Saturday, 25 June 2016

L.J. SPENCE'S STARTING POINTS: THE LOVE BUG

L.J. SPENCE'S STARTING POINTS

73. THE LOVE BUG (1968, dir. Robert Stevenson)

25/06/2016


Right now, Volkswagen can do with as much positive publicity as they can get. With the prospect of paying out tens of billions of dollars in the scandal over the emissions of its diesel engines, and with a TV ad campaign reminding the public of how they have previously put their trust in their cars, VW could look to humanise themselves in the same way that Lego has done. 

"The Lego Movie" is a tribute to the creativity that Lego engenders in children, which could be put to work for adults. With VW's range deriving their names from types of wind - Polo, Golf, Passat, Jetta, Scirocco and so on - you could see some sort of weather-based thriller, which may also include a team chasing a twister in a Transporter van. Failing that, we could have the next Fast & Furious film done with Gold GTis, which could actually work.

VW could go back to Disney, to see what they might have in mind, although another Herbie film may be out of the question, after 2005's lacklustre "Herbie: Fully Loaded" - the use of CGI to make a VW Beetle smile and blink is disconcerting, especially when the point of anthropomorphism is the viewer bringing life to something that can't move itself anyway.

The Herbie films seem inextricably linked with the VW Beetle, as if no other car could possibly have been used, and yet other cars were tried with Disney. The choice came from Disney parking a line of cars outside the studio, and watching for the car that produced the most reaction from people. Interestingly, no American cars were tested - there were some Toyotas, a couple of Volvos, a TVR, an MG, and a Beetle. The one that was patted like a pet dog was the winner. 

So, this was not a case of that weird phrase now seen at the end of US TV shows now - "Promotional Consideration Furnished by Volkswagen" - but more that a Beetle was chosen as it was the best car for telling the story. I could not find anything that confirmed if "The Love Bug" had an impact on Beetle sales, but if there is evidence, it is how VW did not give permission for the company to be mentioned in the film - the VW logo, the castle logo on the steering wheel, and other details were removed - but gave permission later for the Herbie sequels, coinciding with a slump in sales.

They may also own Bentley, Bugatti, Lamborghini and Audi, but what Volkswagen need is a cool VW car that people will dream of driving, but they can also afford. The latest Beetle looks a little too unlike the "Love Bug," to fit so, outside of getting Jason Bourne into a Passat estate, "The VW Movie" could be next.


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