SkyGeek Reviews Disney’s “Planes”

What do you get when you combine animation and aviation? Disney’s new movie “Planes.” You also get a great idea for a blog post. ..

I know opening weekend has passed but SkyGeek was not part of the fortunate few to see a special advanced screening of the movie at Fly-In Theater at EAA AirVenture Oshkosh.

“From above the world of Cars” – that is the tagline of the movie, a tagline that can be found at the end of this trailer:

The plot revolves around a cropdusting plane appropriately named Dusty. This single-prop plane wishes to ditch his farm-based life and instead compete in the sky-highly competitive realm of air racing. Many obstacles hinder his progress, including a rather unfortunate fear of high altitudes. Through friendship and determination, though, Dusty might just prevail.

This is the second vehicle-themed feature film franchise from Disney/Pixar (Pixar is owned by Disney). There’s a joke that this film series will inevitably be followed by a third vehicle-based series called “Boats.” I can see it now, the tagline will be “From below the world of Cars and Planes” and you will have crazy, lovable characters like a submarine named “Perri”–short for periscope of course.

Speaking of jokes, that is one of the main criticisms circling the Interwebs as to how this movie nose-dives. The jokes are one-dimensional and many are based on ethnic-stereotypes. Some say that such stereotypes are culturally insensitive. My rebuttal? It’s a kid’s movie and kids usually have very little clue about political correctness. I know parents/adults are watching too and it may sound crazy, but some people like laughing about their own ethnic stereotypes (I’m Geekanese, go ahead, make fun of me and my non-existent pocket-protector).

Other reviews are pretty jaded. One critic equates it to “Cars 2 with Wings,” which is a valid point. However, said critic also mentions that kids will get bored; ironic considering that through all the snarky remarks, pseudo-intellectual quips, and unnecessary existential ponderings, I found that review rather “tedious.”

Variety has a less cynical but still altogether skeptical review of the movie. Critic Justin Chang says the merchandising aspect of the film may provide a helpful thrust and supplement box office success. His concern? Word-of-mouth may keep the film grounded or headed for a “rough landing.” While it’s true that animated movies are known to capitalize on kid’s impulsive need for flashy images and the mass acquisition of toys, should that come as any surprise? That’s how many animated films work.

Look, I may be an adult too in-touch with my inner child, but why all the hate? Somewhere along the way, critics lose perspective. Attention: IT IS A KID’s MOVIE. As an animated movie geared toward children, this is not a complex film. It is not Casablanca and it does not have mind-numbingly complicated plot twists of a Christopher Nolan film.

Although this film seems like a simple and somewhat predictable story, what many are unaware of is that a lot of effort was made into getting the authenticity just right. Of all the publicity this film has thus far received, I like CNN’s article where they interview Sean Bautista, a pilot with over 40 years of experience who was hired as a consultant. His expertise on flight was used to check for accuracy, so that “avgeeks” everywhere could appreciate the plane-based characters’ swag and grace.

Despite pixilation, realism was a priority.

Unfortunately, casual viewers won’t be aware of the efforts of Bautista –one that included telling creators to give the main character a “vasectomy” of sorts in order to reduce drag and increase Dusty’s speed so he could better compete in races.

Part of the problem is understanding the intentions behind production of the film and matching it to audience expectation. What many may not know is that “Planes” was originally intended for direct-to-DVD release. Most films like this are of lesser quality than ones originally slated for the box office.

Another thing to consider: Whereas “Cars” was directed and written by John Lasseter–animation icon and chief creative officer of both Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios– “Planes” was created by veterans of homevideo films. Still, like the main character, Dusty, the movie overcame odds to be something more than intended and was impressive enough to get a theatrical release.

Initially I considered titling this post “In Defense of Disney’s ‘Planes’” but decided against it. I’m not flying blind here. There are plenty of flaws, most of which I have lightly touched upon and most of which film critics have definitely highlighted. But that is just it: I’m not a film critic. Just a person who loves planes and movies that relate to them.

This film repurposes the formulaic underdog story that is no doubt familiar to many. But the view from among the clouds might just allow it to be a breath of fresh air, especially if you or your child is an aviation enthusiast. “Planes” may not be at the top of Pixar’s pantheon of films, but it is an enjoyable aerial adventure that is a welcomed addition to the company’s catalog. Bottom Line: With expectations matching the content, you will not be disappointed.

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About Skylar

Woah! This is Skylar. I am THEE Sky Geek. I like planes, trains, and automobiles, but really just planes. I love aviation and anything related to it. If you shop on our site you will see my mug plastered throughout since I am the official mascot. I enjoy talking to Sandy, Otto, and Mach since they share my passion for flight. Researching for news and events and other information that affects our customers is what I can't wait to nose dive into. The sky's the limitless!