Thank you to Disney for providing trip expenses to Disney’s Toon Studios during National Aviation Month. All thoughts and words are my own.
Disney’s PLANES has been on repeat in my daughters room since we received it right before I left for LA. Every night we have been watching it before bed, and I honestly never tire of it. Maybe it’s the kid in me, maybe it’s seeing how much my daughter loves it, or maybe it’s because aviation is a huge part of the area I live in. Home to the Blue Angels and to several of the biggest Air Force and Navy bases, we love our planes here! So, when we had the chance to sit down with Disney’s PLANES Director Klay Hall and Producer Traci Balthazor-Flynn, I was thrilled. Getting to pick the minds of some of the people behind an a movie we love….count me in.
I didn’t have a chance to go see PLANES when it was in theaters, but quickly fell in love with the movie when I watched it. How did PLANES “take off”, what was the inspiration behind it, how long did it take to get it from concept to ready to view? Klay and Traci were kind enough to sit down with us and give us a little insight.
What brought you onto the project, originally?
Great question. First of all, it was about four and half years ago, we’ve worked on this for four and a half years. We’re just gonna finish up here, I think in three more weeks. So, I had just finished my previous movie with John Lasseter, and I was in that phase of what are we gonna do next? He and I had become pretty good friends over several different things.
We found out that we a had a common passion about all things sort of mechanical. Trains was a big one, planes, cars, all that kind of stuff. So I was kicking around ideas and originally, I started thinking about a steam engine, sort of a transcontinental railroad story. It actually wasn’t anywhere from the world of Cars. It was gonna deal with humans and animals and all that kinds of stuff, and I was gonna tell this tale, this story of the railroad.
So, John’s very excited, and it was really coming along, shaping up so to speak. Then out of the blue one day, he was flying down in, the jet from Pixar to Disney Studios, and an epiphany hit him on the way down. He landed and he literally called me up, and said, “Klay, I know you’re working on the trains thing, and that’s cool, but what do you think about doing one about Planes?“
I was like “John, if there’s one thing I love more than trains, it’s planes.” So he wanted to start exploring the idea. Everything out there with an engine that’s mechanical, could have a personality. So this was the first opportunity to sort of crack that open and explore. That’s kinda how it all started.
How many people total worked on the Planes project?
We were probably up to six hundred total, when you think about everybody who touched the film, yeah. Four and a half, six hundred folks.
There’s a lot of people that probably don’t even get a credit in the film that helped, like the wonderful teams today helping shuffle you guys around the studio. It’s pretty wide and so many people are involved in the whole process!
One of the things that played a big part in PLANES was the research and traveling to different air fields, which some of that is covered in the bonus feature that is a MUST watch, it’s really touching, the bonus feature. So we wanted to know, how many different research trips were done?
We got to go on quite a few. Most of the locations in America. We started in the mid-west which is where we found Propwash Junction and several iconic destinations of the United States that are from that first original trip. Then we went out to New York and spent time in New York City and saw JFK.
Then we headed over to Germany. We were over there for a couple days, in Bulgaria, then we headed over to India and we were at the Taj Mahal at sunrise and sunset, so we got to see that which was pretty incredible. That’s kind of John Lasseter’s mantra, boots on the ground to get there and experience the cultures, ethnicities, colors, sights, and sounds to hopefully bring those back and pull it into the movie. To make it feel more real and not like it was just found on the internet.
I think that really rings true especially in the Taj Mahal sequence. I think another one that you’ll see in the bonus content on the DVDs, there’s a small piece that incorporates the October Fest.
It’s amazing how much work and research are done! They met with real pilots to get flight dynamics right. Could you imagine being on a navy ship and having the flight team looking at what you have and explaining what needs to be changed…because that is one of the things they did. The people who work on these films put their heart and soul into them and I was able to see that just during our day learning about Disney’s PLANES. I love they want to keep it as close to real life as animated can be, and work on it until it is just right! You can learn more about Planes on Facebook or at the Planes website!
Oh, before you go check out this clip from the bonus feature “Klay’s Flight Plan”, you can see the whole thing in the bonus feature: