Disney's Planes: Can One Movie Really Save GA?

9:20 PM

By Dan Pimentel,
Airplanista Blog Editor

This is part one of an ongoing series building up to the worldwide premiere of this movie at AirVenture on Aug. 2.

We know the aviation world will gather in Wisconsin this summer to see Disney's new animated full-length movie, Planes, a week before the public. As that day approaches, maybe now is the time to start thinking about what this cartoon movie could do to help the GA community's efforts to get young kids more interested in airplanes. And everyone in the aviation family knows that in our efforts to excite the public about GA, we need every tool we can find, especially fun, watchable and super cool animated ones if the target demo is the 3-12 year-old crowd.

And we know it doesn't take much to get young children excited about anything with wings. There must be some sort of hard-wired DNA in children because, with rare exception, kids just dig planes. I was reminded of this a few months ago:
As I babysat my four-year-old granddaughter, it seemed groovy that she wanted to watch Air Mater...again. Apparently she had already watched it a few times that day. So we enjoyed this aviation spin-off from the movie Cars and when it was finished, she had only one question. "Can we watch it again?" Yes, this girl LOVES watching cartoon characters based on airplanes. I had no choice but to watch Air Mater again...and again...and again.
Yesterday I received the Media Kit for Planes, and as a pilot, it raised my attention level to high. I've always loved the current state of digital animation, and the Cars franchise has always been well-produced. The quality of animation coming out of Disney and Pixar is as good as it gets, and both the voices and scripts keep young and old interested.

So when I began researching Planes I knew right away this movie was going to be a great thing for aviation. While airplanes have always been "cool" for kids, now these flying machines will have names, faces, and a story to tell. I can easily see the day when kids want to go out to the airport at the edge of town to see Dusty Crophopper in person, as if he was actually going to be there. Imagine the way any kid's fire for aviation will be stoked after seeing this movie and then seeing Dusty in person...a real airplane...that flies. If only that were possible.

Oh wait...what's that I spied on the AirVenture site:
"An Air Tractor AT-301 that has been transformed into "Dusty" - the cropduster and hero of Disney's Planes animated feature movie - will appear at AirVenture 2013. The airplane, owned by veteran ag pilot Rusty Lindeman, was upgraded to a turbine-powered model AT-400A, given a sparkling new paint scheme, even eyes on the windscreen, so that it now looks just like Dusty. AirVenture is among the 11 air shows Dusty will visit across the U.S. and Canada. Along with the appearances, Lindeman will perform flying demonstrations. In addition to an Interactive Disney Display Hangar offering a variety of activities, Air Tractor will provide kids and parents with puzzles, other giveaways, and information."
And so it begins. See, my flying friends, this is how it's going to work:
Thousands - maybe even millions - of children are going to see the movie Planes, and fall madly in love with airplanes. Some of the lucky ones will get to come to AirVenture or one of those other air shows, and see Dusty fly for real. The seed will be planted. The kid will see airplanes at the movies, at air shows, on their Happy Meals, on their underwear, and they will want to be Dusty for Halloween. Every time they see ANY small airplane fly overhead, they will shout out "is that Dusty?" Then, as the years go by, these kids will grow into their teens, and realize that while Dusty was a character in a movie, there are many, many real airplanes waiting to visit out at the local airport. The spark that started at birth will be flamed by the movie Planes and ignited further by trips to hang on airport fences. A Discovery flight will pour some AvGas on that fire, and an explosion of interest will lead to their first flight lesson. Soon, the little boy or girl who at one time thought every plane in the sky was "Dusty" or "Ripslinger" or "Ishani" right out of his or her favorite movie in the whole wide world...will be graduating from Embry Riddle with a degree and a pilot's license, or accepting a FO job at a regional airline.
Can one movie do that? Yes, I believe it can. Kids these days demand their DVDs be shown not only in the den, but also on a handheld device, and in the back seat of the family SUV. In most young families, it is not an option. This movie is going to be a huge success just like "Cars" was, and it should lead to sequels. Box Office numbers will be the only way to determine if we ever see a Planes 2 or Planes 3, but if this franchise follows the same business model of Cars, we should be seeing Planes in theaters, at Redbox and on home Blu-Ray machines for many years.

And each time the visuals of these lovable animated airplanes get soaked up by one more impressionable child's mind, GA will take a tiny step forward towards a brighter future. O.K., sure, that might be a tall order for one movie, but my imagination gets paid to go crazy with this stuff. It is, in my opinion, hard to make the argument that somehow, somewhere, a few kids won't fall in love with aviation after seeing this movie.

Will Planes save GA? No. But as we go about building up aviation's tomorrow, I would rather take that task on with this movie as one more thing to excite kids about flying.

Oh, and there's also this:
Soon, I will pick up my granddaughter - who is already showing signs of infatuation with flying machines (especially Katy, my Cherokee 235) - and we'll go see Planes in a theater. Her eyes will be wide as she grins and laughs through every scene. We'll eat popcorn, make jokes about the characters, and have a blast, with her falling more in love with airplanes, and me enjoying watching that happen. And when the final credits are rolling, if I know this young girl, she'll turn to her DooDah and ask... 
"Can we watch it again?"
Subscribe to this blog (upper right corner) to stay notified of the next parts of this series when I start looking at the very cool characters in Planes.

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