As you might recall, I recently visited Los Angeles for a sneak peek at Disney's Planes: Fire and Rescue as part of an all-expenses-paid trip. One of the events we were treated to while at Disneytoon Studios was an interview with Jeff Howard, the co-writer of Planes: Fire and Rescue, and Paul Gerrard, the Director of Creative Development. We learned so much about the process of creating an animated Disney movie from Jeff and Paul, like the fact that it can take up to five years of research and work before a movie actually hits theaters!
The interesting thing about this experience was that we watched Disney's Planes: Fire and Rescue and then visited the Disneytoon Studios the next day to speak with the creative forces behind it!
While we were watching the movie, I kept thinking to myself, "This looks a lot like Yosemite National Park!" You see, I had just been to Yosemite National Park a few weeks prior to visiting LA, and all of that breathtaking scenery was still fresh in my mind! As we began chatting with Jeff and Paul, they told us that their research process including spending quite a while in both Yosemite National Park and Yellowstone National Park, and that many aspects of the film were inspired by the parks. I was like, "I KNEW IT!!" All of the time they spent researching the parks and trying to come up with their own Piston Peak version of it was well spent!
Of course, Jeff and Paul didn't just hang out in the forest before sitting down to start working on Disney's Planes: Fire and Rescue. They spent countless hours working alongside the California Department of Forestry and Fire, which I found out is often referred to as CalFire for short.
Did you know that there are more than 5,000 fires in California each year? CalFire says those are just the bad ones! While there are some fires caused by lightening strikes, most fires are caused by humans. Remember that the next time you're out camping - it never hurts to be extra careful!
Jeff and Paul spent time interviewing fire fighters, engineers, helicopter pilots and National Park Rangers so that when they created the characters and the story, they were not only being authentic for the movie goers, but paying homage to these brave people that the story was based upon.
One of the main characters in Disney's Planes: Fire and Rescue was based on world-famous Chuck Aaron, one of the two helicopter pilots in the world who can fly a chopper upside down - he trained the other guy, by the way!
Chuck Aaron took the Planes: Fire and Rescue crew out to show them maneuvers and give them inspiration for the characters that make up the Fire and Rescue crew in Planes.
I think I would have been happy to just watch from the ground - my sensitive stomach wouldn't have been too happy with that upside down move that Aaron is famous for!
The Disney crew watched as planes dropped water and fire retardant and filmed the entire process many times, so that when they brought the footage back to the creative development team and artists, they could create scenes for the movie with a sense of accuracy.
The Disney team laughed as they told us the story about the fire fighters coming in to watch screenings as they put the movie together and gave their feedback. There was one point where the characters kept chanting "WENCH!" when they would do something (I don't want to give away any spoilers!) and the fire fighters told them, "Um, that's HOIST! Not WENCH!" and they had to go back and correct that throughout the movie.
There were many points during the movie-making process where the CalFire and other experts came in to see the movie and give feedback. I loved hearing this because it really drove home how important it was for Disney to get it right when they presented this to the public. It's a movie that is actually based on real people, real life-saving actions - and I think that when it comes to the theaters, you'll be able to walk away with a lot of respect for fire fighters everywhere, but especially CalFire.
Disney’s Planes: Fire and Rescue flies into theatres everywhere on July 18th!