Saturday, 9 April 2011

From Chitty to Camper – the magical car flies again

Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, Ian Fleming’s only children’s book (although I started reading the Bond books from the age of 12), gets a sequel. Novelist and screenwriter Frank Cottrell Boyce was invited by the Ian Fleming estate to continue the adventures of the magical car. The book, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Flies Again, will be published in November.

The original car was based on a racing car built in 1920 by Count Zborowski, who used a pre-1914 Mercedes chassis and a six-cylinder Maybach engine, a type normally fitted to Zeppelins. For the new book, Cottrell Boyce has retained the engine, but placed it instead into a VW camper van.

Why a camper van? It is possible, simply, that Cottrell Boyce likes the vehicle, perhaps having owned or otherwise experienced one himself. But the camper van does in any case seem an appropriate choice. I don’t know how the camper van has been depicted in literature, but in recent films the camper van has either been used to evoke period (Forest Gump), or identify ex-hippies (Field of Dreams). I suspect, however, that Cottrell Boyce has picked up the idea of the camper van representing adventure and freedom in the way shown in Little Miss Sunshine. The new owners of Chitty Mark II, the Tootings, may also echo the kooky, poor, and ultimately loving and accepting, family depicted in the film. If so, then the Tootings would not be very far removed from the original Potts, a poor family on the margins of society, whose lives are changed with the arrival of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

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