I was invited for an expenses paid trip to LA by Disney to cover the #VeryBadDayEvent and #DisneyInHomeEvent in exchange for my posts of the trip experiences. All opinions are my own.
When I was in LA for the #DisneyInHomeEvent I had the pleasure of visiting the Disney Toons Studios! It was so very cool to be in the studio and see all the fun décor they had. I love that Disney creates an ambiance in their studio! What a cool place to work!
I got to sit down with 2 very nice guys who are the creative minds behind Disney’s Planes Fire and Rescue. Director Bobs Ganaway and Producer Ferrell Barron.
Is there going to be a third Planes Movie?
Ferrell: First one. First question. Hard reporter.
Bobs: You know, what’s interesting about Disney Toon Studios, John Lassiter is such a wonderful, creative leader. He’s a filmmaker, you know, which is great, to have a filmmaker, a fantastic filmmaker, sort of heading the studios that he oversees.Disney Animation Studios. And Pixar. Disney Toons. These things take so long to make. You know, it’s five years of your life to make. And that’s one of those things we’re always like — insights — even though this came out a year later, still, we didn’t make it in a year. And so, they can’t feel like assignments, because they are something that you’re going to basically pour yourself into. So he really waits for his filmmakers to be inspired by something, and to go out there, and research it, and meet the people, ride in the vehicles, and come back and tell him and everyone on the team what you’d discovered that was cool.
We hope to make more stories in this world, but we will wait until we find the right thing. That everybody kind of sort of wants to commit to, for five years. Because it’s a huge commitment, and it has to be a passion, not an assignment. So, yeah. Ultimately I hope to make more. Like I said, I’m still here. We finished the movie, I’m still coming in every day, and no one’s said stop. So I think we probably will do some more. Yeah.
I’m curious about the process. I’ve heard you guys talk about keeping the scenes versus letting them stay. Do you ever worry about letting a scene go?
Bobs: Well that’s what’s so great — and hard — about the animation process. It’s very different than a live-action where you’ve written a script and you go out and you shoot and script, and you have lots of coverage, and then it’s made kind of in editorial, and then maybe you do re-shoots and things like that, in live action. And you also, in a live action movie, it gets turned around fairly quickly, by that I mean, a year and a half. These take five plus years to make. And what we do is, we write a script, and then we do boards and do temp dialogue and do temp music, and then put it together in the editorial, and then we watch it.
With all of our other directors, and then even the whole studio, get everybody to watch it, and we all get notes, and then we tear down and rebuild it, and tear down and rebuild it, so it’s a constant. So the movie you’re seeing is like, the eighth or ninth version of the film. During that time, during that two years, or that two and a half years, or three years, or however long you’re doing that, you start to sort of figure out, "We don’t need that," or "This needs to move along quickly," or "There’s a pace issue." Things like that. There’ll be scenes that are in for a long time.
There was a scene in the movie that was in for the longest time, and it was the scene where Blade has crashed. And Duty’s flying around, and he calls for help, and then we had this very lovely scene where Windlifter was carrying Blade back to base. And Dusty’s flying alongside, and we’re playing this sort of — we had temp music in there, so we were playing like, A River Once Stood or something. And everybody was like, "Oh. This is so emotional, and wonderful, and oh, I’m just feeling so much," and then finally, John Lassiter said, "Yeah. That’s great, and everything, but there’s something bugging me about it." And we sat there, looked at it for a while. And he goes, "Oh, I know what it is. He’s still alive. Ambulances don’t go slow. They go fast." You know? It’s like, funerals go slow. He’s not dead. So we’re like, "Oh my gosh, they should be like, we gotta get him back, and on the base, and then Maru is doing triage right there in the moment." So, that scene was in there for like, two years before we realized that it was completely and utterly wrong, and it was not — the characters were not reacting in this scene.
We had fallen so in love with the emotion. We had blinders on to this emotion, we didn’t look at it relative to what was actually — to what would happen in real life. But, what happened was, that little moment where they’re bringing Blade back, we sort of gave to after Dusty crashes where we’re not sure whether Dusty is alive or not. So we still got to have that moment. We just gave it to a different character. And then what we ended up getting out of it was this lovely scene where Maru, Curtis Armstrong, who was fantastic gets his moment. He’s like, the water boy, right? He doesn’t get to fly. He admires these guys. And, so, that’s his moment to shine. When they’re on the ground, he’s gotta put Blade back together. So anyway, stuff like that happens, and it takes a long time. And that’s why you rely upon the other directors and the people around here to sort of look at you and give you notes, and you look for consensus in those notes. Because when you’re making the movie you’re so into the film, that you might need someone else to go, "Uh, just a question. That doesn’t work at all." You just go through that over and over again. That’s part of what we call the process.
I had a question about voice actors. How do you select those? Do you have specific people you’re like, "Oh, this person would be perfect for this character," or do you audition and decide that way?
Bobs: Well, we cast characters that we feel embody the spirit of the character. And so we won’t say "oh, here’s an actor, and we want to work with them, let’s create a character for them." We don’t do that. We’ve created the character, and then we go out and find an actor or actress who we feel like embodies the spirit of that character already. So, there’s a couple of times when you do have someone in mind already, when maybe you sort of — you already know you have a character. Harvey and Winnie, which are Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, they are the perfect example. So, you have two Winnebagos who are on their 50th wedding anniversary, coming back to Piston Peak to celebrate that. And you want to have instant chemistry between them, and then, from a filmmaking standpoint, it’s a plant, because they are gonna be used later. And so, from a casting standpoint, we got Jerry and Anne who are a comedy couple who’ve been married for 50 years, you know, and you didn’t have to do anything. It had come preloaded with the chemistry that you’d want to create, so they already embodied the spirit of those characters, and so it was a natural for them to fit into it.
Dale Dye is a veteran, so he’s playing the major ex-military aircraft. Wes Studi is obviously American Indian, and so he’s playing our American Indian helicopter. Like, we got Ed Harris as a tough guy. So, it’s like Julie — we wanted to have Dusty’s biggest fan. Someone who’s just on the verge of being a little crazy, hopeful is a better word, and so Julie was fantastic for that. And, Curtis, I’d worked with many times, and I know how great of an actor he is. And I need somebody who could yell at you, but you don’t take them that seriously. And so Curtis is sort of, you know, when he shouts, the more he shouts, the funnier he gets. So you kind of go in and you figure, who already the spirit of the character?
Ferrell: And you should know voiceover work is really hard work. These actors, they’re confined in a small isolation booth alone. Because 98 percent of the time, they’re recording alone. They don’t have another actor with them. They’re just there with headsets on, separated out, having to stay on the mics, can’t have them doing a lot of movement.
Bobs: Not in costume, obviously.
Ferrell: Not in costume. You know. Exactly. They come in and and give — the director, the voice director, which is always, usually, Bobs for us, outside, with a sheet of glass between ’em, reading the lines with them, and that’s — they have to perform.
They have to be on cue. And most of these are live action. Ed Harris, he’s used to being in front of a camera with another actor, and working a scene, like in theatre, and having another great actor with him. And that’s not the case in animation. Some of them, it was their first time to do animation, and it was a big adjust for them, as an actor, to be on, and embody that character and bring that emotion just to the forefront every time, and they all did a great job. We always depend on having high caliber actors like Ed, like Julie, who we know are gonna bring more to the character than what the script may provide.
Like we always say, Bobs is really good about having the script being a starting pint, that dialogue. Right? Start there. But, if you’re the character, like, if you feel like you’re gonna say something else, say what you feel like you’re gonna say. And, most of the time, a lot of it went in the movie, stuff that they may have just ad-libbed. And Bobs liked better. And that’s what we keep, and we cut in, and it’s great. That’s a big part of elevating the movie, too, is the actors you hire. So it’s a long process. Of figuring out who we think is right, because it’s also about the voice quality, and you want that to be right.
Can you think of a remarkable ad lib you can remember?
Ferrell: Oh, gosh. I know there was a ton.
Bobs: "Yeah, they’re real," was an ad lib. That was Julie.
Ferrell: Julie Bowen, when her pontoons go down. "Yeah, they’re real." And that’s Julie Bowen. She’s such a great comedic actress. She’s great at improv, and so she was perfect for that role, ’cause she, again, she brought so much more to the table. It’s one of the funniest lines in the movie, right? So, thank goodness we had her.
Bobs: With Dale Dyer, we were saying, okay what do you call parachuters? He said, "We call ’em gravel crunchers." Say that, you know? "Ya buncha gravel crunchers!" So things like that. Wes Studi, when we said, “okay, we have this folktale that’s based on a real American Indian folktale, but what would you do to sort of like, call people together, to sort of like, you’re going to tell the story?” So he did that.
Ferrell: Because he’s a Cherokee Indian, and he has, obviously, some Cherokee that he grew up with, so he had a phrase in Cherokee that he knew that he said.
When do the voiceover actors get brought into the process? You said it takes five years, but when do they come in?
Bobs: Well the first year we’ll spend doing a lot of research. And then we’ll start looking into what the needs of the film might be. For example, we knew we were going to make a movie with fire in it, so we started working on not only our research, but on our fire R&D, and we spent two and a half years to develop the fire system for the movie. And, then, usually, what you’d do, is, you’d kind of want to kind of feel pretty good about how the story’s working before you bring them into — bring the actors in too early. Because you don’t want to constantly be kind of — you know, tearing it down and rebuilding it too much, you want them to kind to come in an take it to the next level.
Often with our first screening, it’ll just be all of us doing the voices. Because you just want to see if the movie works. Does the story even work? Because, sometimes you will tear down 80 percent of the movie, 90 percent of the movie, and just keep — "Oh, well, that character was working, and that one story point was working, but nothing else works. So let’s switch and change it all." So then, usually around the second or third screening, you’ll bring the actors in, and they’ll come in five to eight times over the process.
I really enjoyed talking with them both and getting some behind the scenes creative info from the making of Planes Fire and Rescue.
After the interviews, Disney had a super fun S’mores bar set up for us to enjoy! Disney sure knows how to treat a blogger right!
We also got a fantastic goodie bag chuck full of Planes Fire and Rescue merchandise!
Planes Fire and Rescue will be released next week on Blu-ray and DVD.