Last year’s surprise theatrical hit "Planes" was a big deal for DisneyToon Studios, the division within Walt Disney Pictures usually known for direct-to-video releases.
But not so big a surprise that DisneyToon wasn’t prepared with a second film, "Planes: Fire & Rescue," which arrives in theaters July 18.
"This is such a rich world, the world of ‘Cars,’ and that world’s been so well-received," said producer Ferrell Barron.
The second movie has been in the works for four years, said director Bobs Gannaway, a veteran of Disney TV and movies. Some work was done in tandem with production on the first "Planes."
This time, Dusty (voiced by Dane Cook), the racing cropduster from the first "Planes," gets involved with fighting wildfires.
Cropdusters like Dusty are actually used in fire suppression, Barron said, so "there was a natural ‘in’ to this world that we couldn’t resist."
"We’ve dug deeper into Dusty’s character, emotionally," Gannaway said. "And from a theater experience, from an effects standpoint, the film is quite big."
"Planes: Fire & Rescue" boasts more than 600 visual-effects shots — the most ever for a DisneyToon production, Barron said.
"The first thing we did was create a fire that looks real," Barron said. "Fire, water, smoke — those are the most difficult effects to do."
The filmmakers consulted with their bigger corporate siblings, Pixar Animation Studios and Walt Disney Animation Studios.
"We really share and feed off of each other," Barron said.
Gannaway credits John Lasseter, who oversees all Disney’s cartoon work as chief creative officer at Pixar and Walt Disney Animation.
"[Lasseter] does such a fantastic job of nurturing a creative environment in all three of his studios," Gannaway said. "Each of us has a different identity, but it’s really all one big family. With the success of any film, like ‘Frozen,’ all boats rise."
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