Behind the Scenes of Disney Planes

Disclosure: I was provided with a trip to Los Angeles for a Disney Planes pre-screening event in return for my honest review. All expenses were paid by Disney and no other compensation given.

Learning the behind the scenes secrets of a movie really help to make it come alive. Getting inside the brains of both the director and producer and learning about the way the movie came together is fascinating. Being able to sit and talk with Disney Planes Director Klay Hall and Producer Traci Balthazor-Flynn recently at DisneyToon Studios was an incredible opportunity.

Klay and Traci

Klay Hall and Traci Balthazor-Flynn

When we watched Disney Planes last month, we were one of the first groups to watch the movie outside of Disney execs. That was a pretty cool concept to realize. Well, for us it was. For Klay Hall and Traci Balthazor-Flynn and it was actually a bit “nauseating” at first. But, only only because of the anxiety of seeing our reactions and hearing our thoughts. The idea of fresh eyes and ears on the film was a overwhelming until they found that we, as an audience, were responding favorably. The movie was a 4 year process for them so, naturally, there was an uneasy feeling as they released it and put it in front of the eyes of others.

Animation, to me, is the most collaborative part of art form there is. – Director, Klay Hall

Knowing Klay Hall is a “geek” about trains, cars, and planes, John Lassiter called Klay about sidelining a trains project he was working on for an idea with planes. And, although inspired by the Cars world, they wanted to go above that world and explore a fun, new area. By discovering this new world of planes, there was opportunity for new character introductions and much more as they soared high above the ground below.

Everything out there, all types of machines, have a soul. It’s vast where you can end up going with all the types of vehicles and machines that exist. -from the mind of John Lassiter

Of course, there was still a big challenge to face with a new piece of machinery. Cars took 10 years to develop, so with Planes, the animators were able to work off that knowledge. The introduction of airplanes introduced challenges that the cars did not give in the area of animation:

  1. Cars have windshields whereas planes only have a small area to utilize as far as showing emotion and personality.
  2. Planes also present with “clunky” wings that are always at their sides. Therefore, trying to engage characters in any way meant working around these large wings in between them.
  3. Most of the planes were natural “tail draggers.” Meaning, well, their tails drug the ground. Naturally then, you would expect their eyes to point upwards. The animators had to use various camera angles to make the planes appear to be looking straight on… but in a more natural personified state.

Representing the Navy

The opening scene of Disney Planes reminded me of the movie “Top Gun.” I told the director and producer that and they were glad to hear it. In fact, during our interview session with Klay Hall and Traci Balthazor-Flynn, I realized that Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards actually voice the 2 Navy fighters in the movie.

PLANES Klay Hall

Klay Hall wanted to make sure he was representing the Navy in a respectful and honoring way. His grandfather had taught his dad how to fly at a young age, and then his father went on to join the Navy. He spent time as a child watching airplanes take off and land with his dad, as well as attending air shows, and developed an adoration for planes.

In order to properly portray the Navy, they invited 2 Navy commanders to watch the movie with them to offer up more advice. Klay and Traci were then both flown to the USS Carl Vinson where they were able to spend a couple of days with the men and women onboard. Being able to talk to the pilots and see their procedures first-hand helped add authenticity to the movie.

We tried to be very respectful to [the Navy] and it was a sort of an honor to represent them in a fun, cool way. – Klay Hall

(There is talk of taking the movie back to the carrier to allow the men and women to screen the final cut. That would be a pretty awesome experience for them knowing they played a part in the final outcome of the film).

PLANES El Chupacabra

Fun Behind the Scenes Notes

With production, there always seem to be those fun behind the scenes notes that help add to the life of a film for me. Planes was no different. Klay and Traci let us in on little stories that inspired scenes, as well as tidbits of information you may not notice your first time in the film:

  • The team worked hard to embrace the ethnicity, culture, dialect, and colors of each country as the planes visited them throughout the film.
  • The cyprus trees are shaped like planes propellers (make sure to take notice).
  • The animators and crew talked with a variety of different pilots, as well as air traffic controllers to hear how everything sounded and to see how it worked to make sure to put all of the pieces back into the movie for authenticity.
  • One of the most difficult sequences in the film is Dusty’s training montage with over 20 different takes to figure it all out and to support the “believability” of it all.
  • Traci’s favorite parts of the movie include the India fly-over and the Navy carrier scene.
  • El Chupacabra’s life in Acapulco had to be left behind on the edit room floor, along with an oil haul song that did not make the final cut but will be a DVD bonus.
  • One line from the movie was directly from flight attendant that Traci experienced on a trip home while doing research: “You sad. You drink.

PLANES Rochelle


This is what I found my interesting in the movie, Rochelle is actually represented differently in 8 different regions of the world in order to localize her character:

  1. United States
  2. Russia
  3. Brazil
  4. Germany
  5. China
  6. Japan
  7. France
  8. (and I am unsure of the final country)

Each one will be voiced by a popular female character in the region and will ultimately mean there will 8 different versions of the movie!

What fact were you most surprised to learn? What about the movie Planes are you most looking forward to seeing?

Learn more about the August 9th release of Disney’s Planes by liking Disney Planes on Facebook  or by following along on Twitter.