Is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Steampunk? [1968]

Is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Steampunk? Let’s have a look at some of the key elements of the movie in order to decide whether it meets the criteria in order to be classified as steampunk or not. If not, does it fit into one of the other punk aesthetics? Let’s find out. 

Before we get into whether Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is steampunk or not, let’s look at what the film is about to get a flavor as to whether it is steampunk or not. 

Movie Title: Chitty Chitty Bang Bang

Studio: Albert R. Broccoli

Director: Ken Hughes

Story By: Ian Fleming, screenplay co-authored by Roald Dahl

Release Date: Dec 17 1968 (UK), Dec 18 1968 (US)

Main Actors: Dick Van Dyke, Sally Ann Howes, Lionel Jeffries, Gert Fröbe, Anna Quayle, Benny Hill, James Robertson Justice, and Robert Helpmann

Synopsis: A family buy a former Grand Prix racing car to prevent it from being scrapped. The father, an inventor rebuilds the flying car, named Chitty Chitty Bang Bang because of the noise the engine makes. The evil baron (Bomburst) sends spies to capture the car as he wants it for himself.

They mistakenly capture Lord Scrumptious, and Grandpa Potts by accident, mistaking each for the car’s creator, Cractacus who are taken away in an airship. The rest of the family set off to rescue these.

What Makes a Movie Steampunk?

Before we answer the question, is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang steampunk? Let’s have a look at some of the key characteristics of a steampunk movie.

There are a number of elements that need to combine in order to classify a movie as steampunk. Check out our in depth guide as to what makes a movie steampunk for more information on this. Whether something fits into the steampunk genre or not is a topic that is always up for hot debate in the forums. 

As steampunk sadly never existed, there is no history to check the validity against, however, there is some faux pas that means that something is clearly not steampunk. Thinks such as this we would class as being ‘steampunk inspired’, i.e. they don’t traditionally conform to the steampunk genre, but they have taken elements from it to inspire them. 

As a quick recap, we’ve lined up our top 10 elements to look out for in a steampunk movie. 

Top 10 Things to Look Out for In a Steampunk Movie

  • The Use of Steam – In steampunk, electricity has never been invented, everything is mechanical and powered by steam. This means that if you can see digital machinery in a movie, it isn’t traditional steampunk, therefore it may be classified as ‘steampunk inspires’  
  • Steam Powered Vehicles – In steampunk movies, as with the above, you will only see vehicles powered by steam, cars, ships, and even submarines.
  • Airships – Airships are popular within the steampunk genre – again, mechanically powered.  
  • Set In Victorian Era or an Alternative History – Steampunk is set in either the Victorian Era (19th Century), or in an alternative, future, occasionally depicted as a ‘wild west’ setting. 
  • The Clothing – Clothing can vary, but is normally focused around the fashions of Victorian England, or that of a colonial explorer. 
  • Augmented Mechanical Humans – In steampunk, persons can normally be seen with mechanically replaced elements to their body, sometimes these are full replacements, othertimes, a mechanical exoskeleton.
  • Gadgets & Gears – futuristic (mechanical) gadgets are common place in the steampunk genre. A personal favorite is a gun that mechanically springs from up a sleeve to the user’s hand, ready and poised for use. Gears can be seen throughout the steampunk genre, emphasizing the mechanical theme that is central to the aesthetic.  
  • Time Travel – Time travel is no an essential component of steampunk, however, it can be seen in some steampunk works. Just remember that the time travel device needs to be mechanical and not digital/ electronic.
  • The Paranormal – The paranormal is not traditional steampunk, however, the crossover between the genres is common. The villain in steampunk is normally a man made creation as opposed to being a mythical creature, demon, vampire, etc. 
  • Advanced Technology – Technology that is advanced for its time is a standard theme throughout steampunk. The technology must be mechanical in nature, such as the analog computer.

For more detail, check out our ultimate guide as to what makes a movie steampunk.

So, let’s take a look, is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang steampunk?

What Elements of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Are Steampunk?

There are some gadgets made by the father (and inventor) Cractacus Potts, including the car itself, that could be considered steampunk inspired, however, not steampunk. A lot of the subsequent takes on Chitty (including local theatres productions) have added a steampunk twist to this classic. 

What Elements of Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Are NOT Steampunk?

Chitty runs on gasoline and not steam, so the film falls down at the element, also, the flying element of the car is based on the children’s belief in magic and not the invention itself. These two facts alone would be enough to suggest that it is not steampunk.    Also, the airship, although common in some steampunk, was not fueled by steam.

The fashion seen within the film is victorian-esque, but not steampunk.

Check out the Best Steampunk Movies

If you’re interested in steampunk movies, why not check out our guide to the best steampunk movies, and see if you can find a new favorite?

So, Overall Is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Steampunk?

Sorry, overall, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is not Steampunk. Although there are some subtle nods to the genre within the film, that is all they are. 

What are your thoughts? Is Chitty Chitty Bang Bang Steampunk? Let us know in the comments below what your opinion is and why.

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