A sequel to last year's "Planes" (and a spin-off, of sorts, from the wildly popular "Cars" movies), this film follows the continuing adventures of Dusty Crophopper (Dane Cook), a crop-dusting airplane who, after his dreams of being an international racer are derailed by a faulty piece of equipment, answers a higher calling: to be a fire and rescue plane in the nearly Piston Peak national park.
Well we got to talk to director Roberts Gannaway (at top, right) and producer Ferrell Barron (left) about the national parks that served as inspiration for "Planes: Fire & Rescue," what it was line to "Planes"-ify them and where the two are headed after the promotional tour for their movie is through. Make sure your tray table is in its full, upright, and locked position and get ready to zoom into the world of "Planes: Fire & Rescue."
"One thing that inspired the film was the 1988 wildfires at Yellowstone. That fire was the inspiration for setting the movie in a national park, because at the time the Old Faithful Inn had recently been restored and that fire threatening, not only all the acreage but also the Old Faithful Inn." — Director Roberts Gannaway
The movie pays homage to various national parks. Could you talk about where you went and visited and how that played into the final movie?
Gannaway: We spent a lot of time at Yellowstone and Yosemite National Parks, mainly. And this is all to create our own Pistol Peak national park. One thing that inspired the film was the 1988 wildfires at Yellowstone. That fire was the inspiration for setting the movie in a national park, because at the time the Old Faithful Inn had recently been restored and that fire threatening, not only all the acreage but also the Old Faithful Inn. We also wanted to have our national park be a glacial cut park like Yosemite, because, to a certain extent, I wanted to create a box canyon situation where there was one main road in or out of the park. So the idea of a glacial cut park and towering walls of granite and a valley below that you'll get in a place like Yosemite was also an inspiration. So we combined the Yosemite environment, with the Old Faithful Inn, which we have the Fusel Lodge, an irresistible pun I felt obligated to put in the movie.
Barron: Everything we do is based on the research, so visiting these parks was crucial. You want to surround yourself in the actual world. So being on the ground in those parks was very important. We had park rangers touring us around, answering questions, having a great tour of the Old Faithful Inn. So they were very much involved throughout the whole process.
You also get to "Planes"-ify everything. Can you talk about what you chose to maintain and what was fun to transform?
Gannaway: Yeah when we were at Yellowstone, looking at the Old Faithful Inn and doing a "Planes"-ification of that structure, the kind of dormer on the outside of the structure are helicopter landing pads. There's a main vertical structure that is a control tower. And we also attached a train to the building. The idea of a train being attached to the building was there's such a tradition of trains with the national parks of the West—many of the lodges were built by the train companies to promote tourism, so connecting the train to the lodge gave it the historical foundation.
Barron: Doing these research trip, anything can become inspiration—giant things like the canyon or even little things. Like we were driving around the lake at Yellowstone and we saw a sign that said Boat Rentals. And I just said it out like, "Boat Reynolds." So we now have a character called Boat Reynolds show up in our movie. It's really important when you're making these films and trying to create a believable world. Yes, it's animation but we want it to feel real. So we want to walk the parks and talk to the rangers, because you bring that back. It can inspire big huge monuments and little things.
Gannaway: We built the park, we modeled it in the computer, it's got 2.5 million trees. We know how deep it is, how wide it is, because ultimately you have to create a real space. So for example when we have a fire, we know where it's starting, where it's spreading, things like that. So it's really fun but to the filmmakers and the crew it feels like a real place.
Had you been to the parks as children or were you coming to it fresh for the movie?
Gannaway: For me, I was coming to it fresh. I grew up in Oklahoma and we didn't get out west. So I was coming at it fresh.
Barron: That was my first time to Yellowstone. I had been to Yosemite but I was young. So it was pretty fresh for me as well. Which was great, because we got to see it with new eyes and, again, with the rangers, we got to see all the big highlights. We got a crash course in the parks system!
After the insane press tour is over do you have a vacation spot picked out?
Gannaway: I'm heading off to Disney World with my family. Because I love Disney and I want more of it! My kids have not been to Disney World, and they're getting ready to start school. So they're getting in their big trip for the summer before school. And by "start school" I mean "start kindergarten." So we're going down to Disney World for a week. I am looking forward to doing the national parks tour with them, because living in Los Angeles, Yosemite is five or six hours away. So I'm looking forward to doing the parks out here with them when they're just a pinch older.
Barron: I'm doing something similar. I'm going to Hawaii and we're staying at the Alauni, the Disney resort. You know… It doesn't hurt that you get some discounts. I've only ever been to Kauai, so it'll be fun to hit a different island. But I'm in line with Bob, too—my kids are young as well and I've been waiting for an opportunity to do a big RV camp trip thing, with a big long road trip and start hitting all of these big, beautiful parks. I want them to experience much younger than I did. It's really important they see that.