While I attended an expense paid trip by Disney to the Monsters University Premiere and other events, all opinions are 100% my own.
Welcome to another addition from my Monsters University Premiere Adventure in California! Once again, we are talking Disney’s PLANES! I can’t tell you how excited I am to take my son to see this film in August. While in California, I have the privilege to screen PLANES at the Disney Toon Studios. If you are a regular reader of my blog, I’m sure by now you’ve seen my Animation Session, my Drawing Demonstration, and my time in the recording studio as a Voice Actress! Today though we are talking about the time I was able to sit down with the director Klay Hall and producer Traci Balthazor-Flynn of Disney’s PLANES!
First off, can I just rave how awesome it was for them to take time out of their busy schedules to sit down for a Q&A session? It was great to listen how they research, collaborated, and worked on this film to bring PLANES to the big screen. They talked about how they worked with Jeffrey Howard, who wrote the screen play, and John Lasseter, of CARS fame, to create a film that while was inspired by the world of Cars, was still one of a kind! However, let’s first chat about Klay and Traci!
Klay Hall, Director
Klay was born in Burbank, California, and was mentored by several of Disney’s legendary “nine old men,” including Frank Thomas, Ollie Johnston, Marc Davis and Ken Anderson. He received a Disney Scholarship to the California Institute of the Arts character animation program, where he was immediately hired by Walt Disney Studios upon graduation from CalArts, to work on the featurette “Sport Goofy.” He subsequently joined Amblin Entertainment’s animated television series “Family Dog.”
A two-time Emmy® nominee for his work on the hit animated television series “King of the Hill,” Klay also directed the popular “Natural Born Kissers” episode of “The Simpsons.” Other animation credits include “Father of the Pride” as supervising director and “A Wish for Wings That Work” as directing animator, plus he worked on the Rolling Stones’ music video “Harlem Shuffle.” Klay later returned to The Walt Disney Studios to direct “Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure” for Disneytoon Studios under the creative leadership of John Lasseter.
Traci Balthazor-Flynn, Producer
Traci was born and raised in Southern California. She began her career in the entertainment industry on the creative side as a background painter at Sony Pictures. There she worked on many Saturday morning cartoons including “Extreme Ghostbusters.” She then took on a management role in the studio’s CG productions including the popular animated television series “Roughnecks: Starship Troopers Chronicles.”
Traci was later recruited by the Walt Disney Studios where she took on her first role as a digital production manager overseeing a team of technical directors and CG artists on such animated features as “Return to Never Land,” “Bambi II” and “The Little Mermaid: Ariel’s Beginning.” It wasn’t long before she rose through the executive ranks to support production for Disneytoon Studios, also under the creative leadership of John Lasseter. As director of production, she was part of the team who helped launch the ever-popular Disney Fairies film franchise!
Working on PLANES
When talking to Klay it was quite interesting to learn that he is actually a lifelong aviation enthusiast! He revealed that both his father and grandfather were aviators, and trips to the air field were not uncommon. As an illustrator, Klay always enjoyed drawing airplanes, even at an early age. This love for aviation was definitely a fuel for his drive to bring PLANES to the big screen.
When asked what their favorite parts in making PLANES, both Klay and Traci quickly agreed on the same experience. During the research phase of the film, both of them board the USS Vincent aircraft carrier in the Pacific Ocean to study planes and the aspect of flight. To hear them talk about what is was like to meet with flight specialists and pilots kind of made me want to learn to fly myself! While they discussed this aspect, I couldn’t help but notice a picture on the wall that noted two of the characters, Brave and Echo, were voiced by Val Kilmer and Anthony Edwards. Now if you are a Top Gun fan, you’ll understand the reference. I couldn’t help but ask whose idea it was to cast them as the voices. Klay gave a little chuckle, and admitted it was him who wanted to go with Top Gun actors. What a fun way to pay homage to another “planes” themed film!
Another interesting aspect of the film they discussed was how for each country, they “localize” one character. In the film, the characters go on a “Race Around the World”, where the multi-cultural aspect is quite present in the film. In this case, Klay and Traci decided to localize Rochelle. In the version of the film I viewed, she is French-Canadian. However, for example, when the film is shown in Germany, she is renamed Heidi, and is a German plane. The concept of localizing a character was new to me, but I actually found it quite fascinating. Pretty cool concept if you ask me!
After chatting with them for a bit, I could quickly tell not only did they have a love and appreciation for aviation, but that PLANES was a film they both poured their heart into. From the initial concept to the screening cut, the process took 4 years. Though after viewing the film, I have to say it was well worth the wait. Whether you have a love for the air field or not, PLANES is definitely a great family-film that is both humbling, but full of heart! I can’t tell you how excited I can to take my son for a viewing when the film debuts August 9th.
I want to give a huge THANK YOU to Klay and Traci for taking time out of the busy schedules to sit down with me. It’s not ever day I get to chat with the directors and producers in Hollywood. They were super kind enough to snap a few photos with lil ole me.
Be sure to follow the hashtag #DisneyPlanesEvent to learn more about all the fun my fellow bloggers and I had while out in California learning more about this film. Don’t forget to connect with PLANES on Facebook and Twitter! In all the excitement of the release, be sure to also follow the #DisneyPlanes hashtag for the latest information and news on the film.
For more PLANES coverage… Check out the PLANES Takes Flight Spot for a sneak peek of the film, as well as these new exclusive clips. Don’t forget to check out my PLANES Fruit Snack and the teaser trailer too!