Planes Fire and Rescue in Theaters July 18th!
When Disney sent me to DisneyToons Studios to learn about the new Planes Fire and Rescue, I didn’t know I would actually get face to face in an interview with the talents behind the scenes – Bobs Gannaway and Ferrell Barron!
Bobs Gannaway is known for his diverse Disney career – from writer of last year’s The Pirate Fairy, to Executive Producer of Mickey Mouse Clubhouse, and producer of Stitch! The Movie, he now adds Planes Fire and Rescue to his impressive resume. Ferrell Barron is a Texas native who has producing credits for The Fox and the Hound 2, Piglet’s Big Movie, and now Planes Fire and Rescue as Executive Producer. I got to chat with them about their experience with creating the new film, out July 18th!
We were just discussing the first one was great and it was cute and it was heartwarming but this was compelling. It was like you were cheering them on. It was the ultimate goal that they had to meet and it was just, it was amazing.
It’s really great because I feel the same way. (laughs) No I know, I think, uh, what was really nice is Klay (Hall, writer/director of the first Planes film), uh, and his team along with John (Lasseter, writer of the first Planes film) did a really great job, teaming up the world, and a lot of his choices informed our choices. A good example is Dusty’s relationship with Skipper.
Uh, we were looking at what could we do for a romantic sort of storyline here that’s not derivative of the first film where Dusty facilitated a relationship between two characters, and that was actually our first idea. And then we realized oh, we just did that. So then, you sort of go to truth, like what would really be happening. He would have fans, some fans might be sort of Super Fans and may feel like they already know him, like what happens to celebrities. And so when we get there and we sort of said, well let’s take Dipper through the stages of a relationship, you know, and then Dusty never reciprocates. It would just be fun for her to go through, sort of like what are the phrases? How do you say things like “oh, you don’t do things like that anymore”. You know, things like that. And so which sort of gave her that arc and it made her sort of charming. We like to describe her as hopeful, not crazy. So uh, and then Julie (Bowen voice of Dipper) was awesome to play the part cause she totally ran out with it and talks faster with me which is cool.
How much time did you spend at National Parks Institute?
A lot of time, yeah. Yellowstone and Yosemite are the two Parks. You can see there are a lot of Monuments in there that are kind of taken from both. Waterfalls is from Yosemite. Our art director spent a lot of time there taking a lot of pictures. We met with a lot of park rangers who toured us around. Our lodge is based on the Old Faithful Inn at Yellowstone. So we got to take a quick trip and didn’t have enough time. It was one of those vacation trips where everyone’s cramped in a car. Griswolds like. Speeding to one location, jump out take pictures, speed to another. It was all packed in but that was — that was a joy just getting, really getting into a whole life of agony. And you see places in the park that, you know, a lot of people don’t get to see which was really a lot of fun so…
There’s research, research informs everything right down to a gag as well as big feature moments. I mean, little things like the lodges. There’s rocking chairs in front of the fire places. We had the head of National Parks watch the movie. Um, and after I explained to him that Cad isn’t a bad guy, just has misguided good intentions. He wants to protect the lodge, just at the expense of maybe innocent people. But the Old Jammer is the tour buses that are still used today in Glacier National Park in Yellowstone. They’re called Jammers because they would jam the gears and they don’t have – they’re not Standard anymore. But still they’re called Jammers.
So Jammer’s name is based on a historical vehicle and so someone might pick up on that. If they don’t, it’s all right. Um, Boat Reynolds appears there. We were driving through Yellowstone and there was a sign that said Boat Rentals. And I went, oh look, Boat Rental, ‘Boat Reynolds’. So you know, just the littlest tiny thing will inform big choices. And even something no one will even get which is the Railway Station that’s hooked to the Grand Fuselage which is the best pun in the movie. Um, the Railway Station is actually based on a Railway Station that no longer exists that was the North Side, North end of Yellowstone, that was designed by the same Architect as the Old Faithful Inn.
So I thought oh, that would be a cool little homage to him, just sort of put his Railway Station, connect it, so you know, it’s little things that nobody will ever pick up on. Talking about research, the mine sequence, where Blade sort of shields the fire for Dusty is based on a true story. One of our fire fighters who came and watched the movie recognized that story that the mine sequence is based on a gentleman named Polaski who saved a group of firefighters by taking them into a Mine in 1910 I think.
It always works its way in where you’re sort of the curator of all of these wonderful things that you get to kind of put together and it’s so much fun.
Who was the CHiPS fan (based on the 1980’s TV series)?
Well you know, it was the easiest thing. I just had to change one vowel (to CHoPS) and it worked perfectly. It was like I knew from the very first pitch of that Blade. Looking to tell a story that was different from Planes, I wanted a mentor character who was fully realized, not broken. Skipper in the first film, Dusty helps heal him. I wanted someone who fully realized, had come to terms with the change in their life, like what happened, and then could distill that wisdom onto Dusty at a time when it, when he needed to talk him off the ledge.
So I thought, wouldn’t it be great if I just used the idea like he used to play one on TV and now he does it for real. I just thought, oh that’s such a fun thing and we just went to CHoPS and it was perfect. And then we got Eric Estrada to come in so that was fun. And then we were very careful not to make fun of CHiPS but to try to recreate the show as truly as possible, even our composer noted that the music for CHiPS was never scary.
We really took this movie to heart. We really put it on our shoulders and we wanted to tell a story that really paid a tribute and gave homage to fire fighters. Again, we saw the tribute at the beginning of the movie to fire fighters around the world cause there really. You know, you look even in live action, there’s, you can count on one hand really how many like fire fighter movies there are. Certainly none in animation.
So they were all so honored to — to be talking with us and being a part of the film, helping tell their story. Um, and that was the biggest goal was, you know, not only for you know, kids and parents but we wanted to make the story for them. Um, that’s been the biggest part of this whole project is just making sure that we’re being, bringing, being truthful and making them proud to watch the movie.
What kind of research did you do to get the fire to look so realistic? Did you just watch Videos of a fire? Did you actually see a fire?
Years and years and years. Well we will never confess to that. But yeah, it just takes. I mean, no we didn’t jump into a fire but we certainly, there’s a lot of footage. CALFIRE provided us with a lot of great footage. This was probably the biggest undertaking we’ve ever tried here to Disney Studios was — was this FX movie. 53% of our movie I had visual effects and the majority of that is fire, smoke, and water. So when Bobs first pitched this to John Lasseter and he saw that first image, they knew we had to get on, call R&D Research and Development right away on the fire.
It’s essentially a character. So you want to be sure you’re developing this character that it looks real. He was very specific. He wanted it to look real and not – not fake. So we, so that was our first thing. And in the effects world, fire is a fluid simulation. It’s one of the most difficult things you can do. It takes a lot of time to get it right and then it– It can also bog things down because it’s so heavy. I mean, you’re dealing with zeros and ones, it’s all computer generated. So we had to first build a fire that looked real, but it had to be a fire that was also sustainable through the course of production and wouldn’t lock us down. So that — that was two tasks. It had to look right and be sure that we could actually produce it for, you know, over 600 shots.
There was a lot more adult humor in this movie. I really enjoyed it. I’m not complaining. I like the Drinking Game (in the CHoPS scene).
Crazy you caught that. You know, when you do these and you’ve put the — the, you know, we have Screens. We have Multiple Screens. We put the first reels up and I wondered if people would be able to get that because it requires a little bit of math. Like oh this is a popular show and Blade had this hoist that he uses often and so it’s so popular they decided to create a little game out of it where every time you use the hoist to take a drink of oil. So I’m glad you got that because it was, it requires a little bit of quick math in your brain. But uh, but again, see what that does is it makes it real. It’s like oh there’s a history to this show.
And it’s implied by this one little act. Um, and you get the sense that this is actually a thing that has existed for a long time and that’s the fun. You know, we want to make it entertaining for everyone and again, you make the movie for yourself and I let the characters say what the characters would say, you know. We’ve hopefully created real, you know, characters that have, you know, personalities that are, um, true and to be honest and it sounds a little pretentious but there is a point where you characters start to kind of speak and say what they would say.
Chris Armstrong who plays Marew, we wrote the part for him cause I know, I knew he could play a lovable cranky guy because I always ask him like how can you yell at your kids because you — you’re just, you make me laugh every time you start yelling. He’s like, I know it’s frustrating, you know. So uh, so you know, but I know that he’s gonna have to say, he’s gonna throw some — some little, he’s gonna throw some things, some little lines here and there. And Wes Studi who plays Windlifter, we always want him to be this sort of, you know, man of few words, the sort of Gentle Giant. So when he speaks, you hear it and he might throw his anger out there and just likes to sit. He’s not gonna like, not gonna sort of work it.
And then I discovered at the very end that Windlifter and Marew are really good friends. I hadn’t really figured it, I hadn’t really found that yet. And we had that scene in the Lodge and we put that scene where oh maybe he’s trying on Sunglasses and he asks his buddy how they look and I just love. Wes Studi’s like, you know, yeah they look good. And he just goes like yeah. I just think, cause you know, what’s he thinking? oh he’s thinking, well these are nice Sunglasses but this is probably an expensive place to buy them. I’m not sure I want to get them and it’s all in that little moment. He’s going like [MAKES SOUND] I just like that. It makes him into a real person.
That’s why casting becomes so important. You know, we can have a great script, beautiful scenes on you know, beautifully shot scenes but it’s the characters there driving the story. So we always want to cast your — your characters with actors that you feel are really going to embody the essence of those — of those characters. And that’s what made it so easy. We wanted Windlifter, May Day, Hal Holbrook, you know, maybe he’s kind of the heart of the story. We wanted somebody that’s really gonna rip at your heart and pull you in.
Somebody that can launch Dusty from a career into a whole career and just having Hal and again, he’s like everyone’s Grandfather, so endearing, just having his voice quality and someone that can really relate to somebody of age of like that.
It can’t be someone putting on a voice. They have to embody the character. And one of the great, um, when the casting is like Winnie and Harvey, who are Anne Meara and Jerry Stiller, a comedy couple, who have been married for 50 plus years. They were my first choice because I have a married couple who have been married for 50 years, I want that chemistry that comes from a married couple who have been married for 50 years.
So I’ll get a married couple who’s been, you know, who have been married for 50 years. And they’re already a comedy team. You just have to turn the microphone on and walk away. You read the lines and then we’ll sift through it. You have to fall in love with them immediately. So that casting is just so great to do that when you get the people who actually already embody the character.
Thanks to Bobs and Ferrell for taking the time out to meet with us and giving up a glimpse inside Planes Fire and Rescue!
*I was provided with an all expense paid trip to facilitate this post.