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HERBIE: FULLY LOADED

Recreating Herbie
When Walt Disney Pictures first decided to film the story of a lifelike car in the late 1960s, the filmmakers had no idea what model of vehicle they were going to use. To get a sense of how ordinary people reacted to a variety of familiar cars, they filled a Disney backlot with models ranging from Chevys to Toyotas to MGs to swank Aston Martins and asked employees who they would most like to see in the role of Herbie. What they discovered was that the one and only VW Beetle on the lot was the car that people actually touched, petting it as if it were a favorite friend. The spontaneous, emotional response to the VW sealed the deal and "Herbie the Love Bug” was born.

Now, director Angela Robinson and her technical team were faced with the task of recreating Herbie in a 21st-century world in which cars have come a long way. Herbie would still be a 1963 VW Beetle at heart, but this time around he had to be able to take on the challenging demands of a story that has him facing monster trucks in a demolition derby, getting an extreme makeover into a NASCAR race car and even falling in love with a gorgeous, shiny New Beetle.

From the very start, Robinson made the decision that she wanted the film's Herbie to seem as tactile and real as an enchanted car possibly could, which meant that when it came to using CGI and digital effects…less would be more. Though the film is sprinkled with virtual racetracks and various green-screen effects, Herbie's personality, movements and expression are deeply rooted in the use of actual automobiles that have been refashioned to operate as giant robotic puppets.

One of the team's first challenges was rounding up an entire herd of Herbies! Herbie sports some three dozen "costume changes” in HERBIE: FULLY LOADED, and each one required its own automobile. Picture car coordinator Randy White was handed the early task of scouring the planet for vintage VWs still in good working condition.

"I obtained about half of the cars via the internet, through a website that's dedicated to Volkswagens. Our Herbies hail from all over the United States—from Ohio, Nevada, Washington, Oregon, Utah, New Mexico and California,” explains White. "VW Beetle owners, and particularly Herbie fans, are really dedicated and knowledgeable, and they've been an incredible asset to us on this film. Not only did they help us find dozens of cars, but they also helped to supply the kind of details about Herbie in his progression through the previous Herbie movies that only a fan would know.”

One of the most special cars featured in HERBIE: FULLY LOADED is none other than the original "Herbie the Love Bug” himself! When White heard that the "retired star” was still in action, he tracked down the car's owner.

"The original Herbie was in Ohio, we discovered,” explains White. "The owner had given it a new high-performance engine and transmission and, although he was initially reluctant to sell it to us, he decided that returning Herbie for an encore performance was too great an opportunity to ignore.” White also obtained a second VW Beetle from the same owner, a red 1963 ragtop, which was transformed into one of the tricked-out Herbies in the film. "We received these cars with the owner's best wishes, and he even included the original decals and stripes,” notes White.

With a bevy of Herbies at their disposal, the filmmakers began to develop his many different looks and moods, divided into four main categories:

• Junkyard Herbie is riddled with rust, scratches, flat tires and a look of doom, but still manages through his wily tricks to win Maggie Peyton's affection.

• Once Maggie rescues Herbie and takes him to mechanical wiz Kevin, he gets tricked-out with the latest in cool urban gear, becoming Street Racer Herbie, sporting a new pearlescent paint

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