Andy's Toy Box - A Disney Pixar blog

The confusion over Pixar's association with Planes

DisneyToons' Planes is being touted as Pixar, but it's not

Months ago when I was altered to the new animated film, 'Planes', which struck a resemblance to Pixar's 'Cars' franchise, I didn't think too much of it. It was difficult not to make associations with Pixar, and since then, I've had various discussions that've lead on to the topic of 'that new Pixar film; 'Planes' it's called, isn't it?' where I'd remind them (non-condescendingly, of course) that it's actually nothing to do with Pixar at all. An indirect spin-off this may be, overseen by John Lasseter (who's both Disney's and Pixar's Chief Creative Officer), but that's where all ties sever.

The problem since Disney and Pixar have both merged is that some of their works will inevitably become indistinguishable. For example, a lot of casual cinema goers may not be aware of the different studios that have produced 'Kung Fu Panda', 'Rango', or 'Finding Nemo', so lump them into one category. And because of Disney's long-standing association with Pixar -- which, until recently, has simply been in terms of distributing their films -- people tend to brand titles like 'Toy Story' as a Disney film. I've seen it happen.

So mistakenly believing 'Planes' is a Pixar flick is forgivable, but it's also sneaky the way Disney (and their in-house animation studio DisneyToons) have gone about it. Firstly, who are DisneyToons? Well, they're responsible for straight-to-DVD releases such as 'Bambi II' and 'The Little Mermaid: Ariel's Beginning'. Secondly, the film was originally intended as a home release, but in a dubious attempt to latch onto existing 'Cars', and indeed, Pixar fans, the decision for a summer theatrical release was agreed upon. That there is a brief indication of its perceived quality, as a lot of Disney-produced sequels over the past decade have been mediocre at best, and not worthy of cinema releases. But this is different. This has the non-direct backing of Pixar, but by association can attempt to coast on their success. By no means would I proclaim 'Cars' or its sequel to be very good, but it did successfully tap into a younger audience and, ergo, make a lot of money. Also, the tagline 'From above the world or cars' doesn't try to hide this link to the 'Cars' world.

John Lasseter's involvement with DisneyToon Studios (after taking co-control in 2007) means that people will assume it to be Pixar. It's certainly a crafty tactic by Disney to appear like an extension of a popular franchise (even though none of the original animators are working on it), but all I believe this will do is disappoint even more. Granted, 'Planes' looks suitable for anyone under eight, but surely won't have a lot else going for it.

Come August, and due to the obscure reputation of the studio, there's a chance we may not hear too much about 'Planes'. However, if Disney decide to back it fully as a viable feature (as early indication suggests), then it could end up with a lot of commercial exposure indeed. Its voice cast is known, but not A-list as per Pixar's. Val Kilmer, Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Teri Hatcher and John Cleese assume lead roles, but for me, it doesn't feel like anything particularly interesting or significant will come of it.

And if you already knew all that, then give yourself a pat on the back.

Is 'Planes' something you are looking forward to by mere association, or will you steer clear?