At last month’s press junket for Planes: Fire & Rescue we had the privilege of sitting down with Director Bobs Gannaway and Producer Ferrell Barron after we watched the film to talk about their experiences and our thoughts about the newest Planes film.
About the Experience Making Planes:Fire & Rescue And Some of the new Characters
Bobs Gannaway (BG): What was really nice is Clay and his Team along with John, did a good job, really great job, teaming up the world, and a lot of his choices informed our choices. A good example is Dusty’s relationship with Dipper. We were looking at what could we do for a romantic sort of storyline here that’s not derivative of the first Film where Dusty facilitated a relationship between two Characters, that was actually our first idea. And then we realized Oh, we just did that. Then again, you sort of go to truth, what would really be happening? Oh he would have Fans, some Fans might be sort of Super Fans and may feel like they already know him, like what happens to Celebrities. Jeff Howard and I, who wrote the script, we sort of said, well let’s take Dipper through the stages of a relationship, you know, and then Dusty never reciprocates. It would just be fun for her to go through, sort of like what are the phrases? How do you say things like Oh, you don’t do things like that anymore and like Blast, meet your friends, which sort of gave her that arc and it made her sort of charming. We like to describe her as hopeful, not crazy. Then Julia was awesome to play the part cause she totally ran out with it and talks faster with me which is cool.
Ferrell Barron (FB): You’re gonna meet her tomorrow and you’re gonna love her. She’s so much fun.
BG: We did have them break up at the end originally. She let him down easy whole Summer Romance, you know, that kind of thing.
FB: And then John was like Oh No, let’s — let’s leave that story alive.
BG: Sort of hopeful relationship alive so we took it out.
BG: We want to make (the movie) entertaining for everyone and again, you make the Movie for yourself and I let the Characters say what the Characters would say. We’ve hopefully created real Characters that have personalities that are true. To be honest, and it sounds a little pretentious, but there is a point where your Characters start to kind of speak and say what they would say. Chris Armstrong who plays Marew, who’s worked on many projects I’ve worked on in the past. We wrote the part for him cause I knew he could play a lovable cranky guy. I always ask him how can you yell at your kids because you’re just, you make me laugh every time you start yelling. He’s like, I know it’s frustrating. I know that he’s gonna throw some little lines here and there. Wes Studi who plays Windlifter, we always want him to be this sort of man of few words, the sort of Gentle Giant. So when he speaks, you hear it and he might throw his anger out there and just likes to sit. And then I discovered at the very end that Windlifter and Marew are really good friends. I hadn’t really found that yet. We had that scene in the Lodge where Windlifter is trying on Sunglasses and he asks his buddy how they look and I just love. Wes Studi’s like, you know, yeah they look good. Oh he’s thinking, well these are nice Sunglasses but this is probably an expensive place to buy them. I’m not sure I want to get them and it’s all in that little moment. It makes him into a real person.
FB : That’s why Casting becomes so important. We can have a great script, beautifully shot scenes but it’s the Characters there driving the story. So we always want to cast our Characters with Actors that you feel are really going to embody the essence of those Characters. And that’s what made it so easy.
BG : And authentic, it can’t be someone putting on a voice. They have to embody the Character. When the Casting is like Winnie and Harvey, who are, you know, Anne Meara and um, Jerry Stiller, who are a Comedy Couple, who have been married for 50 plus years. They were, my first choice because I want that chemistry that comes from a married couple who have been married for 50 years. So I’ll get a married couple who’s been married for 50 years. And they’re already a Comedy team. You just have to turn the microphone on and walk away. OK, we’re back in 4 hours. You have to fall in love with them immediately because in that little moment, where you see them, you’re being set up to have to care later when those are the Strangers that Dusty is saving. So that casting is just great to do when you get the people who actually already embody the Character.
About Allowing the Actors to Ad Lib their Parts
BG: Well in Animated Film we go through, you know, multiple screenings, you know, I’m sure you guys are familiar with. We storyboard, we put it up there sometimes with temp dialogue, sometimes the actors. We watch it. We then take it down. We show it to our colleagues. We get notes. We put it up again. So the actors come in, you know, 5, 6, 7, 8 times over the process in the 2 or 3 years that you’re making it. So you get a relationship with the actors and a kind of comfort level. Some of them you may have already known. And several of them, I had worked with in the past. Other people like Ed Harris, it’s one of his very first times doing an Animated Film. He’s a 4 time Academy Award nominated Actor. And I’m running lines with him. He’s the nicest, a super nice guy. But they have to get comfortable with the process too. You need to know where you’re going, what you’re trying to accomplish, and how you’re gonna get there, and you want to bring everybody along the ride to plus it and make it better along the way. Sort of be, again the kind of curator for all these great ideas and very talented people to help you make something great so..
FB: And you always start with a script. We always cover ourselves. You always start with a script and once they start loosening it up, Bobs will start putting in other ideas just to try to get other things that he might be thinking of and then he’ll allow the to kind of go off in different directions. So we always have a huge amount of material to go through. The Editors job is to go through and pick those special nuggets that he thinks work will work well, than he and Bobs will then work together and choose for that final product. It’s a fun part of the process.
About the Time Spent at National Parks Institute:
FB: Yellowstone and Yosemite are the two Parks. You can see there are a lot of Monuments in there that are kind of taken from both. Waterfalls from Yosemite. Our Art Director spent a lot of time there obviously, taking a lot of pictures. We met with a lot of Park Rangers who toured us around The Old Faithful Inn, our Lodge is based on the Old Faithful Inn, Yellowstone. It was one of those Vacation trips where everyone’s cramped in a car. Griswolds like. Speeding to one location, jump out take pictures, speed to another. It was all packed in but that was a joy just getting, really getting into a whole life of agony.
BG: Research informs everything right down to a gag as well as feature moments. I mean, little things like the Lodges. There’s Rocking Chairs in front of the Fire places. We had the head of National Parks watch the Movie. I explained to him that Cad isn’t a bad guy, just has misguided good intentions. He wants to protect the Lodge, just at the expense of maybe innocent people. The Old Jammer, I’m sure you’re familiar with it, is the Tour buses that are used, still used today in Glacier National Park in Yellowstone. They’re called Jammers because they would jam the gears and they’re not standard anymore. But still they’re called Jammers. So Jammers name is based on a historical vehicle and someone might pick up on that. If they don’t, it’s all right.
Boat Reynolds appears there. That came from research. We were driving through Yellowstone and there was a sign that said Boat Rentals. And I went, Oh Look, Boat Rental, Boat Reynolds. So you know, just the littlest tiny thing will inform big choices. And even something no one will even get which is the Railway — Railway Station that’s hooked to the Grand Fuselage which is the best pun in the Movie. The Railway Station is actually based on a Railway Station that no longer exists that was the North Side of Yellowstone, that was designed by the same Architect as the Old Faithful Inn. So I thought that would be a cool little homage to him. Little things like that that nobody will ever pick up on. A few people might.
About Bringing in Smoke Jumpers and Other Experts for Research
FB: Smoker Jumpers we brought. They’re in the US Forces Service. Obviously, Cal Fire, LA County Fire.
BG: We brought in an Oil Analysis which is really interesting when Dusty has his mishap, his kind of heart attack. It was fun to realize that when that really happens. It can actually happen. When gear starts shredding in an airplane, they release metals into the oil and that’s how they analyze it and find out what kind of metal is in the oil, which will determine what part of the Engine is faulting. It’s very much like a blood test basically because they’re taking it and they’re looking under a Microscope, it really lended itself to having a Medical problem for these Air Craft Characters.
FB: So it goes back again to the research, bringing in as many consultants as we can to help every aspect of the movie that related to the story, to bringing truth to it all.
BG: All the people we met, the Fire Fighters are everything you think they are. They were amazing, giving, caring, courageous people, so charming, and so giving with their time and wanting to help. It was really a wonderful experience and they’ve become friends of ours now so I think-
FB: Because of that, we really took this movie to heart. We really put it on our shoulders and we wanted to tell a story that really paid a tribute and gave homage to Fire Fighters. Again, we saw the tribute at the beginning of the movie to fire fighters around the world. Even in live action, you can count on one hand how many like fire fighter movies there are. Certainly none in animation.
Be sure to follow Disney’s PLANES FIRE AND RESCUE on Facebook and Twitter as well as the website: www.disney.com/Planes and if you want to learn more about how the characters came to life, read my last post: The Art of the Story and for more about the research read Do Your Research.
Disney’s PLANES FIRE AND RESCUE flies into theatres everywhere on July 18th!
A huge thank you to Disney for providing my flight and hotel during the #FireAndRescueEvent. All opinions are 100% mine