Disney has provided me with an expense paid trip to Los Angeles for the #VeryBadDayEvent and #DisneyInHomeEvent in exchange for my review of the events of the trip. No other compensation is given. The opinions and experiences in my posts are 100% mine. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE will be out on Blu-Ray and DVD on November 4! My family absolutely loves this movie. It’s got a bit of everything: humor, action, adventure, and heartfelt moments. When the movie first came out I had the opportunity to interview Director Bobs Gannaway and Producer Ferrell Barron which was so informative and awesome. They are such inspiring, fun guys. More recently I got to chat with them again as the release date of the DVD approaches.
Bobs Gannaway is the Director of PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE and also known for his work on Secret of the Wings and The Pirate Fairy, House of Mouse, and Stitch! The Movie. Bobs is super high-energy and really passionate about honoring the firefighters with this story. I totally love that about him and his whole team.
Ferrell Barron is the Producer of PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE and known for his work on Piglets Big Movie, The Fox and the Hound 2, and The Tigger Movie. Ferrell and Bobs make a great team and both add so much to the conversation with bits of information, so many details that enrich the film while you’re watching it. You can’t even imagine the research that goes into making a film like this.
Those Disney people really did their homework!
You might have caught my post a couple of weeks ago that showed you some of the fire safety tips I got (including some hands-on fire fighting practice!) while visiting the Van Nuys Tanker Base. This is where the FIRE AND RESCUE filmmakers started their research and as you look around the airfield you’ll see some familiar planes, those that inspired our favorite characters: Windlifter, Blade, and Dipper. I’ve shared a couple of them in this post for you to see. Here’s a quick clip of Steve Martin, Fire Chief, talking about how the Disney folks got the ball rolling in partnering with them to make FIRE AND RESCUE as authentic as possible.
Here are some of the highlights of our interview with them but I think the main point is made by Steve in that video above: research, research, research. The whole team lead by Bobs and Ferrell wanted to make this film as authentic as possible to really honor the true heroes, the firefighters the risk their lives for people they don’t even know. They totally nailed it.
Q : Is there a third one?
Bobs Gannaway: You know, what’s interesting about Disney Toon Studios, John Lasseter is such a wonderful, creative leader. And he’s a filmmaker which is great, to have a fantastic filmmaker heading the studios that he oversees.Disney Animation Studios. And Pixar. Disney Toons. And, so, these things take so long to make. It’s five years of your life to make.
Ferrell Barron : Long time.
Bobs Gannaway: And so, they can’t feel like assignments, because they are something that you’re going to basically pour yourself into. So he really waits for his filmmakers to be inspired by something, and to go out there, and research it, and meet the people, ride in the vehicles, and come back and tell him and everyone on the team what you’d discovered that was cool.
So it takes a long time. We hope to make more stories in this world, but we will wait until we find the right thing that everybody wants to commit to for five years. Because it’s a huge commitment, and it has to be a passion, not an assignment. Ultimately I hope to make more. Like I said, I’m still here. We finished the movie, I’m still coming in every day, and no one’s said stop. So I think we probably will do some more.
Q : Do you see PLANES: FIRE AND RESCUE as the new Smokey the Bear?
Ferrell Barron : We say Scorchy is the new Smokey the Bear! We did do some PSA’s with the park service about that. I think for us it was mainly wanting to pay tribute to the firefighters around the world. We’re focusing on wildfire air attack, but it’s really it was really important for us, after we’d met them (Cal Fire), they became more than just consultants. They really became our friend. I still stay in touch with Travis Alexander, who you probably saw in the pictures. Big Travis. Julie Hutchinson. They really became our friends. And so it was important for us to do right by them, because of all that research, bringing that truth and accuracy to our filmmaking, so that all firefighters really are honored.
You know, that we did that. In the movie we have the wall of fame. A couple of the aircraft on there were actual Cal Fire airplanes that went down. We put them with the numbers, and it’s the actual aircraft, and we put that in there. And they were really taken aback that we honored those brave men and women that actually lost their lives. That’s in the movie. But, you know, the public’s not going to know that, but they saw it.
Bobs Gannaway : Someone picked up on that. This aircraft here is one that actually crashed in Cal Fire, and so, we don’t say that in the movie, but that’s the number of the plane that crashed, and someone picked up on it and wrote an article about it, as an honor to that firefighter. And when we showed the movie to Cal Fire, they were just like, ” that’s a lovely thing to do.”
It’s just the tiny little details. Like, we worked with the forest service. The fire in the movie is caused by lightning.Because I didn’t want it to be a whodunit situation where we’re trying to track down an arsonist and all of that kind of stuff. And the majority of the fires are caused by lightning. There are over 50,000 wild fires a year in the US and these firefighters are out there, putting them out all of the time. But some of them are caused by humans, and so — if you listen carefully, I believe it’s right before the Thunderstruck sequence, you hear that the fire was caused by an unattended campfire. And that’s something we put in for the forest service, because we wanted to push their message a little bit.
Ferrell Barron : That’s part of their campaign, be careful, put your fire out.
Bobs Gannaway: So it’s little things like that that we do because the people we work with, the park service, Cal Fire, they become our friends, and we want to do right by them.
Q : I’m curious about the process. I’ve heard you guys talk about keeping the scenes versus letting them go. Do you ever worry about letting something go?
Bobs Gannaway: That’s what’s so great — and hard — about the animation process. It’s very different than a live-action where you’ve written a script and you go out and you shoot and you have lots of coverage, and then it’s made kind of in editorial, and then maybe you do re-shoots and things like that, in live action. Also, in a live action movie it gets turned around fairly quickly, by that I mean a year and a half. These take five plus years to make. What we do is we write a script, and then we do boards and do temp dialogue and do temp music, and then put it together in the editorial, and then we watch it with all of our other directors, and then even the whole studio, get everybody to watch it, and we all get notes, and then we tear down and rebuild it, and tear down and rebuild it, so it’s a constant.
So the movie you’re seeing is like the eighth or ninth version of the film. During that two years or three years, or however long you’re doing that, you start to sort of figure out, “We don’t need that,” or “This needs to move along quickly,” or “There’s a pace issue.” Things like that.
There was a scene in the movie that was in for the longest time, and it was the scene where Blade has crashed. And Dusty’s flying around, and he calls for help, and then we had this very lovely scene where Windlifter was carrying Blade back to base. And Dusty’s flying alongside, and we had temp music in there, so we were playing A River Once Stood or something. And everybody was like, “Oh. This is so emotional, and wonderful, and oh, I’m just feeling so much.”
And then finally, John Lasseter said, “Yeah. That’s great, and everything, but there’s something bugging me about it.” And we sat there, looked at it for a while. And he goes, “Oh, I know what it is. He’s still alive. Ambulances don’t go slow. They go fast.” Funerals go slow. He’s not dead. So we’re like, “Oh my gosh, they should be like, we gotta get him back, and on the base, and then Maru is doing triage right there in the moment.” So, that scene was in there for like, two years before we realized that it was completely and utterly wrong.
We had fallen so in love with the emotion. We had blinders on to this emotion, we didn’t look at it relative to what would happen in real life. But, what happened was, that little moment where they’re bringing Blade back, we sort of gave to after Dusty crashes where we’re not sure whether Dusty is alive or not. So we still got to have that moment. We just gave it to a different character. And then what we ended up getting out of it was this lovely scene where Maru, Curtis Armstrong, who was fantastic, gets his moment.
He doesn’t get to fly. He admires these guys. And, so, that’s his moment to shine. When they’re on the ground, he’s gotta put
You rely upon the other directors and the people around here to look at you and give you notes and you look for consensus in those notes. Because when you’re making the movie you’re so into the film, that you might need someone else to go, “Uh, just a question. That doesn’t work at all.”
You just go through that over and over again. That’s part of what we call the process.
Q : Question about voice actors. How do you select those? Do you have specific people you’re like, “Oh, this person would be perfect for this character,” or do you audition and decide that way?
Bobs Gannaway : We cast characters that we feel embody the spirit of the character. We won’t say “oh,here’s an actor, and we want to work with them, let’s create a character for them.” We don’t do that. We’ve created the character, and then we go out and find an actor or actress who we feel like embodies the spirit of that character already. So, there’s a couple of times when you do have someone in mind already.
Harvey and Winnie, which are Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, they are the perfect example. You have two Winnebagos who are on their 50th wedding anniversary, coming back to Piston Peak to celebrate that. And you want to have instant chemistry between them, and then from a filmmaking standpoint it’s a plant, because they are going to be used later. So from a casting standpoint, we got Stiller and Meara, who are a comedy couple who’ve been married for 50 years, and you didn’t have to do anything. It had come preloaded with the chemistry that you’d want to create, so they already embodied the spirit of those characters, and so it was natural for them to fit into it.
Dale Dye is a veteran, so he’s playing the major ex-military aircraft. Wes Studi is obviously American Indian, and so he’s playing our American Indian helicopter. We got Ed Harris as a tough guy. We wanted to have Dusty’s biggest fan. Someone who’s just on the verge of being a little crazy, um, hopeful is a better word, and so Julie was fantastic for that.
And, Curtis, I’d worked with many times, and I know how great of an actor he is. And I need somebody who could yell at you, but you don’t take them that seriously. And so Curtis is sort of, you know, the more he shouts, the funnier he gets. You go in and you figure, who already the spirit of the character?
Ferrell Barron : And you should know voice over work is really hard work. These actors, they’re confined in a small isolation booth alone. Because 98 percent of the time, they’re recording alone. They don’t have another actor with them. They’re just there with headsets out, separated out, having to stay on the mics, can’t have them doing a lot of movement.
Bobs Gannaway : Not in costume, obviously.
Ferrell Barron : Not in costume. They come in and give — the director, the voice director, which is always, usually, Bobs for us, outside, with a sheet of glass between them, reading the lines with them, and they have to perform.
They have to be on cue. And most of these are live action. Ed Harris, he’s used to being in front of a camera with another actor, working a scene, like in theatre, and having another great actor with him. And that’s not the case in animation. Some of them, it was their first time to do animation, and it was a big adjust for them, as an actor, to be on and embody that character and bring that emotion just to the forefront every time, and they all did a great job.
- Fire safety tips from the experts at Van Nuys Tanker Base
- A tour of Piston Peak National Park
- My interview with Julie Bowen (voice of Dipper)
- My Dipper voice over videos
- My interview with the PLANES Story Artists
PLANES: FIRE & RESCUE will be out on Blu-Ray and DVD on November 4!
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