By now I’m sure you’ve all seen the commercials for Disney’s Planes movie that “flies into theatres” (a little plane humor there) August 9th. Set in “from the world above Cars”, Planes bares a striking resemblance to the animation style of Cars, which was no mistake. (Planes look is based on the look of Pixar’s Cars, while Cars resembles the look of Susie, the Little Blue Coupe, a film released by Disney in 1952). While Planes does borrow types of “characters” from Cars, such as the little fork lift guys for helpers or the tractor-cows, make no mistake, this movie was not animated by Pixar but by Disney, but it is also a really great way to blend the concept of Planes and Cars together. While Disney owns Pixar, and thus their characters, Planes merges the two companies together in this film by placing it in the Cars universe, which means, having Dusty, the star of Planes, fly by while Lightning McQueen is racing by, or even having them race each other, wouldn’t be something they couldn’t do.
Do I think Planes will be successful? Well, before I answer that, let’s take a look back at the Cars franchise, and build from there what my answer will be. We were first introduced to the world of Cars in their original teaser trailer in 2005 where we meet both Mater (voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) and Lightning McQueen (voiced by Owen Wilson) for the first time. While the teaser starts off with some humor, it then goes into “top speed” (some race car humor there) and the race car scenes, which are truly impressive and have nice quick cuts of pit stops, tires being changed, and then more racing, is shown to Green Day’s Westbound Sign (and in honor of that trailer I wrote this blog while listening to that song).
The film was released in 2006 and my wife and I went to go see it. While not my favorite Pixar film, I enjoyed it a lot. There was lots of humor, great animation, excellent voice casting, and a story about a conceited race car named Lightning McQueen who wants to win the Piston Cup so much that he is ready to give up everything, even his Sponsor that got him started (Rust-eze) just to win. His only friend really is Mack, (voiced by John Ratzenberger, one of Pixar’s good luck charms who has been in EVERY Pixar film to date), the truck that drives him from race to race. On the way to the next race Mack loses McQueen who freaks out when he realizes he doesn’t know where he is, and in his panic, tears up the street.
Finding out he is in Radiator Springs, a town in Carburetor County, McQueen gets fined to Community Service and must fix the road he destroyed. It is here where he begins to learn that there is more to life than just winning Piston Cups, which one of the residents, a former Piston Cup winner himself Doc Hudson (voiced by Paul Newman) can testify to, and he also makes his first real friend in Mater, who becomes something of a sidekick to him. Once McQueen finishes his Community Service, McQueen does something nice for everyone in the town to help them all out, and it is here where Mack comes and finds him, and Lightning McQueen’s new pit crew.
With an estimated budget of $70,000,000 Cars US Gross was $244,082,982. Merchandise wise it broke records for toys based on a Disney/Pixar film estimating $1 billion dollars in sales and when released on DVD in two days it sold 5,000,000 copies. To say the movie was a success is an understatement. I even remember going to Disney World with my wife and having my picture taken with an actual Lightning McQueen car and Mater tow-truck that drove around to the tune of Rascal Flatt’s cover of Tom Cochrane’s “Life is a Highway”.
While I stated above that, even though I enjoyed the movie, it wasn’t my favorite, over the years the movie has grown on me more and more so that I now enjoy it more than I once did and will watch it whenever it’s on, and I think the next part of this franchise had a reason for doing that. In 2008, Pixar begin animating, and The Disney channel began showing Cars Toons: Mater’s Tall Tales, eleven five minute shorts where Mater (still voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) would tell Lightning McQueen (voiced this time by Keith Ferguson) of different adventures he would have, and when McQueen would call him out on it, Mater would remind him that he was there too, and they’d show the end of the adventure with them. Mater was no doubt the star of these shorts with McQueen acting as the side-kick this time. All in all, between the years of 2008-2012 they made the following episodes:
Season One: Rescue Squad Mater, Mater the Greater and El Materdor.
Season Two: Unidentified Flying Mater, Tokyo Mater, Monster Truck Mater, Heavy Metal Mater, Moon Mater, Mater Private Eye.
Season 3: Air Mater, Time Travel Mater.
Each short would have them in different paint jobs, which meant more Cars car toys to be made, which meant more toys being sold, and sell they did. Between the Cars and Disney Racers line sold in the Disney Parks, it seemed as if Disney had finally found their niche in the toy car market, and they were doing very well with it, after all, what little boy, or girl, doesn’t like playing with cars, especially ones made after Pixar characters.
In 2011 Pixar released Cars 2 which had Lightning McQueen (voiced once more by Owen Wilson) and Mater (as always voiced by Larry the Cable Guy) head off overseas so McQueen could race in the World Grand Prix race where McQueen races someone who might be even faster than him, Italian race car Francesco Bernoulli (voiced by John Turturro). It is here where the story gets a little confusing, with McQueen off racing, and Mater being mistaken by British spies Finn McMissile (voiced by Michael Caine) and Holley Shiftwell (voiced by Emily Mortimer) as an American spy they’ve been waiting on for help.
While both story lines finally play into one another in the end, watching the film gives you the feeling that they don’t. It almost feels like Mater is now the star of the film and McQueen has been reduced to side-kick status. When I left the theatre with my wife I was a bit disappointed in this film, it was the first Pixar film I really didn’t like, but thinking of it now from this angle where I know that both story lines play a greater part in the end, watching it that way would, I think, help me enjoy it more, and is something I would like to try one day.
Cars 2 was budgeted at $200,000,000 and its US Gross was $191,450,875. I think many older Pixar fans, especially those of the first Cars film, were a bit let down with this film. Also, story wise, it felt like it was geared more towards children with the Mater plot.
Another movie with new characters meant more merchandise, and merchandise they made. The Cars car toys sold well. Even to this day, two years after the last Cars movie, not only does the Cars toys sell very well, but the characters of Mater and Lightning McQueen are as popular as ever. How popular you ask?
Well, for starters they got their own land themed after their movies in DisneyLand’s California Adventure, and there’s even talks of bringing the “Cars Land” over to Walt Disney World. Speaking of which, the Walt Disney World’s newest resort The Art of Animation received a whole Cars themed wing, as if you were in Radiator Springs, complete with realistic size cars of each character from the first movie throughout the area where you can take pictures with (but not climb on).
Which brings us to Disney’s Planes. As I’ve stated at the beginning of this blog, this movie is set in the same world as Cars. A few things solidify this motion. One being that at the end of the first movie Cars we see Mater get his wish of getting a ride in the Dinoco Helicopter, which proves flying machines exist in this world (as does the Lightyear Blimp), the second is that Mater will be in Planes. Now, whether he has just a cameo or a bigger role I’m not going to say, I’m going to leave that for you to figure out on your own when you go see the movie! For a final reason, another Cars alumni, announcer Brent Mustangburger (voiced by Brent Musburger) from Cars 2 appears in the film as well.
In this movie we’ll meet a whole bunch of new characters, racing planes like Ripslinger (voiced by Roger Craig Smith) who seems to be the hot-shot plane and possibly Dusty’s rival, a female racing plane named Ishani (voiced by Priyanka Chopra), Bulldog (voiced by John Cleese) and my personal favorite just from the commercials, El Chupacabra (voiced by Carlos Alazraqui), as well as other characters like Rochelle (voiced by Julia Louis-Dreyfus) and Dottie (voiced by Teri Hatcher), and paying homage to the 1986 movie Top Gun (I hate that movie) Val Kilmer, who played “Iceman” in Top Gun (I really hate that movie) plays a plane called Bravo, while Anthony Edwards, who played “Goose” in Top Gun (I really, REALLY hate that movie) plays a plane called Echo.
Disney has been marketing this film for some time now, starting with selling the merchandise as early as this past spring in The Disney Store, which has been “flying off the shelves” (little plane humor there). Between the early marketing of merchandise, the story of facing your fears to make your dreams come true, I think this movie will be quite successful. Academy Award winning? Perhaps, but I really don’t put much merit in what the Academy has to say about films, I prefer to base my own opinion on things and decide what I like and what I don’t like, instead of having some people decide for me what deserves an award and what doesn’t.
Will adults like it? Possibly, aviation buffs will no doubt get a kick out of it, and I’m sure there will be humor in the film that will go over kids heads and their parents will laugh at, and of course, the kids will enjoy the movie for what it is, an enjoyable Disney film, besides being “…a really compelling underdog story…” as said in the second trailer for Planes. But if you are still unsure about seeing it or not, I recommend you look up the third trailer for the movie on you tube and watch it, which just has instrumental music playing to scenes from the movie, to help make up your mind, because it sure helped me make mine. Yes, I DO think this movie will be successful.
Then again, I could be wrong. After all, I’ve been known to be “100% pro-Disney”, so perhaps that is just my Disney-side coming out, but the more I think about this movie, it’s concept of putting it in the same world as Cars, the storyline and watch the trailers, I think we’ll have a good movie coming our way soon.
Until next time I remain,