November 26, 1997 – The Walt Disney Pictures Feature Film Flubber is Released to Theaters
“The truth is Weebo, I’m not absent-minded because I’m selfish, crazy, or inconsiderate. I’m absent-minded because I’m in love with Sara.”
On November 26, 1997, the Walt Disney Pictures film Flubber was released to theaters. The film is a remake of the 1961 Disney film, The Absent-Minded Professor, starring Fred MacMurray; the 1961 film was based on the short story “A Situation of Gravity” by Samuel W. Taylor. Flubber was directed by Les Mayfield, with screenplay by Bill Walsh (the 1961 film) and John Hughes. It stars Robin Williams and Professor Phillip Brainard, Marcia Gay Harden as Sara Reynolds, Jodi Benson as the voice of Weebo, Christopher McDonald as Wilson Croft, Raymond Barry as Chester Hoenicker, and Wil Wheaton as Bennett Hoenicker.
Filming and special effects for Flubber took place at the Treasure Island Naval Base in San Francisco, California. Filmmakers had 90,000 square feet of space to create Professor Brainard’s laboratory, the locker room, and the basketball arena, all in one place. A major difference between Flubber and Professor is the substance Flubber itself: in the 1997 film, Flubber has a mischievous personality of its own.
As the film opens, Professor Phillip Brainard is getting ready for his day, when his robot assistant, Weebo, tells him that Medfield College is facing a shutdown. Distracted by the news, Brainard feels that he’s forgetting something scheduled for that afternoon. What he’s forgetting is his marriage to the Medfield College president, Sara Reynolds, which he has already forgotten twice. He meets Sara for lunch, and she reminds him about the wedding and makes him promise he’ll be there; if he doesn’t show, she tells him that they’ll call it quits – permanently.
Later, while Brainard is working in his lab, his rival, Wilson Croft, stops by. Croft had been Brainard’s partner until he stole and profited from Brainard’s ideas. He announces his plans to steal Sara away from Brainard. As Brainard prepares for the wedding, he asks Weebo why the wedding wasn’t on his schedule. Weebo is secretly in love with Brainard, and pretends that she may have a virus. While he is looking at Weebo, he sees that one of his projects may have had a breakthrough, and sets to work on it, the wedding pushed out of his mind, especially as he sets off an explosion in his lab.
Everyone waits at the church, and Sara finally realizes that he isn’t coming. Later that night, as Brainard cleans up the mess, he comes across the new substance he created: a green goo with a mind of its own. It begins to wreak havoc in the lab and the neighborhood after being startled by a camera flash. Weebo dubs it “flying rubber,” and Brainard names it “Flubber.” As he continues to experiment with Flubber, thinking that this is the breakthrough that will save the college, he finally realizes that he’s missed his wedding. Again.
The next day, Brainard arrives at Sara’s office to explain, but she is too heartbroken to hear it. She cares nothing for his Flubber invention, and declares that they are finished. Meanwhile, Bennett Hoenicker, star of the Medfield basketball team, goes to his father, furious that he’s been placed on academic probation after flunking chemistry. His father, Chester Hoenicker, one of the biggest lenders to the school, asks his flunkies to “persuade” Brainard to change his son’s grade to an A. The henchmen go to Brainard’s lab late at night and accidentally become a part of Brainard’s Flubber experiments (getting knocked out by a Flubber-coated golf ball and bowling ball). Brainard then applies Flubber to his car, which enables it to fly. He flies to Sara’s to show off the car, only to find her on a date with Croft. Although he is upset about this, he resolves not to give up, and to find a way to use Flubber to help the Medfield team win the basketball game and hold off the shutdown.
Brainard explains to Weebo that using Flubber to help them the rather inept Medfield team win is the only way to prove to Sara that Flubber will be a success. Brainard intends to sneak into the rival school’s basketball arena, and apply Flubber to the basketball and his own sneakers, testing how well it will work. As he leaves, he warns Weebo not to let Flubber out from its container. She promises, but the moment he’s gone, she decides to have fun with the creation, and the released Flubber begins to have a dance party around the house.
After a disastrous first quarter at the basketball game, the Flubber begins to take effect, and the Medfield team wins the game, 69 to 68. Brainard tries to convince Sara that Flubber helped Medfield win the game, but she doesn’t believe him, and continues her date with Croft. A dejected Brainard flies home in his car, but Hoenicker sees him in the aerial auto. As Brainard sadly explains his love for Sara to Weebo, he is unaware that Weebo records him. Later that night, Weebo goes to Sara’s house and shows her the recording, effectively winning Sara back for Brainard. Sara arrives at Brainard’s and the two make up, with Brainard taking Sara for a ride in the flying car; the two decide to sell the car to a car company to save the school.
When Brainard and Sara arrive back at Brainard’s, they are greeted by Hoenicker, his son, and his flunkies. Hoenicker offers to buy Brainard’s invention, but Brainard and Sara refuse his offer. The next morning, when Brainard and Sara take the car to Ford to sell, Hoenicker’s henchmen break in to steal Flubber, and destroy Weebo as she tries to stop them. Brainard and Sara return to see the damage and find the Flubber stolen, and Brainard holds Weebo as she dies in his arms. He believes that he could never recreate her, but finds that she secretly placed her plans on his computer so he could create another copy, with a final message from her hologram.
With a new resolve, Brainard and Sara head over to Hoenicker’s to retrieve the Flubber and avenge Weebo. They find Croft working for Hoenicker to interpret the Flubber, once again trying to steal Brainard’s creation. Brainard and Sara quickly put their plan in motion, using the Flubber in the hand cream, a water gun, and the car to recapture the Flubber. Brainard and Sara save the college, and finally have their wedding, although through a video link, with Brainard working in his lab while Sara is at the church. The two then fly off to their honeymoon in their Flubber-powered car, accompanied by Flubber and the newly constructed Weebette.