Disney’s Planes: The Story, Merchandise, & Controversy

| August 9, 2013 | 4 Replies

Today, August 9th, marks the premier of Disney’s next animated film, Planes. Soaring high above the world of Cars, the film brings to life new characters and an adventure in beating the odds. With that comes new promos, merchandise, and even a bit of controversy. Join me as we take a look at all things Planes and whether or not it will reach new heights.


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Image: A Planes billboard towers above those below at Disney’s Hollywood Studios.


The Film

Planes tells the story of Dusty (voice of Dane Cook), a fast-flying crop duster with a big heart, who dreams of competing in an around-the-world air race. Unfortunately for him, the odds are not in his favor as he happens to be afraid of heights and is not exactly built for high-speed racing. Encouraged by his mentor, Skipper (voice of Stacy Keach), who also happens to be a naval aviator, Dusty works his way to the top.


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Image: Dusty dreams of being the top racer in an around-the-world competition in the sky.


Soon, Dusty begins to shake the confidence of his rival and defending champ of the race, Ripslinger (voice of Roger Craig Smith), who will stop at nothing to make sure that the duster fails. However, his courage is put to the test when disaster strikes in the heat of the final race. Will he succeed or bail out in the end? Will Ripslinger defend his title? You’ll have to hit the theater to find out.


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Image: Ripslinger, the current champion of the air race, will do whatever it takes to stop Dusty from winning.


This past Monday, the stars came out to celebrate the premiere of Planes at The El Capitan Theater in Hollywood. I happen to be driving by at the time and was impressed by all of the pomp and circumstance. A pre-party was held featuring a variety of activities – mainly geared towards the children in attendance – to enjoy. This included carnival-style games, crafts, a flight simulator, and even an inflatable obstacle course (something I marveled at while passing Hollywood Boulevard which had been shut down for the event). Target provided the “kid swag” including Planes character plush, figurines, books, and more. Entertainment also included stilt walkers, jugglers, and some pretty impressive balloon puppetry.


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Images: The Planes premiere was enjoyed by all including John Lasseter, Producer Traci Balthazor-Flynn, and Director Klay Hall.


Celebrities in attendance included John Lasseter, chief creative officer at Pixar & Walt Disney Animation Studios, Hillary Duff, Ashlee Simpson, Jason Priestly, Alyssa Milano, and more. Those who provided character voices for the film were also present including Dane Cook, Teri Hatcher, Priyanka Chopra, Cedric the Entertainer, Stacy Keach and Anthony Edwards.


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Image: Hillary Duff at the Planes Premiere


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Image: Ashlee Simpson and her son, Bronx, pose in front of the Target merchandise display.


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Image: Teri Hatcher and daughter Emerson enjoying games before seeing the film.


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Image: Dane Cook, the voice of Dusty, smiles outside The El Capitan Theater.



In true Disney fashion, Planes merchandise began popping up in Disney Parks last week to help promote the film. Both Walt Disney World and Disneyland stores now feature everything from shirts, hats, and pins to antennae toppers, toys, and backpacks. Because the film is expected to appeal more so to boys – who embraced the world of Cars – a heavy focus on toy planes and masculine clothing has been made.


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Images: Shirts, hoodies, and hats featuring Planes characters can be found in shops at Disney Parks.


I can imagine that back to school time will be filled with Dusty and Ripslinger thermoses, lunchboxes, and the like. Very few items were geared towards girls although a feisty character named Rochelle will play a role in the movie; I imagine more items featuring her will be sold in the near future. For now though, some of the clothing and all of the toys can be dubbed unisex in nature.


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Images: Planes fans can find antennae toppers, figurines, backpacks, and more to show off their love of the movie.


Controversy & Skepticism

I have to admit that I was not very excited to see Planes until I saw an extended trailer in the theater. Before that, it just seemed like a sad rip-off of Cars, a film that took the creation of Cars Land in Disney California Adventure for me to enjoy. After watching the preview though, I am more interested in seeing the film. It looks like it will have a mix of both comedy and action in it plus a great Disney story. However, not everyone is anticipating it hitting the big screen based on the fact that it was originally set to be another infamous “straight to DVD release.” Looking at the history of these types of films, many of the storylines are dull, the animation is not always at its best, and the overall entertainment factor is not up to par with what we love about the company. As a result, some Disney fans have been voicing their criticism online including forums like the DISboards.com. Like me, they felt that it was just another Cars-type of movie and not worth seeing in a theater. Others believed it should have been released directly to DVD. On the flip side, a few pointed out that Toy Story 2 was also not originally meant for  theater release, and its popularity proves that Planes could be a hit.


I guess time will only tell how Planes does at the box office. In a world saturated by Disney princesses, I think it is a smart move for the studio to create a film that is directed more towards boys. Perhaps it could even lead to improvements in the parks, specifically at Disney’s Hollywood Studios where much reimagineering is desperately needed. Planes meet and greets and attractions could be quite successful if the movie is well received. What do you think?


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Image: Planes Soars into Theaters August 9


I plan on seeing the film today and will report back here with my review. In the meantime, comment below and share your thoughts about Planes and whether or not you feel it will be successful in the theaters.



Luckily for me, I was able to grab one of the few remaining tickets for this morning’s debut showing of Planes. The theater was packed both before and after I left! Because I visited an AMC Dine-In Theater similar to the one in Downtown Disney, I was able to see how sales were going throughout the day. Nearly all showings were close to sold out or completely full! It appears as if the film is being very well-received so far.


Without giving too much more away, I wanted to chime with my thoughts on the movie. Two words: well done! It combined beautiful animation (and 3-D effects), comedy for both kids and adults, as well as daring adventure. Gasps and cheers from the audience were heard throughout its playing. I even found myself rooting for Dusty during his battle with Ripslinger. There were definitely some similarities to Cars, but the plot had its own feel and story. It also included a lot of technical aviation terms that I was not familiar with, but understood through the context of the scenes that included them. I predict that this will lead to many children learning more about flying in the future.  Overall, I thought Planes was a lot of fun!


While watching, I noticed a couple of interesting tidbits worth mentioning. Be on the lookout for them when you see the film:

  • Bravo and Echo, two Navy jets who help Dusty when he gets into trouble over the Pacific, are voiced by Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards, who played Iceman and Goose, respectively, in the 1980s hit Top Gun. Edwards recently shared his excitement with USA Today and said, “When you think of movies with planes, ‘Top Gun’ usually comes up, so it is fun to be part of this. Our naval aviators are some of the best pilots in the world, and Val and I were lucky enough to get to play them twice.” 


  • American Airlines received a big plug in the form of Tripp, a shiny 777-30ERR who has a quick scene in which he encourages Dusty to overcome the obstacles standing in his way. Although a bit cheesy when I think about it now, I didn’t find the cameo distracting from the film. It happened very quickly which could be why. I later found out that American will be offering Planes as a part of its in-flight entertainment beginning this October which will be before any other airline shows it on board.


  • Even though Planes is made by Walt Disney Pictures, John Ratzenberger surprises fans with an appearance. The actor is known for having a voice part in every Pixar film made to date.


  • East coasters will giggle at the nod to JFK Airport and an infamous “Go back to Jersey!” statement from one of the characters early on.


  • Look carefully and you might just see Lightning McQueen and Flo from Cars in the crowd during Dusty’s race. I’d have to watch the movie again, but I’m 99% positive that they are two “Easter Eggs” that show up.


  • Aviation-history buffs and pilots will appreciate the terminology used throughout the film (as I mentioned above), but will also marvel at how authentic aspects of the industry are incorporated including elements of the Red Bull Air Race World Championship and foreign racing planes from around the globe.


  • iPad fans will get a chuckle about mid-way through the movie with a very cute scene involving Ripslinger and his cronies.


  • Some of the merchandise shown above can actually be seen in the movie. Pay close attention when Dusty’s friends sell memorabilia during the race.


All in all, Planes exceeded my expectations, and I can definitely see why Disney decided to can the original idea of having it released straight to DVD. In fact, a sequel was just announced this afternoon at the D23 Expo; it will be called Planes: Fire & Rescue and is expected to hit theaters next July.  I hope you have a chance to see the film soon and come back here to let us know your thoughts. It’s great Disney fun!


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Image: The sequel to Planes is already in the works and will be called Planes: Fire & Rescue. It will be a tribute to firefighters and hit theaters July 18, 2014.


Image Credits:

N. Mancini

Disney Media

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Category: Disney World, Disneyland, Merchandise

  • Chris

    I saw it about two weeks ago at a special preview. They actually had a couple of the creators come and present about it before hand.

    I personally really enjoyed it, my wife thought it was just ok.

    That being said, we both agreed that the animation was amazing on it and it is probably the one film of the past 5 years or whatever it’s been that 3D has been so populare that I can say is worth the 3D upcharge.

    Really, I can’t think of a single other film that I would willingly pay the upcharge for if it was also offered in 2D. But this one is spectacular in 3D.

  • Reg

    I was fortunate enough to see this with my family a week ago at a special pre-release showing on base. I did not have high expectations but the tickets were free. Arriving at the theater with a screen much smaller than we were use to, no stadium seating, no 3D, and a huge crowd of loud little ones- expectations even lower. However, we loved it!

    I am so glad our first experience of seeing Planes was at a military base because it set the stage in a whole new light. Starting with the National Anthem being played with accompanying video and then a beautiful tribute to the Hereos that work at Disney sharing stories from cast members that have served in the military. My daughter and I were teary before the movie started.
    Throughout the movie we laughed, cried, laughed, cried. It was very well orchastrated. There was a nice amount of humor that will have the adult audience laughing, tributes to our military and history, great animation…we can’t wait to see it again. Next time will have a bigger screen, probably 3D glasses, minus the loudest crowd every at any movie but I know we will be seeing it through different eyes thanks to our first experience.

    Thank you to all our Heroes – military or civilian.

    • Nicole L. Mancini

      Reg, that you so much for sharing this experience with us! I can imagine that it was quite special for you and your family!

  • antoniosantiago

    I saw it with my beautiful and beloved niece a couple of weeks ago. Two things got my eye: There was nearly no one at the theater (this could be due to the time, 1PM on a Tuesday) and secondly, the name American had been removed from “Tripp”, and now that the Plane toys have been released, “Tripp” is not among them…does anybody know why? Did American Airlines object to that in a way or another??