Disney Takes to the Air

A chat with the director of Planes

Dusty rides again. A scene from Planes.(Disney)

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That really goes to John Lasseter’s philosophy about not only respecting truth and materials, but doing as much research as you possibly can. We interviewed all types of pilots, from fighter pilots and balloon pilots and race pilots to commercial pilots and crop dusting pilots and helicopter pilots. We got a lot of great stories, and also just the idiosyncrasies about the different types of aircraft. Then we also brought in a flight specialist on the movie, and one of the guys on our team—Jason McKinley, who created “Dogfights” [a TV series using computer-generated imagery to show historic air-to-air combat]—was able to help oversee our artistic teams, as far as flight dynamics go. So we would take a character like Dusty, who’s a combination of an Air Tractor and a few other planes, and plug in his correct speed [and altitude]. The set had to embrace the type of aircraft, the inertia of his turns and how long his turns take to fill that space in a realistic way. That was probably one of the biggest challenges—really embracing flight dynamics and correct flying. Because, you know, we are dealing with characters that have eyes and talk, so they have to overcome that by making it look as close to real and as cool as possible. And I think we actually really achieved that.

What else goes into making an animation like this the best film that you can make?

Producer Traci Balthazor answers: Our art director, Ryan Carlson, really helped set the tone. He provided and set up the color theory for the whole movie, which showed the range of emotion. He helped "plane-ify the world," as we like to call it, so you'll notice in the backgrounds in the cloud shapes, you'll see propellers and tails and wings and things like that as you look at the film. Subconsciously, you’re being drawn into the world of planes.

Lay on top of that the sound. We recorded actual engines that would play to the look and feel of the characters and the type of planes they were, and the voice casting. It all went into making it feel authentic.

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