The Absent-Minded Professor is a 1961 American comic science fiction family film distributed by Walt Disney Productions based on the short story "A Situation of Gravity" by Samuel W. Taylor. The title character was based in part on Hubert Alyea, a professor emeritus of chemistry at Princeton University, who was known as "Dr. Boom" for his explosive demonstrations. The film stars Fred MacMurray as Professor Ned Brainard.
The film was a huge success at the box-office, and two years later became the first Disney film to have a sequel, 1963's Son of Flubber.
The original 1961 film was one of the first Disney films to be colorized (for the 1986 video release), and, along with 1959's The Shaggy Dog and 1963's Son of Flubber, it is one of Disney's few black-and-white films to be produced after 1941.
Professor Brainard (Fred MacMurray) (pronounced BRAY-nard) is an absent-minded professor of physical chemistry at Medfield College who invents a substance that gains energy when it strikes a hard surface. This discovery follows some blackboard scribbling in which he reverses a sign in the equation for enthalpy to energy plus pressure times volume. Brainard names his discovery Flubber, which is a portmanteau of "flying rubber." In the excitement of his discovery, he misses his own wedding to Betsy Carlisle (Nancy Olson), not for the first time, but his third. Subplots include another professor wooing the disappointed Miss Carlisle, Biff Hawk's (Tommy Kirk) ineligibility for basketball due to failing Brainard's class, Alonzo Hawk's (Keenan Wynn) schemes to gain wealth by means of Flubber, the school's financial difficulties and debt to Mr. Hawk, and Brainard's attempts to interest the government and military in uses for Flubber. Shelby Ashton (Elliott Reid), who was interested in Betsy, is given his revenge by the Professor, who keeps on jumping on the top of Shelby's car, until it crashes into a police car, where he is given a field sobriety test.
Looking for backers, he bounces his Flubber ball for an audience, but his investment pitch proves so long-winded that most of the crowd has left before they notice that the ball bounced higher on its second bounce than on its first. For a more successful demonstration, he makes his Model T fly by bombarding Flubber with radioactive particles. Other adventures and misadventures result as Flubber is used on the bottoms of basketball players' shoes (in a crucial game) giving them tremendous jumping ability; Brainard (at a school dance) making him an accomplished dancer, and the scheming businessman Alonzo Hawk, who switches cars on the professor, with a car containing a squirrel and pigeons. Hawk then must be tackled by a full football team to bring him down after Brainard tricks him into testing Flubber on the bottom of his shoes. The Professor retrieves the old Model T from the warehouse, and Hawk is arrested for having a gun in his possession, when the car crashes into a police car. Eventually, Brainard shows his discovery to the government, after being scared by a missile in flight, and also wins back Miss Carlisle, culminating in a wedding at last.
The film was nominated for three Academy Awards:Best Art Direction (Carroll Clark, Emile Kuri, Hal Gausman).
Best Cinematography (Edward Colman)
Best Effects, Special Effects
The film was reissued to theaters in 1967 and 1975, and released to video in 1981, 1986, and 1993. It was released as a pan and scan print on VHS in black and white in 1981 and 1993, and in a colorized version in 1986, after successful airings on the Disney Channel in March of that year. In 2003, the film finally got a widescreen treatment: The Walt Disney laserdisc #028AS is letterboxed to produce a 1.85:1 aspect ratio format. In 2008 the film was released in the United States as part of a two-disc set with its sequel, Son of Flubber.Dell Four Color #1199 (April 1961)
This film was followed by a sequel Son of Flubber, released less than two years later in 1963 also featuring MacMurray, Olson, Reid, and Kirk reprising their roles. Hewitt also returns (now as District Attorney), as well as the two Wynns (Keenan reprising his Alonzo Hawk role).
The Absent-Minded Professor has been remade twice, once as a 1988 television version with Harry Anderson and Mary Page Keller as the renamed characters Prof. Henry Crawford and Ellen Whitley; and once more as a 1997 theatrical film titled, Flubber, with Robin Williams as the renamed Prof. Philip Brainard, with Marcia Gay Harden as his love interest, Dr. Sara Jean Reynolds (Nancy Olson appears in a cameo). Neither remake was as successful or is as highly regarded as the original, but the Robin Williams version was still a considerable success. Both remakes were made in color.
Several rubbery chemical compounds are named Flubber in honor of the Absent-Minded Professor's substance.