver" plot of the original (it's not a reboot, but more of an example of how events tend to repeat themselves). Bruce Campbell stars and Jim Douglas makes a cameo. An attempt is made to explain why Herbie is alive, but it's nonsensical. This movie is contradicted by Herbie: Fully Loaded, but you can read about it at The Other Wikihere.
Baguette Beatdown: In Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, there is a scene where Herbie is waiting at a stoplight at an intersection when a truck driver gets a French woman carrying some groceries angry at him. She proceeds to pound on the side of the truck with a baguette, causing no obvious damage to the bread or to the truck. It does result in the Love Bug getting dirty.
Bears Are Bad News: As Thorndyke's car is stuck in mud and and Havershaw is pushing it out, a bear makes it way into the car, enticed by their food. Because his driving goggles are covered with mud, Thorndyke doesn't realize the bear is in the car until he strikes it and it growls, making him faint.
Big "WHAT?!": Tennessee shouts this in response to Jim agreeing to sell Herbie to Thorndyke:
Jim:(talking on the phone with Thorndyke) Thorndyke, I don't like you, but I can use your money. You got yourself a deal, Thorndyke. Come and get it. (hangs up) Tennessee: What do you mean you got yourself a deal? Jim: I'm selling the little car. Tennessee: You're what?! Jim: Now, don't make a fuss, okay? I need the money. Tennessee: You crumb! You can't do that to Herbie!
Bilingual Backfire: In the first film, Tennessee speaks to Mr. Wu in Chinese (or an approximation of it), and Jim asks Tennessee to ask Mr. Wu if he would let him drive Herbie in the El Dorado race, with the condition that Mr. Wu will keep the winnings. This prompts Mr. Wu to say, in English, "Now you speak my language!".
Bungled Suicide/Interrupted Suicide: At one point a despondent Herbie attempts to leap off the Golden Gate Bridge, a feat made more difficult by the fact that his round wheels don't help him climb very well. His struggles last long enough for Jim to find him and talk him down.
Chekhov's Exhibit: The Etoile de Joie diamond in Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo is on display in a museum before it's stolen.
Chewing the Scenery: Trip's assistant in Fully Loaded. For the most part he's pretty subdued and calm... Then he's marking up Herbie for the Demolition Derby, and you'd think somewhere between scenes he just completely lost his mind.
Chuck Cunningham Syndrome: At the end of the original Love Bug Jim and Carole marry and leave for their honeymoon. By the end of Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, however, Jim is dating fellow race car driver Diane Darcy with nary a mention of Carole, despite her being a major character in the first film, and, oh yeah, his wife.
Darker and Edgier: The 1997 telefilm is considered to be this, due to the presence of the Herbie's Evil Knockoff and Knight of Cerebus Horace and featuring unpleasent living car deaths of Herbie (until he was rebuilt and and revived with the help from his original owner Jim Douglas) and Horace.
Thorndyke and his co-driver Havershaw stop to change a road sign, leading Herbie and the rest of the race cars to travel down an old mine. Another time is when Thorndyke rolls a tree in Herbie's path, and ends up stuffed into his trunk.
Trip from Herbie: Fully Loaded felt compelled to ram Herbie into the wall even though he was in the lead, causing him to crash spectacularly and allowing Herbie to win the race.
Discreet Drink Disposal: Thorndyke disposes of Tennessee's Irish coffees by pouring them into Herbie. It works, as Thorndyke wins the race the next day because Herbie is drunk.
Dog Food Diet: The Love Bug (the first one) has Jim Douglas rooting through the cabinets looking for something to eat. He wonders why they have bird food when they don't even own a bird. He ends up eating pressed kelp.
Doomed New Clothes: In The Love Bug, the Irish Coffee-inebriated Herbie projectile-coughs whipped cream all over Thorndyke's freshly-pressed driving uniform. Mind you, it was Thorndyke who poured Irish Coffee into Herbie's system in the first place, so chalk this one up to Laser-Guided Karma.
Driving a Desk: Used in The Love Bug for all the races as well as for various San Francisco establishing shots.
Fortune Teller: In Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo, Herbie rampages through a Gypsy camp. A Gypsy fortune teller tells a horrified client that "Darkness is about to fall on you." The next instant, Herbie hits the tent, collapsing it.
Fruit Cart: An erratically driving Herbie plows into a sidewalk fruit stand. Instead of a one-off gag, it turns out to be an important plot point, as the Asian Store-Owner whose display Herbie wrecks finds Herbie and winds up owning him.
Giggling Villain: Thorndyke in The Love Bug has a high-pitched giggle that he breaks into when he's up to no good.
Gretzky Has the Ball: Fully Loaded takes place in what is clearly NASCAR, where Herbie wouldn't have qualified as a pace car.
Hypocritical Humor: All through the El Dorado race in The Love Bug, Thorndyke goes out of his way with cheating in order to make Jim lose. But towards the end, Herbie is leading but also literally falling apart, and is blocking Thorndyke's car, making him say "Rotten sportsmanship if you ask me!".
Earlier in the picture, a police officer tells the protagonists to brake their parked car in the future... just before his own unbraked car slides into the water nearby.
Intelligible Unintelligible: Herbie's only method of communication is honking/beeping. Understood by specific people: Tennessee in the first movie, Grandma Steinmetz and Nicole in the second, Jim in the third, Paco in the fourth.
This provides for a humorous scene in Herbie Goes Bananas, since nobody knows he's named Herbie. Paco asks for his name, and all Herbie can do is give two prolonged honks (Her...bie!, so to speak). Note that when we say Paco can "understand" him, we don't mean literal English translations.
The Love Bug: We are given every reason to expect that Herbie is the only sentient car in the world. Tennessee theorizes that what with all the love and attention some people give their cars, once in a while sentience will be granted to it. Compare The Velveteen Rabbit.
Herbie Rides Again: All older-style Volkswagen Beetles are sentient. They can be summoned in a sequence similar to the "Twilight Bark" from The Hundred and One Dalmatians.
Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo: Sentient cars are extremely rare, but Herbie isn't unique, nor do they have to be Volkswagen Beetles. He falls in love with Giselle, a Lancia Scorpion.
Herbie Goes Bananas: Once again Herbie is the only sentient car seen, but the issue of others like him is never brought up. It's possible that they exist.
The Love Bug (1997 TV movie): Herbie is unique. He was specifically created to be sentient via The Power of Love. Horace the Hate Bug is created via The Power of Hate, but a "seed" from Herbie was required.
Herbie Fully Loaded: Topic is never brought up.
Multi-Track Drifting: Herbie in Herbie: Fully Loaded, most especially the final NASCAR racing sequence where the anthropomorphic Volkswagen was seen climbing onto the fence above the wall, trying to avoid being trade-painted.
My Car Hates Me: One of those cases where it's more than just a metaphor. Herbie refusing to start at a really inopportune moment because his feelings have been hurt happens at least once a movie.
Not Actually The Ultimate Question: In The Love Bug, when Jim and Carole find out that the VW Bug has a mind of its own, and it won't let either of them exit the car, Carole tries to call for help from some hippies in the van parked next to them:
Carole: Help, I'm a prisoner! I can't get out! Hippie: We all prisoners, chickee-baby. We all locked in.
Nothing Can Stop Us Now: The Love Bug features the villain's henchman telling him "You can't lose, sir! You can't possibly lo...", trailing off as he sees that Herbie (half of him anyway) is passing them right before the finish line. Later the villain tells him "Couldn't lose, I think you said."
Only The Chosen May Ride: An interesting take occurs in the first movie. Herbie, the titular vehicle is a living car that moves on its own, has emotions, and even speaks to some degree (Albeit only through use of his horn). He decides for himself who he'll let drive him, and anyone he doesn't like could just as easily be thrown out of the seat.
Product Displacement: In the first movie, there are no VW emblems anywhere on Herbie and the words "VW", "Beetle", and "Volkswagen" are never uttered; the characters call him "Herbie" or "the little car". According to The Other Wiki, VW allowed Disney to use its trademarks and logos beginning with Herbie Rides Again, as the Bug's sales were in decline.
Vile Villain, Saccharine Show: The "Hate Bug" Horace from the telefilm, who is a villain who outright monstrous and filled with pure evil in comparison to the previous Laughably Evil villains in the past theatrical films.