“Planes: Fire & Rescue” is a new adventure-comedy about a dynamic crew of elite firefighting aircraft devoted to protecting historic Piston Peak National Park from raging wildfire.
When world-famous air racer Dusty Crophopper learns that his engine is damaged and he may never race again, he must shift gears and is launched into the world of aerial firefighting. “It’s a movie about second chances,” says director Bobs Gannaway (“Secret of the Wings”). “Each character was something else before finding their current roles, and Dusty is a crop duster-turned-racer who can’t race any more. When we learned that historically, the very first air attack teams were crop dusters, it was clear that the plane was telling us where the story was going.”
We had the opportunity to meet with Paul Gerard, Director of Creative Development and Jeff Howard, Co-Writer at a recent press event to discuss the type of research they did to bring this movie to the big screen. One of the biggest aid and resource they started with was with CALFIRE (California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection). The filmmakers got the opportunity to meet with the firefighters to get an idea the types of planes that they use to fight fire. That’s when the concept of “second chances” came into play and became the main theme of the movie.
The team spent time on location at Hemet-Ryan one of main base for CALFIRE. In the state of California there is approximately over 5600 fires a year, some of which that are never heard of. We tend to only hear of the big fires. CalFire battalion chief Travis Alexander not only welcomed the team—allowing them to sketch, take pictures and video, and soak up the atmosphere—he ultimately served as inspiration for one of the main characters. When Dusty arrives to Piston Peak, a fire alarm goes off immediately indicating that fires happen 3-4 times a day. This realism was incorporated into the movie.
The Team also visited national parks such as Yosemite, Yellowstone and Angeles National Forest. Filmmakers knew that the backdrop for “Planes: Fire & Rescue” would have to be vast—the main characters can cover a lot of miles in a single scene—and they wanted it to be lush and scenic. The team ensured that just the right trees were incorporated, including lodgepole pine, ponderosa pine, incense cedar, red woods and giant sequoia. Also included are buckthorn and huckleberry oak.
In additon, the team worked with L.A. County and L.A. City Fire Department, and even the Walt Disney Studios Fire Department. Art director Toby Wilson even tapped the firefighters in his neighborhood—Redondo Beach—for insight. Wilson paid homage to his backyard crew by adding their number E-64 to structural fire engine Pulaski in the film.