With a running time of about two hours and 20 minutes, it's one of the longest children's film in history, certainly for its time. It wouldn't be until the next millennium, with the Harry Potter films, that films for children of such length would be made again.
The current owner of the Chitty car is director Peter Jackson. He could be seen near the WETA Workshop in New Zealand driving cast members of The Hobbit films around in the car while playing the main theme song through a sound system.
The role of Truly Scrumptious was originally offered to Julie Andrews, but she declined. Sally Ann Howes had replaced Julie Andrews in the Broadway company of "My Fair Lady" when Andrews went to London in the musical, so Howes was offered the role.
Baron Bomburst's castle is Neuschwanstein, built between 1869 and 1886 for the Bavarian King Ludwig II, "The Mad King of Bavaria". This castle is also famously known as the model for both the Sleeping Beauty (1959) Castle at Disneyland, which was the symbol of the Disney television program The Magical World of Disney (1954), and the Walt Disney Pictures studio logo.
Dick Van Dyke originally turned the part down but was repeatedly offered the part with more money added in each offer. When the offer reached seven figures plus a percentage of the profits, he accepted the role.
The film has a different story than the original book, by James Bond creator Ian Fleming. The screen story was a creation of children's-book author Roald Dahl, who had recently written the screen story of You Only Live Twice (1967), the first Bond film to deviate severely from the original Fleming book. Fleming's "Chitty" story was about the Potts family and their flying motorcar rescuing a French candy maker and his family from ordinary gangsters led by Joe the Monster. The story of "Vulgaria" is entirely a Dahl creation, full of his distinctive stock characters and situations. Dahl also came up with the character name Truly Scrumptious, which is possibly a tribute to Fleming's stock of female characters with names like Honey Ryder, Pussy Galore, and Kissy Suzuki.
Whilst filming one of the scenes where the Child Catcher rides his horse and carriage out of the village, the Cage/Carriage uptilted with Robert Helpmann on board. Dick Van Dyke recalls Helpmann being able to swing out of the carriage and literally skip across the crashing vehicle. Van Dyke claims Helpmann did this with incredible grace and much like a dancer - which was Helpmann's original claim to fame.
According to several people, including Dick Van Dyke, Ken Hughes was a talented 'action' director, but they felt he wasn't as good at directing people, especially children. Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, and members of the crew had to entertain the children and guide them through their performances. Ken Hughes himself, later admitted he did not enjoy making this film.
In his 2011 autobiography "Dick Van Dyke: My Lucky Life In and Out Of Show Business", Dick Van Dyke revealed that he did not get along with producer Albert R. Broccoli or director Ken Hughes during filming.
Many parallels are drawn between Vulgaria's situation and the WWII resistances against the Nazis. Of particular note is the Childcatcher's tactic which resembles one used by Nazi scientist Josef Mengele. Mengle is noted for his eugenic experimentation and torture often with children, to whom he would offer candy to gain their trust.
The Child Catcher has often been named as one of the scariest characters ever to be brought on screen. Not only did it make it into Empire magazine, but also onto Channel 4's 100 Scariest Movie Moments. The Child Catcher was the inspiration for Marilyn Manson's "Smells Like Children" EP. The title and cover art, as well as Manson's outfit and appearance during the album, reference the Robert Helpmann character.
In a 2011 episode of SyFy Channel's Hollywood Treasure (2010) Dick Van Dyke got to sit in the "hero" car for the first time in over 40 years, and noted that he could have purchased it for $30,000 after the movie wrapped. This is the car that was offered on eBay for $1,000,000. Later in the episode, the car auction was expanded to bidders at the auction house, but failed to receive any bids. However, after auction negotiations, Chitty-Chitty sold for a reported $800,000.
The original book "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" was written by the creator of "James Bond", Ian Fleming. In "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" three actors from "James Bond" films appear: Gert Fröbe, Desmond Llewelyn and Anna Quayle. The film was also produced Albert R. Broccoli, who also produced the James Bond film franchise from 1962-1989.
According to Dick Van Dyke on Kevin Pollak's Chat Show (2009), he said he was called into producer Albert R. Broccoli's office one day and offered the role of James Bond. Van Dyke declined, jokingly asking Cubby if he had heard his British accent, to which Cubby subsequently quipped "Oh yeah that's right" and quickly rescinded the offer.
In his book, "Keep Moving", Dick Van Dyke confessed that after filming completed, he consulted a plastic surgeon in response to the director and makeup artist's jokes about the size of his nose. The doctor reportedly told Van Dyke that he was too established to change the way he looked and sent him home.
When the production filmed in the German town of Rothenburg on the Tauber, some locals were used. Senior citizens were cast as the townspeople of Vulgaria, while the local university's riding teams played the Vulgarian soldiers.
When the balloon arrives in Vulgaria, Grandpa Pott's shack is on the ground. A set of steps is wheeled up to the gondola so the Admiral and crew can disembark. On the side of the steps is printed "VULG-AIR."
Film producer Albert R. Broccoli, best known for producing the James Bond film franchise from 1962 to 1989, wanted to replicate similar success that Mary Poppins (1964) had enjoyed in its initial theatrical release and sought out to bring Ian Fleming's novel "Chitty Chitty Bang Bang" to the screen. Desperately wanting to emulate Mary Poppins in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) in both tone and style, Broccoli hired the same musical talents of Mary Poppins to work on the film: songwriters Richard M. Sherman and Robert B. Sherman, musical adapter/arranger/conductor Irwin Kostal, and choreographers Marc Breaux and Dee Dee Wood. He even went far to try to re-team Dick Van Dyke and Julie Andrews for the film, but for reasons unknown, Andrews turned down the offer. The casting decision of Sally Ann Howes may be viewed by some as a pale imitation of Julie Andrews, as the producer wanted the role and characterization of Truly Scrumptious to be tailor-made for Andrews.
In his book "Keep Moving", Dick Van Dyke mentioned during the "Toot Sweets" segment, at 40 years old, he never bothered to warm up before a dance number. During filming, he felt something pop in his leg, and thought he'd merely pulled a muscle. Soon after, he couldn't walk without limping. He went to a doctor, who told him his whole body was full of arthritis, and within 5 years he wouldn't be able to get around at all without a cane or a wheelchair. Van Dyke responded to this prognosis by jumping up and dancing, which astounded the doctor.
When the soldiers and child catcher first enter the toy maker's home searching for the children, the dress that Truly wears while doing the toy box scene is visible in the corner of the room. The 'rag doll' outfit that Caractacus wears during the same scene is also shown on the right-hand side.
Peter Picton aka Pierre the Clown was one of the drivers during the filming. He bought the car when that ended and owned it for 40 years. He used it as a prop in his act. He died in November 2016 in England .
Even though it is never specified where Baron Bomburst's castle is, it is clearly inside Germanic Europe, because the locals wear Tracht, the official National Dress of Austria, and they are speaking German as their native language. The latter is very noticeable when the children are running through the streets and one of the men says "Kinder." Also, the real-life Bavaria-based Neuschwanstein Castle ("Mad Ludwig's castle") is the filming-location of Baron Bomburst's stronghold; the name "Vulgaria" is an obvious parody on the German province.
Before the man at the carnival gets his disastrous haircut from Potts, he jokes to his wife when she says he needs a haircut "That's where my strength is." He could be referencing the biblical figure of Samson, whose incredible strength came from his long hair.
The scrap metal dealer agrees to buy the car at the start of the movie for 'thirty bob'. A bob is slang for a shilling, part of the pre-decimal currency system used in the UK, (pounds, shillings and pence (pennies)). Thirty shillings would have been equal to 1.5 pounds sterling, which is equivalent to about £150 or $180 in 2018 (the 50th anniversary of the movie's release).