Being on a Disney trip to Los Angeles Studios was an amazing experience with the people and filmmakers who create classical masterpieces in animation and movies.
One of the excitements was sitting down with Paul Gerard, the Creative Development Director for Planes, and his co-writer Jeff Howard to share in their almost insurmountable to express experience of putting together this top animation movie of the year – Planes: Fire And Rescue.
Like other creative directors and producers within the Disney family of creative thinkers, both Jeff Howard and Paul Gerard emphasize the importance and significance of the STORY Telling.
JEFF : Once you have the story together, in terms of like, a script or, you know, a treatment of a script, then you start doing the storyboards, which is just the black-and-white drawings, and you edit it together into an animatic or a story reel where you can watch the whole thing with a temporary voice and sound FX and music and everything to see if it works, and you go through that, four, five, or six or even more times, and at the same time, you know, the guys are doing designs.
And building things in CG. And then only when that is nailed down, then you go ahead and say, “Okay. Now we’re gonna really start animating it,” and that part, just the animating takes a year or more by itself.
And even then, there are things that you will change down the road, like the thing about the smoke jumpers looking before they jump out. That was late in the process.
PAUL : That was late in the process, with the jump —
JEFF : So, we were like, even though we’re in animation, it’s like, all right, we need to go and put that sequence in, and sometimes we’ll change lines, you know, up till even a month before it’s done, you know we’re tweaking stuff, with, you know, Travis, or Chuck, would come in and say, “You know what? It’d be better if they said it this way or you showed this, or maybe you need a shot actually clarifying to say this.” We would add stuff later on, but it takes a long —
PAUL : Yeah. Takes a long time. I mean, people are already shocked — that, like, it takes three years to –
JEFF : Yeah. Some people were like, “Wow, you churn that out in a year after — ?” Well, no, [OVERLAP] we started it three years before the other one came out. This is — both of them took, you know, a really long — it’s just very labor intensive, and, uh, yeah.
What Disney does take seriously is a thorough research into the concepts, language, professionalisms (words used by a certain occupation), a standard way of performance of different tasks and duties by the characters in the movie that carry the likeness of the real people and life situations.
Paul Gerard and Jeff Howard told us a story after a story that took them and their Disney Planes Team to research in detail the National Parks (Yellowstone and Yosemite), Fire Rescue facilities, Fire Equipment research and a ton of similar information pertaining to fires, helicopters, machinery, and professionals who handle fires on the regular basis.
The Planes: Fire And Rescue was built from the life-based experiences of the filmmakers.
You gotta try it yourself: dress up and head up into the air to answer the distress call in fire ravaging areas! The fire overalls you have to put on weigh a ton! Plus you have to carry additional stuff with you to assist during the fire rescue mission.
Chuck Aaron was one of the top consultants to the Disney Planes Team, as he is considered the top notch specialist in fire rescues and search.
The aircraft that all animation characters are modeled after are made with accuracy and precision to the real-life models!
Here’s what Jeff and Paul shared when asked how much details they used from their personal experiences of the fire rescue equipments, firemen and places they visited.
JEFF : Yeah. Well, that was part of the intent. And we’ve talked to different — you know, we had this one screenwriting consultant come in who talked about how people in movies loved to see process. You love to see —
PAUL : Immersion.
JEFF : — to get insight into a world that you know nothing about. Whether it’s, oh, this is how chefs operate. This is how fighter pilots do it. This is what it’s like in the boiler room of a brokerage firm. You know.
PAUL : This is what the bottom of the ocean looks like.
JEFF : Yeah. People are interested in seeing that. There’s — there’s fun in being able to learn those kinda things, so, you know we didn’t set out to make an educational movie.
But the details that we would learn, that we’d think were cool, we’re like, “Oh, let’s put that in, just ’cause we think that’s interesting and fun and we’re all animation — we’re all aviation geeks to begin with, so…”
PAUL : You don’t have to make stuff up if the world is fascinating. It makes your job a lot easier if the world is really interesting and you’re seeing a lot of really cool things, and, you know, I — I always liked the idea of immersive experiences, where you’d go and you explore a world that you’d never seen before. I think that that forces you to be original, and it forces you to actually be honest with your storytelling.
So, um, you know, it’s fun, it’s fun when you get to go to the movies and get entertained, and learn something.
This creative process of making a story live and believable takes a lot of changes from all the creative minds involved in the process. And it is NOT a short process!
JEFF : So, they sort of feed each other, and it wasn’t something where we went out and spent three months on research and then come back and write. It was like, let’s go out — we had sort of a nugget of an idea, let’s go learn some stuff. Oh, that’s cool.
Let’s come back and write some stuff. You know who we really need to talk, it’s this type of person. Let’s go out and talk to them. Then let’s come back and fiddle with some stuff. We need to visit the smoke jumpers. So it was a much — you know, a year at least.
What was mesmerizing is how much these two men, two creative filmmakers treasured their personal experiences while they were making the Planes movie!
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You can own your own Classic of Planes: Fire And Rescue and get a copy for the Holidays to gift to your family!