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Disney’s Planes is the studio’s second highly anticipated movie of the summer.  Though not produced by Pixar, but rather Disney Toon Studios, it has Pixar’s fingerprints all over it.  This film is set in the same universe as Cars where automobiles and airplanes have personalities and their own world.  In fact, early on in the film you can see the familiar rock formations of Radiator Springs in the distance as the protagonist, Dusty the crop-duster, goes about his daily work, dreaming of taking part in a famous around-the-world plane race that is reminiscent of the World Gran Prix in Cars 2.

Though Planes has had a lukewarm reception by the media and some fans, my family liked it quite a bit!  My father and I took my three sons who are 12, 9 and 5 to see it on a hot summer afternoon and it was a hit with all five of us.  The plot is very similar to Cars 2 minus the spy business, and is somewhat predictable.  Having said that though, there were several things about this film that I enjoyed more than either of the Cars movies.

First, I like Dusty far more as a main character than I ever liked Lightning McQueen.  Instead of being a conceited hot shot who is unkind to his support crew and thinks he doesn’t need anyone to win, Dusty is a kind soul who just dreams of being more than he was born to be.  After qualifying for the big race, he helps competitors in trouble and faces his own fears to compete fairly when the crowd favorite is a cheater.  I found him to be a far better role model than Lightning McQueen ever was, and much more likeable.

The animation was fantastic.  Some of the scenery from around the world was so realistic, I was reminded of the brilliance of Brave where the pictures sometimes looked more like photographs.  I also thought the soundtrack was fantastic, with plenty of fast-paced, guitar-laden rock that made me think of Top Gun.  Even better, Goose (Anthony Edwards) and Iceman (Val Kilmer) lent their voices to two Navy fighter jets who help Dusty make an emergency landing on an aircraft carrier in the Pacific ocean!  The talking planes and impossible feats aside, there was a lot of aircraft and flying detail in the movie that showed the folks who made this film did their homework.  They did a great job of filling the film with action the kids would enjoy, with references and humor that the adults in the theater could also appreciate.  My dad is a former private pilot and enthusiast, and my oldest son has a passion for planes, so it was fun to hear comments throughout the film about the different types of planes and all the details that were right.

Overall, I would give this movie a solid B.  We really enjoyed it, and I liked it far better than I did Monsters University that came out earlier in the summer.  So if you have a day that’s just too hot to play outside, or a rainy day, load up the family and head to the dark, cool movie theater and enjoy the ride!