Disclosure: Disney provided me with an expense paid trip to Los Angeles in exchange for my review of the events of the trip. No other compensation is given. As always, all opinions and experiences are my own. All images courtesy of Disney. #DisneyInHomeEvent #FireandRescue
During my Disney Press trip last month, I had the opportunity to visit Disneytoon Studios to learn more about the development of Planes: Fire and Rescue. Just visiting Disneytoon Studios was a pretty cool experience itself, the lobby was set up like Piston Peak National Park. What a fun place to work!
We there to speak with some of the creative team behind Planes: Fire and Rescue. Today I am sharing some of the things Bobs Ganaway the director and Ferrell Barron the producer had to say about the making of Fire and Rescue.
Why is the fire in the movie caused by lightning?
BG: 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, it’s crazy, and these firefighters are out there, putting them out all of the time.
The movie does reference human caused fires, one of the earlier fires is caused by an unattended campfire
BG: And that’s something we put in for the forest service, because we wanted to — push their message a little bit.
FB : That’s part of their campaign, be careful, put your fire out.
BG : So, yeah. So it’s little things like 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.
On honoring all firefighters
FB: In the movie, we have the wall of fame. You know, and a couple of the aircraft on there were actual Cal Fire airplanes that went down.
Do you see Planes: F&R as the new Smokey the Bear?
FB : 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, you know, as we said, it’s the firefighters around the world. We’re focusing on wildfire air attack, but it’s really about — for all firefighters.
On when they bring actors into the process.
BG: You’d kind of want to feel pretty good about how the story’s working before you bring the actors in too early. Because you don’t want to constantly be tearing it down and rebuilding it too much — you want them to kind to come in and take it to the next level.
On when they bring animators into the process
FB : Because you want the animator to be working with the actual voice of the actor. And we usually will then videotape Ed Harris in the booth too, because he’s still exuding emotion, and he’s acting in there, and we send that for inspiration, for the — you know. because the animator is also the actor. He’s bringing that character to life. So, to see Ed, you know, do his acting, he kind of inspires the animator, too —
Was Windlifter always supposed to be Native American?
FB : That was another part of the research was in that, discovering that American Indians actually have a long history of wild fire air attack. Mostly hotshots and smoke jumpers, which are the ground crews. Smoke jumpers smoke-jump in and parachute in. Hotshots drive in, and then hike up to the fire. Both of them are fighting the fires on the ground, but American Indians make up the vast majority of both hotshots and smoke jumpers for hundreds of years.,, We wanted to pay tribute to them as well, and have an American Indian as a character.
BG : Actually, at the very, very beginning, it wasn’t. At the very, very, very, very beginning because we hadn’t done all of our research yet.. You do research, and then you come back and play with the story ideas, and those story ideas will then help you develop what questions you want to go and ask the researchers. So it’s very iterative, when you’re going back and forth. And we knew we — that’s a heavy-lift helicopter. It’s designed — it can do — does two main things. It can fight fires, obviously, and they also heavy lift. Like, they put air conditioning units on top of skyscrapers and things like that. So originally we were thinking, okay, it’s a heavy lift. Well, perhaps it could be Russian, because Russia is very famous for their weight lifters. So that was our first sort of area. But, again, looking at the helicopter inspired what — and even — and we based that helicopter loosely on some designs that had sort of Russian origins. So we thought, okay, that would be one area to start, and we sort of explored that idea. And, then, when we had more information, we found out like, we wanted a character that was more connected to nature. And then we found out the smoke jumpers and the fire fighting, and very, very early on changed it to Windlifter.
The script is a starting point but once in character the actors were encouraged to ad lib, their personalities and ideas really influenced the final product
FB: Most of the time, a lot of it went in the movie, stuff that they may have just ad-libbed. And Bobs liked better. And that’s what we keep, and we cut in, and it’s great. But it’s a lot of hard work, and they all did — they are so — that’s a big part of elevating the movie, too, is the actors you hire. So it’s a long process. Of figuring out who we think is right, because it’s also about the voice quality, and you want that to be right.
Sharing one of those great ad-libs
FB : Julie Bowen, when her pontoons go down. “Yeah, they’re real.” And that’s Julie Bowen. She’s such a great comedic actress. And imp — she’s great at improv, and, so you know, she was perfect for that role, ’cause she, again, she brought so much more to the table, that — it’s one of the funniest lines in the movie, right? So, thank goodness we had her.
On Selecting Voice Actors
BG : Well we cast characters that we feel embody the spirit of the character. And so 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, when maybe you sort of — you already know you have a character.
Harvey and Winnie, down there on the bottom, which are Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara right behind you, you know they are the perfect example, basically. So, 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 gonna be used later. And so from a casting standpoint, we got Stiller and Meara who are a comedy couple who’ve been married for 50 years, you know, 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 a natural for them to fit into it.
Bobs and Ferrell wouldn’t confess to working on a third Planes movie yet but they also didn’t rule out the possibility!