It’s pretty amazing how much Disney Planes: Fire and Rescue is based on real aerial firefighting. The storyline, life lessons, and comedy has been great. My fascination, however, lies in the research done for the film. We spoke with the Director of Creative Development Paul Gerard and Co-writer Jeff Howard to find out more.
The Disney research team visited several national parks and air bases to get things right and I don’t mean just their “pilot-ese”. When Paul first started investigating aerial firefighting, he found that the first type of aerial firefighters were actually crop dusting aircrafts. As the team continued to travel and research, they found that all the aircraft they saw all had a previous life and were now on their second life. That worked really well with their theme of second chances.
The other thing the team noticed while visiting the air bases was that many things were built from scratch. There were a ton of hand me downs and refurbished items. Thus arose the idea of better than new and became reality in the form of master mechanics, Maru.
Some of my favorite characters were the smoke jumpers and how they all looked slightly different. I asked Paul and Jeff about the inspiration behind the smoke jumper characters. Of course, they were based off reality. The inspiration came from the smoke jumpers in Redding. The collars and masks from the Redding smoke jumper suits became the cage and ridges seen in our adorable smoke jumpers. The tools incorporated were based off the different tools used in firefighting like fire axes, rakes, Pulaski, and so on.
1) There’s nothing in “pilot-ese” for good job. There’s always something that feedback could be given on.
2) CalFire fights in 5600 fires just in California in a year, however there are 50 000 fires a year nationwide.
3) During the actual research day, much like when Dusty first arrives at the base, an actual fire came as well. The line “You guys only hear about the big ones” was a line the research team was also told at the base.
4) Pulaski is a fire axe with a digging tool on one end and chopping axe tool on other end. It was named after a famous firefighter named Pulaski who was boxed in by a fire and he had the other firefighters hide in an abandoned mine. Well, he held them at gunpoint to keep them in but it was the only reason all but 5 of the 45 survived because they let the fire burn over. Sound familiar?
5) Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park was the backdrop and inspiration for Grand Fusel lodge. The team went to the roof to observe the sprinkler system. That sprinkler system was what saved the lodge in 1968 when they had a huge forest fire.
6) Iconic tour buses called Jammers were used as the inspiration for Old Jammer.
7) Yellowstone and Yosemite have their own dispatch and lightning strike maps so that they can send helicopters out immediately to check where the fire is within the park. These concepts were all incorporated into the story.
8) Chuck Aaron, the only aerobatic pilot with a license from FAA (Federal Aviation Administration), was the model for the character Blade. Interestingly, this man custom builds his helicopter for every show and rebuilds it. I am a little jealous that the research crew were able to go up with him in flight and experience the acrobatics first hand.
9) All the experts Disney enlisted for research would come watch the movie as it was being produced and help provide feedback to make it more accurate and realistic.
10) Lil’ Dipper was based off the Super Scoopers that can pick up 1600 gallons of water in just 12 seconds.
Get ready to immerse yourself into the world of aerial firefighting with Disney Planes: Fire and Rescue. The Blu-ray is already available in stores near you. Don’t forget to click the image below for awesome #FireAndRescue recipes and games.
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