Disney’s PLANES Review “Do More Than You Were Built For”

PLANES is a Disney film (based on a Pixar franchise), so, of course, it’s family friendly.  All ages will enjoy it, even very young children, including the little boy who screamed in terror that it was “too scary” until right before the movie actually started, when he got quiet.  Disney’s PLANES exceeded my expectations, and everyone in the audience enjoyed it.  Full disclosure:  I hate spoilers in reviews, so there won’t be any in this one.  Continue reading for our full Disney’s PLANES review, and click here for all the images, trailers, and activity sheets for Disney’s PLANES.

Disney's PLANES

The Commercials

The screening started with a series of commercials for ABC Family programs, including “Melissa & Joey” and “Baby Daddy.”  Most exciting of all, though, if you’re a Phineas and Ferb fan, was the commercial for “Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel,” a mash-up of Phineas and Ferb and Marvel comic characters, which premieres August 16th.  Surprisingly, there was no short accompanying Disney’s PLANES – a first since John Lasseter took over as head of Disney animation.

Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel

Phineas and Ferb: Mission Marvel ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

Disney’s PLANES Review


CHUG, DUSTY and DOTTIE. ©2013 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


PLANES is part of the “World of CARS” family of films – not exactly a sequel or prequel, but a parallel story that takes place in Propwash Junction and is plane-centric, though there are cars and those cute little forklifts.  From the standard Disney movie opening with Cinderella Castle the film takes a strange twist, including the opening music.

The story is about Dusty the crop duster’s dream of racing in the Wings Around the Globe rally.  As a crop duster, he’s not exactly built for racing (and has a pretty strange phobia for a plane – no, it’s not snakes), but he wants “to do more than he was built for.”  His crew are Chug, the fuel truck, and Dottie, his forklift.  He appeals to Skipper, a war veteran Navy plane, for training, but is shot down (as he deserves to be after a line like “Those who can’t do, teach”).  To avoid spoilers I won’t get into too much detail, but will mention that the story includes some issues going on in current sports stories, like performance enhancers, which may engender some conversation with the little ones in your party.  Dusty is a charmer and a very friendly plane who does his best to help his fellow competitors both on and off the course.


Dusty ©2013 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


This is the second racing competition-based film I’ve seen this summer – both based on an unconventional competitor (see review of DreamWorks’ TURBO), and the fifth competition-based film (i.e., MONSTERS UNIVERSITY).  It’s an underdog story and a story about honor.  I think it’s meant to be an empowering film, so kids learn that not fitting a certain mold doesn’t mean they can’t do things that would have been easier if they did fit that mold.  An easy example is that you don’t have to be tall to be a good basketball player – you can be good because you train hard.  Another is that you don’t have to be naturally smart to pass all your exams, you just have to study hard and put the work in.  A good message for adults (and kids, of course) is that helping those around you will help you build your team so that you’ll have help when you need it and that being good generally inspires others to be good, too.  There is a subtler thread, too, about pride, which I think should have been a stronger part of the story.  Of the competition films I’ve seen, I think Disney’s PLANES has the strongest message.  All kids should learn that hard work can take them far and that pride can be good if it drives them to work harder and do better, but can have disastrous effects if they let it distract them from their own goals to focus on the results of others.


DUSTY ©2013 Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


The music throughout the film was outstanding.  During the international segments, the music matched the location, which is not surprising from detail-driven Disney.  I especially appreciated hearing “Anchors Aweigh” during a Flysenhauser scene.  The cast is star-studded, as expected in a Disney film and, perhaps as a result, the characters are engaging and endearing, especially, for me, Ishani and Skipper (and the rest of the Navy planes gang, but that could be my Navy Junior bias – nah – they were awesome!).  If you’re looking for a particular voice actor that happens to be Pixar’s “lucky charm,” I won’t say yay or nay.  You’ll have to determine that for yourself.

World Premiere Of "Disney's Planes"

Actor John Ratzenberger attends the World Premiere of "€œDisney's Planes"€ at the El Capitan Theatre on Aug. 5, 2013, in Hollywood, CA. Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


The animation was pretty, if a bit flat.  The best parts of the movie, for me, were the plane’s-eye views, which were also the best uses of 3D in the film.  The landscapes were very pretty, though some of them did fly past (pun intended) very quickly, giving the viewer a glimpse, rather than a detailed look, which also says something about the action of the film – the background was truly background and not a separate element of the film, except where necessary to the story.  I loved the American Airline plane scene (yes, I am an American Airlines flyer, but it was a great way to introduce the new paint job) and the aircraft carrier scene really appealed to me (as I mentioned above, I am a Navy Junior, but more than that, my dad was a Navy pilot).


DUSTY ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


While this movie doesn’t have as many layers of enjoyment as most Disney films, plane-spotters will have fun trying to identify the plane types represented in the movie and everyone will enjoy trying to reverse the transformation of celebrity names into World of CARS names back into the celebrity name (I confess I had to look some up after the film, but I did recognize Brent Mustangburger).


DUSTY ©Disney Enterprises, Inc. All Rights Reserved.


All in all, Disney’s PLANES exceeded expectations for me.  I had been expecting to enjoy it, because I enjoyed CARS, but had heard a lot of negative comments about everything from the concept to the film itself with dire speculation and predictions surrounding its transfer from a straight-to-video to theatrical release.  It was clearly not a fully Pixar movie, but it did deliver and it’ll do well, judging by both the pre-opening merchandise sales and by the two separate times the kids (and maybe some of the adults) broke into applause during my screening.  For those of you who don’t stay through the end of the credits, the sequel PLANES: FIRE & RESCUE is announced.

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About George Gensler

George Gensler is a copyrights specialist during the week and a runner on the weekends. She lives in New York City now, but has lived in five countries on three continents. She grew up traveling the world, but her official residence was in Southern California and every visit home included a trip to Disneyland. She has also visited every Disney Park around the world and sailed on board two Disney cruises. She threw in a visit to the Disney Family museum in San Francisco for good measure, and has had the Premier Disney Park Pass since its inception.